This is my Real Life Story and I wanted to share with everyone. I learnt a few Lessons from my experience which I think would be beneficial for fellow Entrepreneurs. I am still using those learning’s today and have tried to not repeat those mistakes again
It’s been 16 years, When I joined National Institute of Sales (NIS, part of NIIT group). Even before my Senior Secondary Exams were over in 1996, I had applied and started my “Advance Diploma in Sales and Marketing.”
While crossing the room of my NIS Centre Head one day, I overheard her talking about the requirement of Some Sling Pens (Pens with a thread around it, to wear it around your neck, specially used by promoters) for an upcoming Event. She was sharing with a faculty her disappointment of not getting a vendor to procure them.
By that evening, I talked to some people and got to know a manufacturer and I went there and got some samples.
Next day, I presented them to Centre Head and told her that I can fulfill the requirement. Oh my, was she delighted!!! She asked for the price, in which I had already added my margin of 50% and she placed the order for 1000 Pens Immediately.
I had some savings and ordered for the pen and immediately and gave them a delivery of 1000 Pens in 5 days and pocketed a cool Rs. 5000. A big Amount back in 1996 and definitely my biggest earning (Not my First, as I had made some money by putting up, Pepsi and Dart Stalls at Diwali Melas earlier)
Enthused, I opened a company, Oriental Sales.
Lesson — There are people who are out there looking for your Product, and are as desperately looking for a Seller like you, as much as you are looking for a Buyer
And after that the orders kept pouring, pouring to an extent that I even sponsored some Gifts for their events.
Word Spread and I got orders from NIIT, Khadi Gram Udhyog Bhawan, A Big Transport Company too.
Then the Diwali Season came, and I thought of selling Wall calendars too.
One fine Morning when I was getting my Rajdoot 350 Bike Serviced, I went inside a Neighboring Apparel shop and told them if they are looking for any diwali gifts, then we can supply them. And they asked for samples. I went back after a day and got an order for 1000 calendars @ Rs 7. The margin was very low, but being my first big order, I didn’t want to say no as that would have stopped my learning process.
Since, I didn’t have that kind of money; I took a loan from a friend and serviced that order.
Still remember those 3 nights, wherein the entire family would sit in Drawing room, Kept Rolling Calendars, Placed a Rubber band over it and then putting it in a cardboard box.
Lesson: Later I realized that the Calendar order helped me think Big and I got to know the nitty gritty’s of Printing, Designing, Arranging the finances and delivering a Big order
Lesson If your Product is good, Getting Big Names as Clients isn’t tough.
In fact, I was even referred to AMITY UNIVERSITY by NIIT, who used to do training for their staff. Those Days Amity University was run from a small campus in South Extension.
I was asked to meet a certain Mr. Chauhan and I reached there at the appointed time. However, he got engaged in some work and could not turn up for the meeting.
And, as I was busy with my Studies and work which was already pouring, I didn’t bother to follow that lead and it ended there. Today Amity University is the Biggest University in India and their order for just one category is bigger than what Big Bazaar makes from 5 Stores.
Lesson :Set your Priorities, but do keep visiting them to ensure that they are set rightly. Also, try to catch things young, so that you Grow with them and they with you.
While all this was happening, I was also going to my dentist to get a problem Cured. And while discussions, I did mentioned about my part time work. He, being a devoted Disciple of a “Sadhu Maharaj” wanted me to make some Photo Frames with Sadhu jee picture to be distributed. And I said yes, and shared some samples and thinking that the order would be small, added a BIG margin, to cover my transportation and other costs.
Yes, I did receive the order and it was 5 times the size I thought and at the same quoted price.
Delighted I was, and then Orders from him kept pouring…………Key Chains, Pens, School Bags, Pencil Boxes, Travelling bags etc. Believe me; I made enough money from him, than I had made from any big corporation.
Lesson: Baat karne se baat banti hai. Never underestimate any order and a Buyer.
There are opportunities available,which we think never exist.
I had a habit to learn everything, but at the end left everything to the experts and just observed. Even If there was something amiss, I would voice my opinion and leave it to the expert for his judgment.
While servicing one order of Clocks, The printing was skewed by the Screen printer and even the Logo colour did not match. Though I was there at a very late hour, while printing was happening, but did not realize the colour Difference as it was Dark. And when I did mention to the screen printer about the skewed printing, he said “Sir, Sab bariya hai, aaap chinta na kare”. And I agreed.
Ultimately, the order was rejected by the company, and I since it was a customized product, it was of ZERO value to me, hence I sold it to them at half the price and suffering a loss.
Lesson: This taught me that one needs to handle Customised orders very delicately and even if you have an expert with you, don’t let your views go down the drain. After all it’s your Money and your reputation at stake.
After some time, I decided to explore the Pamphlet route. And got 20,000 pamphlets worth Rs 1000/- distributed on a Sunday Morning.
Next Day morning,I received a call from a BengalI Gentleman who ran a Travel Agency and requested us to present him with gift options which could be given to Embassy officials and should have an Indian touch and should be big in size.
For 5 days, I didn’t have a clue of what we could offer and wanted to make it work as this was the only call I received after distributing the pamphlets.
One day I had gone to Panchkuian road to have my Favourite Samosas from Frontier Samosa and while there noticed a Lamp shop and went inside to get one for my side table. Once there, I noticed a big Earthern Ganesha Lamp and it struck my mind. I brought one and showed it to him and he immediately liked the lamp and we struck a deal of 100 such lamps in which I made Rs 20.000
Lesson: Even a small investment of Rs 1000 could get big results.
If you work towards the benefit of the client, your mind starts working as his and you see from his point of view and hence serve better.
Just 1 lucky pamphlet out of the total 20000 worked for me and returned by investment many times.
All this while, I was the lone soul who was managing the work, from getting orders, Dealing with Vendors, Designing the Matter, Collecting payments, Delivering the product, Everything!!
Now it was time for me to expand my business.
I always wanted to explore new places, go to places where people like me do not visit, do the things supposed to be contrarian.
Though I was not able to do it as much as I can, but I am really happy that I did visit “Chor Bazaar” regularly. Chor Bazaar literally means the “Market of Thieves”. For the uninformed, Chor Bazar used to be a Sunday Bazaar, wherein people would gather every sunday to sell their wares at the ground behind the Red Fort. The wares were a mix of Second Hand Goods, Goods sold as Junk to Kabari Wala, Some factory rejects and yes, as the name suggest, some goods which have been stolen. The wares ranged from Clothes, Tyres, Electronic Goods, Shoes, Kitchen Ware, Sports Goods, Furniture etc. And in between those stalls were many small make shift eateries too.
Once, when I was there, I got hold of an ITPO Trade Fair Directory for the year 1995, which somebody must have sold to kabari wala. It caught my attention and in a spur of a moment I paid Rs 15 for that 400 page directory and walked away.
After 6 Months, when I was looking to expand my business, I thought of posting letters to my clients and framed one. Now, the problem was who to send and I realized that I have that directory and dug it out and got labels printed to be pasted on the envelopes. Within a week of that I posted 100 letters and was struck to my home phone (No Mobile or pagers then), anticipating atleast 20 enquiries. NONE CALLED!!
Disappointed I thought of visiting some of them.
One such address was in Karol Bagh. Reaching there, I realized that this was just a city admin office and the boss and his men used to sit in Badli Industrial Area which is 40 kilometers away. I took the boss’s Number and he asked me to visit his office.
Now, Badli was an Industrial town and not very easily approachable then. I had seen a DTC bus pass my house, with BADLI on it. So the next day, I travel 35 kms to reach Badli and realized that my destination is still 5 kms away. With limited money in my pocket and the fear that I may spend all in hiring a rickshaw, I walked a while, took a Lift and again walked a while and reached that Tyre Tube Factory. On Meeting Mr Jain, who was the right Hand of Boss, he told me that they want to order some stuff and asked me to come again with more Samples.
There I go again to Badli after 2 days with a heavy bag flung on my shoulders. And got an order of Rs 50,000/- along with an advance of Rs 10,000/-. The initial order was Rs 35,000/- but me being from a marketing bent of mind, told them that as “Puncture wala bhaiya” is the main influencer, they should give a free Customised Keychain which would tempt the puncture man to sell their product more, which the liked and hence the additional Rs 15000 order.
Lesson: The best of leads happen from the unlikeliest of places. In this case a Directory from Kabarri bazaar.
Every marketing effort may not yield immediate returns. In this case, nil revert to my 100 letters.
If you are willing to take a step ahead towards your Goal, You goal too Reciprocates double. In this case my visit to Karol Bagh.
As it was a big order, I had to loan some amount from my father with a promise to return it within 2 months. Within a month, the goods were delivered and I waited anxiously for my payments. Been 2 months, I kept calling them repeatedly and they had some silly reason or other. When I insisted, they would call me to Badli and Pay Rs 5000/-. And in this way, I was always tense and just wasted all my energies on recovering the payment, rather than utilizing it on getting new orders.
Finally after 6 months of follow up I got my payments, but with this bitter experience, was not as enthusiastic to pursue further.
Lesson : Always share your Experience/Knowledge with your clients that they can gain. In this case Key Chain offer got me 30% additional order. And from their feedback, they achieved 10% additional sales per month after the Key Chain initiative
Never Bet all your Money on one person.
If you have committed a mistake, then Book the Loss and move on, just trying to make it work will not lead you anywhere. I very clearly remember a story from Mr Kishore Biyani’s Book. “It Happened in India”. Betting big on White Shirts, he ordered 1 Lakh White Shirts to be manufactured. And eventually, when they didn’t sell, He decided to call it a mistake and sell it for less than his cost, rather than holding it an waiting for it to sell in 3 years. Not many Companies did this during those days.
In business Ups and Downs happen, don’t be Super Excited or Super depressed with any development.
Honestly, this instance did hurt me a lot and everyone dissuaded me to end this.
And I did what they told me…………….Oriental Sales died…………….and all my hopes of nurturing it into the Best Corporate Gifting Company died too.
Yes, I did Lose a battle, but the Lessons I learnt helped me Win a War!!
Originally Posted at http://therodinhoods.com/profiles/blogs/the-gift-of-lessons-my-gifting-company-taught-me?xg_source=activity on 16 June 2012 at www.theronhoods.com