Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Reluctant Entrepreneur: Happy Anniversary

Congratulations to Business Goa on completing three years in a challenging world of business magazines. May you see many more.

We (my company) completed 16 years in manufacturing recently and it is always something special. It is  not  just a day to cut a cake and sing happy anniversary, but to look back and see where the business has come from and then look in front and head in the direction you wish to arrive.

Usually when you look back all you will see are the good times; the not so good usually are forgotten. One can easily recall the highs but will struggle to remember a low point unless it is especially low and very significant. This does not imply we forget the bad times, it simply means we move on but learning the lesson. I travelled to the USA for a conference, reasonably confident that all was well with sales - a healthy 25% ahead YOY. To my surprise on my return a month later, the factory was almost shut. Since there were no orders production had come to a grinding halt, given the fact that we operated on the JIT (just in time) concept and produced only to order. After a few calls it was confirmed, the competitor had dropped his prices 33% and the trade expected us to follow.

Rather than blindly following our competitor which would be suicidal, we opted to study the reason for their drop in prices. A few days and several samples later, it was clear the competition had dropped price but also dropped weights without informing the customer. Agonising decision making followed. Should we also match their strategy, should we produce “SHAKTI LIGHT” a cheaper/lighter version of our brand, to differentiate between a good product and a cheap product? We finally decided to maintain our weights and our price but began to focus our advertising communication on our product weight. We felt that this strategy was in line with our original goal of being a trusted supplier and our industrial customers would easily spot such methods of short changing the customer. It took some time but by the next anniversary we were buzzing again. The lesson: With age methods or technology may change but the goal should be constant.

In life we reap what we sow, so also in business. One can either have a policy of paying suppliers late or in time. Once, as the milk lady was leaving the factory, she mentioned to me that she was called the following day to collect her payment. I asked her to return with me and checked with the accountant how much time it took to calculate the milk bill for a month and what was the need for the lady to make another trip. He accepted my logic and made the payment in the next few minutes. This set the tone for how suppliers should be treated with respect to payments. A few years later when we faced a cash crunch each and every supplier supported us and help us out of the situation. This would not have been feasible without the track record we had managed to build up The Lesson: sow good practices early; you will reap rich dividends later..

Every anniversary we take time out to recognize the employees who have spent time with us as a team – three, five, ten and fifteen year milestones are awarded. Those recognized feel a sense of belonging. On the other hand it helps new hires aspire to attain these milestones and give them a sense that there is a future.  The lesson: The recognition of long serving employees helps team building.

Business Goa will take a little time off to party hard but when the music stops, everyone will be ready to face a new year of challenges head on. Once again Happy Birthday “BUSINESS GOA”

Read: Breakout Nations by Ruchir Sharma - an interesting take on who or which country will emerge on the economic canvas.


  1. Hi Blaise,

    My g+ account brought me on this blog post.

    Very rightly you focussed on 'differentiation' (your advertising communication on product weight) versus 'cost focus' by competition.

    I have linked this post on following:

    Regards. Shyam.

  2. Appreciate your comments on following where I have written on 'cost versus differentiation' focus.


    Regards, Shyam.