Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Sold Out Idea

I have worn tens of hats before having met her. But never in my life did I imagine that the eleventh hat would come with a feather. Alright, I was aware of what the dictionary had to say about an entrepreneur and entrepreneurship, but then as they say to taste how cold the water is, you got to get into it.  In my graduation days, entrepreneurship  development was a compulsory minor subject that we passed as a last minute ritual to garner good grades. Other than the books on entrepreneurship, that I once read as leisurely as Chacha Chaudhary comics, business of any kind was rocket science for me.

Until one day on a cold December night, while dallying around my monday assignments, I got a call. For the first two times, I didn't bother to show any signs of euphoria towards that phone call. Although the third time, something ramified my head and I got up to answer to a vivacious Whitney Houston crooning in chorus.

"Hi, do you remember me?" said a shrill female voice.
"Nah, I can't recall, may I know who is this?" I replied.
"This is Aparna."
"Who Aparna?" I enquired rudely.
"The Aparna you met at TPRI." she said trying to unravel her identity.
"Ah! I am sorry, just couldn't recognize your voice, so how are you?"
"I am great, and I have this amazing business idea to discuss with you." she said
"Business Idea and me? Don't kid! I know nothing of it." I confessed.
"You don't have to know much to sell scientific equipment and since you are a biotechnology graduate, I am sure you might be knowing something about the scientific equipment used for research."
"Ah, I agree, it isn't as easy as you perceive. I have no masters in business administration or any knowledge of how a product is sold."
"Listen I will send you my website's rough draft and all you got to do is write content for it and put it in place  Rest I'll let you know."
"But.... and that sentence was stomped by a decree she was about to dictate.
"So, I will do as promised. Please help me with this. I am sure you can do it." she assured.

Writing a content for a website was not as easy as creative writing in which I had my grey areas. And selling a product was like dancing at the city square in six inched stilettos. I dismissed this episode as a gimmick and went about with life. Until after ten days when she called again and the blueprint for the idea was raring to be put on paper.
We put the website in place and started making a game plan. We decided to target and hunt down local universities funded by the government as they would be floored by a smaller company providing them equipment at concessional rates. Contrary to our beliefs, many project investigators and universities called us for demonstrations but none placed an order with us. We waited for the sun to shine on us but the sales didn't pick up from a zero that almost told the fate of this venture. With the big fish in the market, a smaller fish like our company struggled to set its foot. After six months of patience and prayers that bore no fruit, we were so bankrupt that to pay the rent of our tiny office cubicle we had to part with our dearest belongings, she her car, and me some of my gold ornaments. With a heavy heart, we finally decided to sell off the company to a bigger player in the market.
While the talks were on, one day I happened to watch the movie "Rocket Singh" and pondered upon a thought. What was the extra bit that we could do to attract customers and an idea struck my mind like lightening.
We decided to get the pamphlets done again but this time around we decided to promise free servicing/repair of the equipment for the first two years after purchase. Although we had to incur losses for the first six months, the sales started to pick up. With the word of the mouth references and recommendations our company started landing on big orders. A company that had once broken down to corrupt business practices, all thanks to Aparna's paternal uncle, started breathing again.

Within two years, our company also got into supplying chemicals, for such was the conviction of our customers for our credibility. Today, her company has a net turnover of a few crores. I left after an year trying to hunt for greener pastures and landed into research.

Aparna still calls me to pester me to go back to a firm I had sold my days and nights to. And we have long and livid discussions about the means and methods she is employing to stay afloat in a sea of cut throat competitors.

The business acumen I acquired while working with Aparna came as a messiah when I recently started free lancing for a literary magazine. More than establishing it as a non-profit our ordeal was in attracting more and more writers and readers. We decided to give every writer a free contributors copy, keeping in  mind that not all journals gave out contributor's copies and also promote and patronize our writers so that they can earn from their writing and become famous. Most of all from her, I learned the tips and tricks of selling anything, just about anything under the sun.

If I ever happen to step into this world of business, Aparna will remain my first teacher for neither the Entrepreneurship development classes in bachelors nor the business management classes in masters could teach me to dance at the city square in six inched stilettos without looking beggarly or boastful. Had she not pushed me into the raging waters, I would have never learned to swim.

1 comment:

Richa Singh said...

I had a magazine tooo and I so know what must have gone into it :)