Gurpreet Singh Tikku
Food, Travel and Lifestyle Blogger
I learnt a few lessons from my experiences which I thought would be beneficial for my fellow entrepreneurs. I still use these learning and try not to repeat the same mistakes!
It’s now been more than 20 years since I joined National Institute of Sales (NIS, sister wing of NIIT). I applied and started my Advance Diploma in Sales and Marketing even before my Senior Secondary exams were over in 1996.
One day while crossing the room of the NIS Centre Head, I overheard her discussing a requirement that they had for Sling Pens (pens with cord to wear around your neck) for an upcoming event. She was disappointed for not being able to find a vendor for the purpose.
Next day morning, I walked up to the Centre Head and showed her the samples. And, was she delighted!!! I had already added my 50% margin to the cost and was ecstatic to receive an order of 1,000 pens.
I delivered the pens in 5 days while making a cool Rs. 5,000 profit. It sure was a big amount back in 1996 and definitely my biggest earning (not my first, as I had made some money by putting up Pepsi and Dart Stalls at Diwali melas earlier).
Enthused, I opened my own company by the name Oriental Sales.
Lesson Learnt: There are people who are out there looking for your Product and are looking for a Seller as much as you are looking for a Buyer
Word spread and I got orders from NIIT, Khadi Gram Udhyog Bhawan and a big transport company too.
Since Diwali was just round the corner, I thought of doing wall calendars.
One fine morning when I was getting my Rajdoot 350 bike serviced, I went inside a neighbourhood shop and asked them if they were looking for any Diwali gifts. Surprisingly enough, they asked for samples. I went back after a day and got an order for 1000 calendars @ Rs 7. The margin was very low, but since it was my first big order I didn’t want to say “No”.
I still remember those 3 nights when my entire family sat in the drawing room and rolled the calendars, placed a rubber band over it and put them in a cardboard box.
Lesson Learnt: The order helped me think BIG. I also got to know the nitty-gritty’s of printing, designing, arranging the finances and delivering a Big order
If your product is good, getting big names as clients isn’t tough.
I was referred to Amity University by NIIT. Those days Amity University was run from a small setup in South Extension. I was asked to meet a certain Mr. Chauhan and I did reach there at the time given. However, he got busy in some other work and could not turn up for the meeting. I also didn’t bother to follow that lead and hence it ended there. Today Amity University is the biggest university in India and their single order is bigger than what Big Bazaar makes from 5 Stores.
Lesson Learnt: Set your priorities, but do keep visiting them to ensure that they are set right! Try to catch things young, so that you grow with them and they with you.
Once while at my dentist appointment while discussing work amongst other things, I happen to mention about my part time work to him. He was a devout of Sadhu Maharaj and asked me to make some photo frames of Guruji to be distributed. I promptly shared some samples with him and thinking that the order would be small, added a BIG margin to cover my transportation and other costs.
I did receive the order and it was 5 times of what I had thought it would be at the same quoted price.
Lesson Learnt: Baat karne se hi baat banti hai. Never underestimate any order and a buyer.
Back then, I had a habit to learn everything but leaving it to the experts at the end.
While servicing one order of clocks, the printing was skewed and even the colour of the logo did not match. When I did mention this to the printer, he said “Sir, Sab bariya hai, aap chinta na kare”. And I believed him.
Unfortunately, the order was rejected. Since it was a customized product, it was of ZERO value to me. I had to sell it to them at half the price and suffer a huge loss.
Lesson Learnt: Even if you have an expert with you, don’t let your views go down the drain. In the end, it’s your money and your reputation that’s at stake.
In the quest to get more orders, I decided to explore the pamphlet route and got 20,000 pamphlets printed to be distributed with the Sunday newspaper.
Next morning, I received a call from a Bengali gentleman who ran a travel agency. He wanted some gift options which should be big and have an Indian touch to be gifted to Embassy officials.
For the next 5 days, I didn’t have a clue of what I could offer him but still wanted to make this work as this was the only call I received after distributing the pamphlets.
While eating favourite samosas at Frontier Samosa in Panchkuian Road, I saw a lamp shop. I went inside to get a lamp for my side table but once inside, a beautiful Earthen Ganesha lamp caught my eyes. I bought one and showed it to the Bengali man who immediately liked it and placed an order of 100 lamps in which I made Rs 20,000.
Lesson Learnt: Even a small investment could get you BIG results.
Just 1 lucky pamphlet out of the total 20000 worked for me and returned by investment many times.
I always wanted to explore new places, go to places where people like me did not visit, do the things that are supposed to be contrarian.
I used to visit Chor Bazaar regularly. For the uninformed, Chor Bazar used to be a Sunday bazar at the ground behind the Red Fort. The stuff one would get was a mix of second hand goods, goods sold as junk to kabariwala, and as the name suggests, some stolen goods.
Once, when I was there, I got my hands on an ITPO Trade Fair Directory for the year 1995, which somebody must have sold to a kabariwala. I paid Rs. 15 for that 400 page directory and walked away.
When I was looking to expand my business, I thought of posting letters. But the question was, send a letter to whom? I took out the directory and got labels printed to be pasted on the envelopes. I posted 100 letters and sat next to my MTNL landline (no mobile/pagers back then), anticipating at least 20 enquiries. NONE CALLED!!
Disappointed, I planned to visit some and landed up in Karol Bagh but only to find out that it was an admin office and the boss and his men sit in Badli Industrial Area which was 40km away.
I had seen a DTC bus pass my house, with BADLI on it. So the next day, I sat in the bus and travelled 35km to reach Badli only to realize that my destination is still 5km away. With very little money left in my pocket, I decided to walk a while, took a lift and again walked a while to finally reach the tyre tube factory. I met Mr. Jain, right hand of Boss, who told me to come back with more samples.
With a heavy bag flung on my shoulders, I reached there again after 2 days. I got an order of Rs 50,000 along with an advance of Rs 10,000. The initial order was Rs 35,000/- but me being from a marketing bent of mind, told them that as puncture wala bhaiya is their main influencer, they should give them a customized keychain which would tempt them sell their product more. He liked the idea and placed an additional Rs. 15,000 order.
Lesson Learnt: The best of leads happen from the unlikeliest of places.
Every marketing effort may not yield immediate returns.
I took a loan from my father with a promise to return it within 2 months. The goods were delivered and I waited anxiously for my payments. Even after 2 months of repeatedly calling them, there was no result. When I would insist, they would call me to Badli and pay Rs. 5000. I wasted all my energies on recovering the payment rather than utilizing on getting new orders.
Finally, after 6 months of follow up I did get my payments, but this episode left a bitter taste.
Lesson Learnt: If you have committed a mistake, then book the loss and move on, just trying to make it work will not lead you anywhere.
In business, ups and downs happen, don’t be super excited or super depressed with any development.
This instance did hurt me a lot and everyone wanted me to end this. And I did what they told me… Oriental Sales died… and all my hopes of nurturing it into the Best Corporate Gifting Company died too.
I did lose a battle, but the lessons I learnt helped me Win a War!!