Investment along with knowledge about the business environment is the key

Tufan Kumar Saha, director, Infinity Solutions, shares the journey of the company which he began with Sarfaraz Pathan. He explains the method to the madness and how things unfolded

03 Dec 2021 | By PrintWeek Team & Rahul Kumar

Tufan Kumar Saha, director, Infinity Solutions: Take risk if it is worth it, but always have a Plan-B

I was born in a middle -class family, in Asansol in West Bengal. My father was a first-generation entrepreneur who started his business with Rs 11,000, cash in hand. I was admitted to one of the premier schools in West Bengal, St Patricks. I have grown up seeing my father making it big. But sometimes providence plays a part. All good things do not last till infinity. During the stock market crash of the 1990s, we suffered financial losses. It was a cruel blow.

To keep our life in balance and restart, we had to let go of all our assets (home, vehicles, and family jewels). Parents tried to shield us from this fiasco, but I was already a teenager, and I could sense that these were tough times for all of us.

I completed my schooling at Asansol, and then we moved to Durgapur. There was a huge performance pressure. My family had enormous expectations from me regarding my career. They wanted me to be a doctor. However, I was intrigued and fascinated with gadgets and machines. I chose to go my way, thereby, shattering my family's dream.

I studied BSc (Physics). When I completed my graduation in physics, I was enamoured with the science of things. I decided to select a career in machines and engineering. Our financial condition was touch and go. On cue, a deep-rooted ambition grew within me—and the thought of taking a calculated risk with the resources at my disposal.

The turning point in my life came when I opted for an MBA degree. Though I applied for business management in a centre in Kolkata, destiny had other plans for me.

I reached out to one of my professors, and he advised me. His words still echoes in my ears. He said, "If you want to study business management, do it from a place of business". And then he showed me the road to Gujarat.

I was very focused during my MBA. Most of my friends and classmates in the business school were from business families. This influenced me to look at life from a totally different perspective. Ultimately it shaped my thoughts and to think out-of-the-box. The most significant learning from the two years of management was—take a risk if it is worth it, but always have a plan-B.

During my MBA in marketing course, in the second year, we had to opt for an internship. That internship taught me that salesmanship is about selling the product and generating revenues. More importantly, it educated me that sales is a holistic process and it should create a value for your organisation.

First job
I assume everyone is nostalgic how they landed their first job. My story is something like this. I was on an overnight train journey during my internship, and my fellow traveller was a Gujarati gent. I had a life-changing conversation with him. After several hours of talking, I realised that he was the owner of "one of the biggest rollers manufacturing companies in India". That conversation resulted in a job offer during my days of internship.

During the campus placement, I got an offer from a reputed FMCG company with a much higher package than my off-campus interview offer. I decided to accept the offer that I received on the train journey because I wanted to work "hands-on" with machines.

In 2008, I got my first job with a salary of Rs 12,500 per month. After a couple of months on probation, I figured out a few things. One, it is a perfect company to start with, as the exposure to learn would be massive, and two, I have an opportunity to make a big difference. The management started having regular interaction with me. The management team trusted me to develop their business. The company started evolving, and sales grew. I became a workaholic. There was a huge fount of knowledge, and I wanted to imbibe everything.

My life was limited to learnings on the job, plus combatting the challenges and managing my limited finance of Rs 12,500. With this money, I could send money at home, pay rent for a small 100 sqft asbestos room, tiffin and transport. My day started with meticulous calculations since a Rs 50 extra spend could decimate my financial plan for that month.

At E+L
After four years of efforts and commitment towards my first job, I got another offer for my second job. The unique thing about this offer was that there was no salary hike. And yet, I accepted the offer because I could see what others didn’t. It was a German MNC in industrial automation plus a solutions provider. I finally joined E+L, located in Ahmedabad.

What more I could have asked for at that point in time. I was in the middle of best of German technology of manufacturing machines. The same machines which were admired worldwide. While selling such products, you start to acquire new skills. The time with E+L was an investment for me, an investment to create knowledge about engineering supplemented with an insight into the future of the packaging industry. I worked for E+L for more than three years and have contributed to the growth of their paper and corrugated verticals.

In 2014, I joined BHS Corrugated India. Learning and business development transpired hand-in-hand. BHS has the best in class training modules, which kept me ahead on the knowledge curve. The sales-related challenges were high at BHS. Since selling a hundred-metre automated machine was a different ball game. The corrugation market in India was not mature enough for such high-end investments.

Green and recyclable packaging were the buzz words. There was an urgent need to take special care about our environment, owing to an explosion in global demands. Our efforts of educating the Indian markets to prepare for the future with dependable solutions providers like BHS started reaping positive responses. In three years, we sold corrugators, splicers and upgraded the existing kits. This experience with BHS planted the seeds about a new innings in my life.

Starting Infinity…..
Investment is the key….be it knowledge or the environment, both will give exponential returns.

In the midst of the dynamics in the corrugated industry and plus boom in packaging demand, Sarfaraz Pathan and I established Infinity. Our aim: To provide quality, reliable and affordable automation for the corrugators. Both of us were from the same industry, and it gave us leverage to understand each other and plan in a better way. We wanted to provide holistic, end-to-end solutions. Time is the most valuable thing, and we want to save our customer’s time to enable them to start their operations smoothly.

We have a highly experienced service team that caters to our clients. The team is always on their toes. This ensures that our equipment has the highest uptimes—making operations easier has always been our approach. With proper knowledge and an experienced service team, we have managed to enhance the production capacity of clients with less wastage.

We believe in sustainable and organic growth. We are learning each day, and we have evolved as colleagues, friends, brothers and family. We consider Infinity, one big family, based on the core value of trust, respect and focus. Apart from professional suggestions and discussions, we seek advice from each other on the personal front. We emphasise the importance and emotional well-being of an individual.  The people who joined us are still with us. Hopefully they will continue to work with us.

The pandemic has been a great learning for us. We call ourselves fighters and survivors.

Building a sustainable business model is the key to surviving an adverse situation like the pandemic. I believe there are no failures; there are quitters, so there has to be a high after every low. It is only a matter of time. And we have to be patient and persevere.

Our style of operations is quite different, where we don't have conventional meetings. Instead we have conversations and discussions to accommodate whatever is in our mind, even if it doesn't make sense to the other person. We never discourage each other's ideas.
We strengthen and fortify each other's ideas since we are emotional people. As a team, we believe, a sustainable corrugated industry is capable of providing new age packaging solutions and make our earth a better place to live.