The reluctant entrepreneur
Mansion of Glass by KG Gupta of GKB group, captures the essence of entrepreneurship in all its blood, sweat and tears and a sense of achievement, before the next cycle starts. The author traces the trajectory of the company started 50 years ago. If one reads the book, he will notice that at no time will the author who started the company inform you that he has reached his goal. As the 51st year rolls on he sees the next generation striving to attain greater market dominance through better technology and improved quality standards. All this for a product already acknowledged as the world leader.
So what is this phenomenon called entrepreneurship that so many want to ride, that I decided to mount although reluctantly fifteen years ago. By God's grace, hard work, a great team and a market I am still in the saddle. The market though mentioned last is in no way the least. It is the reason the world needs entrepreneurs.
Growing up in Mumbai in the 70s my parents knew who my friends were. It was simple. They lived in the same building or the next. Today parents cannot rely on a visual to know their children’s friends they could be anywhere in the world, using an internet connection and a little social networking website called Facebook.
Similarly, this is how markets have developed. Earlier you picked your daily needs from the shops around the tinto, for your weekly needs you went a little further, the closest town. For Christmas you took a trip to Mumbai if you lived in Goa. Today the concept of market has been altered. Anything is available anywhere. There are multiple choices for everything. It appears there is a market for any product, anytime. In KG Gupta's story he went from selling glass lenses in Agra to plastic lenses all over the world. You will also read that while he sold lenses, others selling similar products fell by the wayside.
This occurrence where one entrepreneur succeeds in the market while another fails is due to the ferocious and unusual animal called the customer. I went twice to business school, once in Pune, at the Institute of Management Development and Research and the second time after a few years of work experience in the Asian Institute of Management, Manila. Therefore as an MBA, I have a bagful of definitions, but it is in the school of hard knocks that the following definition became real. I think it is the best and very simple- you, yes, a customer is you.
Confused? Consider this example. You go to a store to buy a Rs 5/- packet of biscuits. The shop keeper opens a dusty showcase and pulls out a dusty packet of biscuits which he then hands over to you. Will you take the packet pay the Rs 5/- and leave happily? Most likely you will ask the shop keeper to check if he has a fresh packet (meaning clean), despite the fact that you will not eat the packaging and if he cannot offer you a fresh or clean pack you will go to another store.
Will you for a minute consider these facts: The shopkeeper needs the sale, he has a family to feed or children to school etc. and therefore buy the soiled packet of biscuits?
No way, you want a clean packet of biscuits despite the fact that the biscuits inside taste the same irrespective of the dust outside (assuming the packet is well within the best before date). You are spending your hard earned money, never mind if it is a measly five bucks, you want a bank for every buck. You have just defined quality as not just the taste of the biscuit but also the cleanliness of the wrapping. Did we hear you ask the shopkeeper for a "clean packet of tasty biscuits"?
If for five bucks you are so finicky can you imagine what you will do as the value of the product you buy increases. Think about it, the customer is no more someone out there locked up in a definition, the customer is you. So there we have identified the animal who will make or break a market, you.
In my mind the first person an entrepreneur must satisfy is himself. Would he accept the product/service he intends to market? We will talk more on these lines, send me your feedback. I will respond based on my own experience of building a plastic rotomoulding business from scratch and taking our brand SHAKTI from unheard to sounds familiar.....but a long way to go.