of the week!!
I am writing this today cos, failure is celebrated only at one place in the world and that’s TRHS. I am amazed to see how people share their failure stories and are appreciated for that. I would have never spoken about my failures but got the motivation from this community. Not even my family understands this, and I have a tag of a failure and my family thinks that I should just be doing a job. Whenever I share a new business idea with my family they laugh and my mom then tells me not to try it 🙂
Anyway, here are my failure stories. I was introduced to business pretty early, by my dad. He was a departmental store owner, but an amazing businessman. I am sure if he would have been here, he would have supported my pursuit.
Bread Supplier: I was pretty young and the eldest son in the family. I knew our financial conditions were just not right to ask anything extra from my dad, but I also knew that I want to live my life. When I joined college, I wanted to own a bike. I asked my dad and he smiled. He said, you wanna ride a bike, so you’ll have to earn it. I was excited. I asked how? He said, I’ll give the minimum down payment possible and rest you’ll have to earn to pay the EMIs. I was in a regular college. I was not sure how I could earn while I was still in college. Here also he gave me a chance. We had an agency of bread and Soft drink. We used to supply bread and soft drink to small retailers around. He asked me to find out retailers and supply bread and soft drink to them in my spare time. I used to earn Rs 1 per loaf of bread supplied. It was a great deal. I used to wake up at 5:30 AM and used to supply bread. While coming back from college I used to collect the money. This way I started earning about Rs 100 – 150 per day. It was fun to know that with some small efforts I could earn my bike J . Finally I was a proud owner of a bajaj pulsar in a month. I still cherish those moments.
Lesson Learnt: If you have the right reward, you can really do anything. You got to understand, who needs what. My dad saved the cost of a supplier and at the same time taught me a lesson for life.
Kiryana Shop: Well, supplying bread could not go for long, my dad passed away in 2003, when I was in my second year. It was a sudden death. I didn’t know what to do. And for worse, we were broke. I had two younger brothers, my mom and grand mom to take care of. Anyway, I decided that I will manage the shop. I worked hard and gave the most of the shops around a run for their money. People there still talk about the things I did at that time. Like, I started sending fliers with the lowest cost (it was before super markets came around). People used to flock at our shop. Simple marketing, let the consumer come to your shop, give him 2 things at his price and rest at your price. You’ll still be able to get the same margin. It worked for a year or two. Finally, I completed my graduation and that’s where things started going bad. My mom wanted me to take up a job. Her point was that the shop is anyway running, anybody can sit on the shop and I should look for something else. And then emotional blackmailing, of the fact that my dad also wanted me to take up a good job.
I succumbed to that and left the shop to take up a job. The shop was managed by my younger brother, who was not interested in studies and my mom. We started fighting on smallest of the issues and finally the shop was closed within a year.
Lesson: It’s your baby; nobody else will raise him like you can. Business is not for those who can’t get a job. Business is for those who want to do much more than a job. People tell me that you need money to do a business. I tell them, money is just a fuel. You need a good car and an equally good driver too.
Fabrication Unit: As expected, I got bored of my routine job soon. Moreover, the shop was on the verge of getting closed. Competition had also raised people around were pouring money in departmental stores like anything and we did not have it. Anyway, I thought of another business idea. Export houses were in demand at that time. There were a lot of small and big fabrication units flourishing. I spoke to a friend and took some basic knowledge. It felt as if it was nothing. You need to have a few machines, karigars, and orders from export houses. That’s it 🙂 I knew I am confident and can convince people. The best thing was that I was educated, unlike most of the fabrication unit owners. I took a loan from my mom, and brought 10 machines to start a fabrication unit. I used to work in night shifts those days. I will then work nights in office, come early morning, would sleep for about 4 -5 hours and then go in search of workers as well as Orders. Getting orders was not difficult, in fact some export houses were really appreciative of the fact that I was working at this age. I was 19 at that time. Well, orders starting pouring in. But the next huddle was the workers. Who would make those orders. It was really difficult, cos, I used to get the money 15 days after fulfilling the order and I had to pay to workers daily. Cash flow was a challenge at that time. But I somehow managed. But it was just a matter of a year. Here also, things started getting out of hands. I was still working and could not manage both the things together. Moreover, the worst thing was I could not manage workers. I just could not relate to them and their problems. I felt, they were exaggerating, but I was wrong. Finally, due to lack of money, lack of people management, things started falling apart. I had to close the unit, sold off all the machines, of course at a loss.
Lesson: Managing people is also important. Retaining talent is the most important aspect of any business. You’ll have to strike a right balance, between business development and talent management.
Dial a Cake: This was a business I could sustain the longest. May be because I was little more experienced and was little mature when I did this. Okay, I had already lost a few opportunities till now and my family was completely against doing business. I stuck to my job and the entrepreneurial streak I had helped me rose in my position in the job as well. Within 3 year, I was a Manager. I learnt people management in my job. At one time, I was managing a team of about 50 people, so it was great. I realized that in corporate companies, cake cutting was pretty frequent. I thought, this was a great opportunity, cos, no one used to deliver cakes at that time. I again took courage and thought of starting up Dial a Cake. It was a novel concept. I knew it will be hit. I did some basic calculation and started the company. What I didn’t realize was that keeping your rates low would ensure initial orders but it will be difficult to sustain in the long run. There was a market gap, people were ready to pay anything if you give them the quality. But I kept the rates low and later kept struggling for margins. There was a lot of learning in the process, but I could not sustain it. The bottom line, I had another failed business in my kitty.
Lessons I learnt from Dial a Cake:
1. Market Research is important but you need to place your product right as well. If your product has potential, it’s okay to place it a little higher than competition. You don’t always have to play yourself small.
2. it’s a tight rope of Net Margins and Sales. At times we get tempted with a sale and give away discounts. The discounts you give today are going to hamper your net margins tomorrow. Keep this in mind.
3. it’s easier to put a rate tag and convince the consumer but it’s difficult to revise it. Believe me, the most difficult part today it to convince the customer for revised rate
4. Brand is important. Create a Brand be it service or product. People will remember the brand and any feedback, positive or negative, will get attached to the brand.
5. Think about your running costs more than your initial costs. Onetime costs are still okay to bear, but it’s the running cost that has to be looked at. When we start a business we get tempted to take things which we don’t need immediately, may be because we took those things for granted in a job. But in your own business, you got to keep a right balance in what’s important and what’s not.
6. Last but not the least, you got to look at the revenue channels. At times we feel that this could not be a revenue channel for a business like us, but think again. Business is all about innovating and challenging the rules. You never know you might find a new revenue channel for your business. For ex. With Dial a Cake I always thought that we are B2C and will deliver once a customer calls. But it proved wrong when we approached a few shops who were not selling cakes but we put our brochures at their shops and got some amazing business from them.
Well, after these failures, I have learnt a lot but I seriously feel there’s lot more, yet to be learned.
It’s an ongoing process and we all keep learning at every step of our life.
Right now I am working with an ecommerce startup and have learnt here a lot as well. I hope to start again soon and with the blessings and experience of TRHS, I am sure, I’ll go a long way 🙂
Thanks for reading this far.