There is a saying in Gujarati that goes “Mor na inda chitarva na pade” (Translation: You do not need to paint a Peahen’s eggs in order to make their offsprings beautiful. They are inherently so). I can very well say that this was not true about me. Albeit belonging to a conservative and religious Brahmin community and without any exposure to entrepreneurship, I ended up being an entrepreneur in my own right . It was said at that time that entrepreneurship is not for the Brahmins, they don’t have the shrewdness and insight to run a business successfully. Well, I can say that even though the saying is not wrong, it not completely right either. And I feel obliged to pen down my journey to share whatever little wisdom I have gained along the way to however small an audience I can captivate.
I was born in an economically poor family, but brought up with values of simplicity, honesty and sincerity imbibed in us from a very early age. Because of our upbringing, we grew up thinking that having a financial security is what it takes to live a happy and fulfilling life. Knowledge and Education was given preference over wealth and luxuries. I was very studious and an introvert, never interested in outdoor games. I ended up pursuing Graduation in Mechanical Engineering and post graduation in Foundry casting from the very reputed IISc, Bangalore. Here I got great clarity and quality education and passed out with good merits. Knowledge gave me the confidence to push on and establish myself with all I had. I gave preference to gaining hands-on foundry experience and getting a job, as against pursuing a Ph.D, and joined Nitin Castings Ltd at Thane, Mumbai.
Foundry Industry is a manpower oriented industry, and I had to strive hard in getting things done from tough and rude mumbai labourers who operated under labour unions at that time. However, I could manage them with good communication skills and a helping attitude. I used to work really hard and sincerely, so my career went on smoothly. However, due to long work-hours and daily commuting of 2 hours, my health took a beating. I used to come home only for dinner and sleep. But the passion of gaining experience and appreciation for my work made the experience acceptable and enjoyable.
After two years of working at Nitin Castings, my friends at Bangalore started infusing ideas of entrepreneurship. Even though none of us had any industrial experience, we started thinking in that direction based on our technical expertise only. At that time, another opportunity came my way and put me on the difficult juncture of life where my decision would eventually shape my career. I got a job as a lecturer at VJTI at Matunga, Mumbai. The job was offered through MPSC (Maharashtra State Public Service Commission) selection. The entire package was very attractive and was like a golden catch (=success). Immediately after this, I was also offered a job at Godrej Boyce Ltd (Foundry Division) and L&T (Utmal Foundry in Orissa).These wave of opportunities washed away the idea of entrepreneurship and my passion for education and teaching helped me take a decision to accept the position of a Lecturer at VJTI, Mumbai.
Hearing this, my friends insisted me to rethink. For me it was now or never situation. Venturing into the unknown was effectively insignificant, but equally exciting and challenging as compared to the golden opportunity in my hands. And hence, sitting on the seashore of marine lines, I finally changed my decision and rejected the job at VJTI. I was in a state of utter confusion and guilt, but now that I look at it, I can realize that is how destinies are created. I decided to calm my turbulent thoughts by escaping to Valsad for 15 days and got mentally prepared to embrace entrepreneurship.
We were three partners cum friends to start our first venture named ‘Adroit Controls’ for manufacturing of process control instruments. Due to lack of business experience, shortage of finances and poor market response, we were struggling and surviving. We were unable to wait until we made profits. So two (out of three) of us decided to go for ‘foundry Industry’ which was my area of specialisation, had a good demand in the market and there were very few educated people in this field. We got loan from Government under ‘New Entrepreneur’ scheme, left Ahmedabad and started on to set up our foundry with the name of Nodule Cast at GIDC, Vadodara where my parents had purchased a house.
By the time all the machinery and equipment were installed and got ready for production and marketing, another social commitment came up i.e marriage. I wanted to delay till our new venture reached stability (financial as well as manufacturing), but my well wishers advised me not to co-relate the two. I knew it would take atleast 3 years to get financially stable, especially when we had an unpaid finance loan with zero equity. But I also realised that having a life partner would give me a lot of moral and financial support. At the time of my marriage, the first trial production run was to begin and hence I left for vadodara the very next day of my wedding, giving priority to work.
If I were to summarize my journey, I would categorize it into three phases -
Phase I (‘79 to ‘99) - Founding of our partnership firm ‘Nodule cast’
Phase II (From ‘99 to 2013) - Running Nodule Cast as a proprietary firm - pay off period to existing partner
Phase III (2013 to 2018) - My son joining the business
Phase I Partnership
The first phase started off with the usual teething problems of starting your own business, which we were not aware and prepared for, like
- Non payment: Customer would not pay as promised leading to interest burden. Immoral and malafide intention prevailed even in reputed companies.
- Corruption: Both at government and customers levels, heavy corruption prevailed and it was like customary ritual. The unit had to handle 20 inspectors during a year.
- Labour problem: Labour unions were dominant at that time.The unit had to face two strikes losing many work days. We hired manufacturing facilities elsewhere and managed to keep orders completed. Labour attitude was to work less and get more. We fought back by remaining firm and tough and even showed our determination to close down the unit if need be.
- However, in spite of these setbacks, we were able to establish a great reputation for our products and services with many well known companies of India like VIZ (now RIL), TPKTI, Bridge and roof, LINDE, G.S.F.C., L&T and many more. We went on to do good business and were able to get profitable year on year. But towards the end of this phase, our partnership came to an end.
Phase II Proprietorship
My partner was not willing to expand, but I had all the intentions to, which gave rise to disputes and so we decided to split. I had no financial backup to buy the company, hence I decided to quit. But later, my partner backed out and the baton was handed over to me. I asked for 2 years time to pay off his share. This was the most challenging phase since I had to manage from my working capital and loans from bank and relatives. But I managed to sail through this tough phase of my career and emerged as a sole proprietor of Nodule Cast. This gave me a lot of freedom in decision making and fulfilling my future plans. I started running the show on my own terms and expanded the business the way I wanted to. Though the rate of growth was slow, the unit was steadily progressing. Meanwhile during last year of this phase, I invited my younger brother to join me as ‘Accountant’ and a reliable person to look after the business operations and finances in my absence.
Phase III Passing the legacy
During the beginning of this phase, my son who was already having a career in IT, decided to join me. He came with his own aspirations to expand the business. I had to relook and revise my future plans for upgradation and semi-automation with fast ‘implementation’. We started with bringing new machinery and equipments, and brought about changing organisation. Things started falling into place and everything went on successfully. My age became limiting factor to some extent, but I was relieved of day to day tensions of running a business due to his presence.
Today, we are in a position to scale greater heights as we had
- Exports getting started to USA, Saudi Arabia (UAE), Europe
- Turnover increasing every year,
- Finance reserves getting created for future expansion
- ISO-2015 certification
- Good PIR (past track record) with many (about 35) customers all over india including PCL(Chennai), MRPL(Mangalore) , TPKTI, Punj Lloyd, Refineries, HPCL(mumbai), etc
As an afterthought, I believe that we could do what we did because we believed we could. Looking back at my journey, I want to sit back and list down my mistake and blunders I made. I keep asking myself - ‘Have I got what I was capable of?’ and ‘Have I achieved as per my qualifications?’
It is very difficult for me to define success. Success is a continuous process. There is only one thing - Push ahead, irrespective of the challengings, your shortcomings, circumstances. My success has been a progressive realisation of my vision & objectives.
If health permits, I’ll like to continue working till I am 75. After that, I would like to spend most of my time fulfilling my hobbies - mainly music, education and consultation. My passion for teaching surpasses all.
Through these years, I have realized and learned that
-Never remain long with incompetent & negative people or environment
-Lookout for trusted criminals in your colleagues, friends etc.
-Be assertive in your communication
-Tough times come and go, but you have to remain a tough person learn to survive a bad situation.
-Never think turnover as your profit, your money is only few digit figure after deducting Tax and other government liabilities. Keep some investment allowance reserve for contingencies.
-It always takes more time than you think it will take
-Respond, but not reachout
-Generate satisfied customers. You can not sell what you want, you have to sell what a customer needs
Success is not what others decide, it is onto you. It is a journey to enjoy.