“Behenji ! Yeh Ladka, medical line mein kuchh karega”, Pandit ji said.
It was 1995, and this time, my mother was not quite convinced. I had chosen Non-medical as my stream, after Xth grade, and was about to complete my XIIth grade, before I had to join college. I was also pursuing a coaching course which prepared students for the IIT JEE exams. All this, because my friends were doing the same.
The only thing which used to interest me in the Non-Medical Stream, was the Computer bit. Computers always used to fascinate me. In August 1995, Internet was introduced to India, and I was already active on the Bulletin Board Services (BBS) at that time.
Khair ! (Anyways), my parents were worried, because what I wanted to do was not very clear. Neither was I clear about it. Half-heartedly, I gave a few entrance exams, and did not qualify. In the end, I settled for a computer course at NIIT. I learnt a bit of HTML, and along with one of my friends, I started running around, searching for business from people, who wanted to build a small, basic static 3-5 pages website about their company.
My father, realizing that I am not at all interested in taking over, and managing his Auto Ancillary Unit, eventually closed the factory, because it was not doing well. There was a labour strike, and the realisation of payments from buyers like Escorts and Yamaha was a pain.
I also used to write emails on behalf of some senior people, who wanted to write to their children abroad, but were not comfortable using the computer. For each such email, I used to charge them Rs. 25. During my quest, I came across a lady in Delhi, Dr Pushpa Khanna, who wanted to make a small website to tell the world, that she has discovered / isolated a molecule from the Seeds of Karela (Bittergourd), and this could potentially be “plant insulin” since it has a similar structure. She wanted to publish this information on her website, so that Universities, Journals and Research Scholars can take note of it.
I helped her put up a website, and handled the email correspondence for her as well. After about 2 years of sending emails back and forth, she called me one day, and said “Puneet, I want to discuss something. Please come over”. I met her, and she told me, she is ready to start selling the product.
“Would you like to sell it ?”, she asked.
“No Aunty, I only know computers. I want to focus on web designing and computers”, I said, still non-plus about what I wanted to do.
That day, I came back and my dad asked, “Kya Hua, Dr Khanna ne bulaya tha?”
When I told him that she had wanted me to sell “Gourdin” (the product name) on her behalf as a trial, and I refused, he exclaimed “Kyaaaaaa ???”
I knew it. Something terrible is going to happen now.
“Yaar ! Ghar mein khane ko paise nahi hai, Kaam maine band kar diya, tum kya karna chahte ho, tumhe pata nahi, aur tum mana kar aaye ? Hari Om…. Shaabaash”
I realized that I had done a big mistake. The next day, he took me to Dr Khanna, and before she could say anything, we agreed that we will take up selling Gourdin. I quickly updated the website, indicating that “Gourdin” is now available. And sent out emails to all the people, all those who had sent emails to Dr Khanna in the past.
In the last 2 years, whoever wrote to Dr Khanna had asked for the product, because Diabetes is one of the top 3 diseases which plagues this world, and Gourdin works in Juvenile Diabetes as well. So the moment, I sent out those emails to the whole list, people came back screaming, wanting to buy it immediately.
This was our Absolute, Pure, DownRight #Bloody #GoodLuck. It happened.
God was shouting from up above – “Grab it, Grab It”. And We didn’t realize.
I guess things happen to you, and you don’t even realize when they will. Just keep looking out for that good luck.
In the first month, we sold 12 bottles, and payments were realized using Overseas cheques. After about 4 years of a complete lull in our income, this was the first breakthrough we had seen. Our biggest REDEMPTION. After the first month, me and my dad just smiled to each other. Like any father and son, we did not have the correct words to describe the joy. It came out. We just cried. It was a perfect Will Smith-ish, “Pursuit of Happyness” moment for us. It happened to us. We still did not believe that this was something which could become a full-fledged business for us. Panditji was right !
We started with our first product “Gourdin” in the year 2000, and after 4 years, we were selling around 3000 bottles of the same product a month. Thereafter, we added around 10 products of our own, contract manufactured and private-labelled.
[[This came with its own amusings. In the first 2 years, when my mom’s kitty-party friends used to ask, “Behenji, Beta kya karta hai” (What does he do) ? Mom usually replied “Internet pe jadi bootiyan bechta hai” (He sells herbs on the Internet).
And then they got curious – “Jadi Bootiyan ? Internet Pe ? Woh Kya Hota Hai, Kaise? Kahan Pe? Dukaan pe? Achha !!, Par Karta Kya hai ?”
And Mom used to call me, and said beta “Zara Aunty ko Samjhana”. For years, I did not have a proper answer, till E-Commerce evolved. But that’s another story.]]
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Regards, Puneet Aggarwal
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