Hum Honge Kamyaab, says P Narendra

P Narendra of Pragati Offset delivered a talk on entrepreneurial success at a CII gathering in Hyderabad. Excerpts from the speech.

27 Jun 2015 | By Ramu Ramanathan

All of us in our lifetime have seen many businesses start. Some went on to become great companies, and some faded away. So what is it that the guys who went up on the ladder did right?
Domain knowledge
I would rate domain knowledge as a very important step to begin with. Domain knowledge is important for the simple reason that you can be an effective leader only when you know the job.
How can you lead your team otherwise?
In many start-ups and small set-ups, the workers test their boss. This may not happen directly but by saying that they are struck with problems and cannot go forward with the job at hand. If we are able to explain what might be wrong and how to get it done, we will command respect. Also the entrepreneur has to put on many different hats during the day to make his business a success.
Being a visionary is one of them. Sitting at the top he must see further and take decisions as to where his company is going and where he wants it to be. A lot of study in that field, visiting exhibitions, updating knowledge is extremely important to take our business forward and remain there. So domain knowledge is a key requirement.
Finance knowledge
With this understanding, finance is the next step. These two inputs can take us forward like the two wheels of a bicycle. Financial knowledge and balancing the inflows and outflows will spell success or doom for the business. The entrepreneur is the only person in the system who knows how much he can chew. So he would be the only person to know how much to bite. Sad case is that with wrong assumptions, too much money is borrowed and as a result of not servicing the debt appropriately, enterprises shut down.
Growth pace of a company should be taken up gradually. Huge spurts in growth will cause a financial burden. Also such huge spurt will mean more manpower and if there is one thing in shortage in India, it is this commodity. So, handling finances correctly would hold the key for success.
Customer is key
You must have seen many stickers/placards at shops wherein it has Mahatma Gandhi's message that the customer is the most important person in that premises. The reason of our business is to service the customer effectively. While price is an important factor for the client, the overall feel and satisfaction are far more important and he/she would be willing to pay more for it. The success of our business depends upon the repeat business generated from customers. Also, the best advertisement is word of mouth and who else but a satisfied customer would do it. So ensure to look after your client/customer well, and you would be a winner.
It's all about the team
The next most important thing for an entrepreneur to succeed, is a wonderful team of colleagues. Without this, we cannot go anywhere. Our success depends on our co- workers. How well have they been trained, how good are their attitude and aptitude will make all the difference. Treating these people as a part of your team and looking after their needs will slowly make them think that the company they are working for is theirs. That is when we will get the best out of them and it would be a win-win situation.
Vendor relationship
The next in line for success is your relationship with your vendors. They must be treated like your partners in progress. They also must feel that it is their company. We can then get much better services at a better price. Looking after them would mean long-term and continuing business
relationship. Making payments on time is something we all should strive hard to do. It is not that we are paying our money to them; it is what we owe them for their services.
Business ethics
Ensuring complete fairness in all transactions is extremely important. Nor your customer nor your vendor and nor your colleague should feel cheated. When we say that this company has a good name, it means that they have earned the trust of all these three key people in the system. The same fairness has to reflect in all your dealings with the government. It is a pain sometimes but being on the right side of the law is a primary requisite and it gives peace of mind.
The Pragati qualitpolicy
We wrote this in 2003, when we were going for our ISO certification. This reflects what I said in my talk so far. Another important thing is the maaahol - the ambience - in this case with our country.
Make in India
This is the main charcha (talk) in most places especially with the Indian Prime Minister talking about it. I would like to say that we should make in India. But we must ask ourselves what to make in India. Making anything and everything would be wrong. There are things which could 
be manufactured better and cheaper outside India than here; like specialised equipments or machineries. In my opinion some drastic changes in thought process is necessary.
Adam Smith, first alluded to the concept of absolute advantage as the basis for international trade in his book The Wealth of Nations.
Smith, in 1808 said, "If a foreign country can supply us with a commodity cheaper than we 
ourselves can make it, better buy it from them, with some of the parts produced of our own industry, employed in a way in which we have some advantage. The general industry of the country, being always in proportion to the capital which employs it, will not thereby be diminished but only left to find out the way in which it can be employed with the greatest advantage."
Please sit back and think about the amount of subsidy that a kilo of rice is produced in India, has free power and too much water etc. can make it unviable except for the subsidy. May be it is cheaper to import from Myanmar or somewhere else. We should produce goods in India only if they can be remunerative. So finding out what can be made in India well and making it for the world would make us winner.
For example: Pune-based Kalyani Castings has made the city a hub for castings for the world. There is so much experience and technology built up with local jugaad that it helps in saving many companies around the world lots of time and money. 
Pharma: A success story
Pharmaceuticals is another big successes story. About 60-70% of medicines used in the United States is supplied from India and we think the percentage will rise to 90% in a short period. India is going to be the small car hub of the world. Many small ancillary companies make the difference. Space is another frontier. And one cannot talk enough about the tourism. But we have to build this in a dedicated manner. And this in turn will build the industry around it.
The negatives for us in India would be bad infrastructure. Also, logistics is a nightmare and very expensive compared to China. Guangzhou to Shanghai and also Hyderabad to Delhi is about 1500 km.
In China the truck reaches in a day. Here we are very happy if it reaches on the fifth day. Goods and services tax (GST) might solve this problem. But today, we are paying for the truck and its crew for five days whereas, Chinese counterpart is paying only for a single day. 
Telengana is "powerful"
Power was a major problem. I cannot thank the chief minister of Telangana enough for the power situation. He has managed it so well and made sure that we saw a summer without power cuts after a long time. I have been told by the government officials that in a couple of years, our state would be having excess power.
Skill development is also the greatest need of this hour. It is a sad state, that we create 200,000 engineers every year, but the question is; How many are employable? So developing skills with the help of National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) and self is crucial. A Chinese worker costs Rs 20,000 today but he is cheaper than an Indian worker who earns Rs 10,000 here as he/she will be much more efficient.
Hence, cost of production is lower. And we have a duty barrier of 10%. I definitely do not want the duty to be increased as this is not the right way.
It seems to be a Catch-22 situation. The fact remains that there is a good market in India. But competition from neighbouring countries is very high and duty barriers are not much. It is said that necessity is the mother of invention. So we have to think out of the box and innovate. Do what we can, do better than other countries. Do it in abundance and be the suppliers to the world. It is foolish to think that we will make everything. It is simply not possible. So getting to understand the market, getting the right product to make, make it very good, make it a good price/performance product - only then make in India will succeed.
Looking around and seeing the current political scenario in the state and in the country, I would like to say Hum Honge Kamyaab (we will succeed)" with conviction.