Best Marketing Guru

“Look, shops open at 9 in the morning and it’s fine if we leave for airport at 10 to catch the scheduled flight tomorrow.  We have that one hour.  Let us try to meet some buyers”. I had a quick talk with my agent in Riyadh late in the night.

I was on one of my business visits to Saudi Arabia in 1988.  As usual my trip was very hectic trying to book orders for my normal product range. I was to return to India the next day morning.  At night while I packed, I realised I had samples of a new product, stainless steel glasses, which I had forgotten to explore till then on that trip.

The agent said, “Normally 9am is the time when the shop owners (importers) discuss the previous day’s progress with their salesmen and make their marketing plans for the day. It is too early in the morning for them to discuss purchases.  We could pursue that business on your next trip.”

I said, ” never mind, if we are able to meet one or two buyers, we will get an idea about that line of business.  No harm. Atleast we will get prepared better for the next trip”.   He agreed “Ok, let us take a chance”

We left in time to catch as many importers as possible.  The first one was not prepared to discuss purchases at that time, as expected.

We went to the second Saudi buyer.  He was busy cleaning and setting his table right, and on our offering the stainless steel glasses, he very casually asked,

He: What price?

Me: 72gms a piece, 7.5 cm dia, 2dz to inner and 12 inners/ctn, non-magnetic stainless steel, 90 days L/C though we may ship in 60 days, $3.75 a dozen

He was still busy cleaning his table, duster in his hand.  He said casually, not even looking at us, “$3.50”

Me: No, 3.50 is slightly below my cost.  Can’t go below $3.75.

He said firmly: $ 3.50…. pause..….. I could have started with $3.00 and you would have given at $3.50.   But I don’t waste time.  You are the first one I am seeing this morning, hence don’t want to disappoint you nor get disappointed.  If no $3.50, then no interest”

Me: Quantity?

He: One container.

I was expecting the first order to be around 5,000 dz.  One container equaled 24,000 doz.  For this quantity, I would save some freight and other expenses and my cost would be around $3.50.

Me: Fine. Accepted. We want to start business with you so that you can test our quality of product and services!

He: Proforma banao. Usme Bank details mauzood.  Bank L/C details bukra mazboothan. (Make the proforma with your bank details, I’ll arrange and advise you the Letter of Credit details by tomorrow).

I prepared a proforma invoice for US$.84,000.  He signed and said in Urdu-Arabic to mean, “Without knowing you, I have placed an order because somehow I felt you are genuine.  But make sure you surely dispatch and ship right quality.  Don’t let down my judgment”

We concluded the deal and I left for the airport.

By the time I reached Mumbai, the cost of raw material had reduced by about 2%.  By the time I exported the goods, the exchange rate went 6% in my favour.  By the time I completed the order, I had made a decent saving of about 10%.  The value per container was high and the profit margin for this product ultimately turned out to be quite satisfactory.  I was tempted to expand my product range to stainless steel housewares!

After executing the order, when I met the same customer on my next visit, I was curious to know what made him place the order with me without knowing of me.  His reasons were interesting.

He said something to the effect that, “We have 3 major problems when we place orders with exporters from India.

One, they normally give a price and sometimes show a sample.  Intentionally, they do not give full details of the products unless we specifically ask for each of the details.  They try to keep an escape route ready for them.  In case, later, if the cost goes up, they compromise on the details missed out, and give an inferior, smaller or cheaper product.

Two, when we tie them down in the L/C with all specifications, in many cases they opt not to ship at all when the cost goes up.

Three, when the price increases, they divert the order to our competitors at a higher price. They might supply to us later when they have excess stocks.   Sometimes they even fail to supply which is a double loss to us as we lose our customers to the competitor to whom they supplied products meant for us.

But in your case, while quoting the price, on your own, you gave all the details of weight, size, packing, grade, delivery and price which I needed, without my asking for it.  This built my confidence that you are honest.  So, I took a chance and placed the order with you!”

I was completely got carried away by his reasons!  It enlightened me “If I could take care of these worries of the customers, it would make a difference to my business”.  I made these as guide lines.  Never did I compromise in quality.  Never did I fail to supply.  Never did I tried to take advantage of the situation.  It worked.   It gave satisfaction to both, me and my customers.  Within 2-3 years, we had around 60% of the Saudi Arabian market in stainless steel housewares!

I thank the customer, who was my best Marketing Guru

Experienced and Written By: Badri Baldawa

Edited By : Meeta Kabra

Every Activity Has Inbuilt Opportunity – Explore !

“Badri, we need stainless steel utensils in bulk for Bellary’s Ganesh Temple. They are produced and marketed in Bombay. If I come to Bombay, can we get reliable quality at competitive prices?” This was a call I received in 1988 from my cousin, Bhagwandas who stayed in Bellary, my home town. I had moved out of Bellary twenty-three years before that.  We were all very active in maintaining our town temple and celebrating traditional functions at the temple.

The stainless steel dining and serving dishes were required on dinners organized during festivals.  The temple’s hall was also rented out for wedding and other functions. Having dinner sets ready for such occasions would attract more people to have their family celebrations at the temple, thereby increasing the funds available for the upkeep of the temple.

“It would be a pleasure.  Though I don’t know anyone in the stainless steel trade, I will get some contacts by the time you come next week,” I said.

At this time, I was settled in Mumbai and running a business in exports.  We were merchant exporters, mainly dealing with spices and imitation jewelry.  Dubai and Saudi Arabia were our main markets then.

I contacted a neighbour who I knew was in the steel business.  It turned out that he was dealing in steel products used in the construction industry and not in houseware.  But he introduced me to Mr. Vishnu Goyal (Goyalji), who was a manufacturer of stainless steel glasses and had his wholesale outlet at C P Tank in Mumbai.

I visited Goyalji with my cousin.  Since the products were for a temple, he volunteered to supply his products at cost and to arrange for other items from reliable sources at a competitive price.  In no time, he arranged for everything.  In fact, while I was discussing how to pack and dispatch the utensils to Bellary, he overheard the conversation and asked me to give him the address. He’d get them packed properly to avoid damage in transit and send them over.

We were relaxed and happy with the purchase.  It went out smoothly and was quick too! It was a time to celebrate!  We were offered biscuits and tea. As the trend prevails in the market, it was just half of a tiniest cup!  We had to ask for more!  Tea and biscuits go well with small talk and we had a casual chat.

He: Baldawaji, what do you do?

Me: I am a Chartered Accountant, but I don’t practice.  I am in export business.

He: Oh, Bahut Achhaa! Where do you export?

Me: Middle East – UAE and Saudi

He: Are Wah!  Even steel glasses are exported in large quantities.  Why not try?

Me: Goyalji, it is not in my range of products; but I will let you know if it interests me.

When we were about to leave, Goyalji gave me six glasses with specs and said, “These are the ones which were being exported there.  Please keep them with you in case you decide to carry these as samples on your next overseas visit.  Price is xx per kg.”  I accepted the glasses, hesitatingly, as he was giving them free of cost.

I had a suitcase in the office to collect samples of new exportable products as and when I got them.  I worked the pricing on a cost sheet and dropped those glasses in the suitcase.   Later this business developed to the extent that we had almost 60% of Saudi Arabian market.  An opportunity sent by Lord Ganesha, when explored, proved to be one of the Turning points in my career.

Lesson learnt:  Every activity has inbuilt opportunities.  Look for them and Explore!

Experienced and Written By: Badri Baldawa

Edited By : Meeta Kabra

To Face The Present Challenge, Change Our Business Approach:


Present problems:

As I pen this note, the financial world and the global economy are in the throes of the worst crisis of our times. The global financial bubble has now burst, some of the largest financial institutions have collapsed , liquidity has dried up, wealth has shrunk to unimaginable level and investor confidence is wiped out,


Recession, starting from US, has shaken the nerves of many a countries.  This has dampened the exports and the profits.  Experts say the situation is likely to remain so in the near future, but it looks the worst is still to come


When everything was looking so handsome world over, why did it suddenly collapse?  Detailed diagnosis by the experts is important so that we do not fall prey to the same problem again.


India too witnessed the meltdown.  Look at the way the stock markets are bleeding.   .  India, in comparison, to even many advanced countries has stronger internal drivers for growth, robust financial system, excellent regulatory mechanism, and pro-active and pre-emptive monitoring of the situations.  Therefore let us not panic


Favourable factors:

There are many favourable factors which can help us in facing this global storm


Oil prices have dropped down practically to 1/3, Inflation has dropped down to below 9% compared to high of 13% couple of months back.  Raw material prices have dropped down to almost half or even less.


Economies of most of the other countries are worse and this is expected to work in our favour.  Rapid inflation in China and other countries which are India‘s competitors has and will bring business in India’s way. 


Our Government also appears to be in a supportive mood.  Loan interest rates have been lowered, loans are liberalized and liquidity is being improved.  They are striving to improve these factor further.  We can certain suggest that upgrading the list of Focus products to include stainless steel utensils and cutlery will certainly help the Stainless Steel industry from the status of seriously illness.


Though Rupee exchange rate has changed to the advantage of Exporters, the impact is still to be reflected in the accounts of exports as they were forced to go for forward booking earlier, when the Rupee was appreciating at a very fast rate.  Considering the very wide currency fluctuations, the exporters are confused to quote the prices as the adverse rate fluctuation could ruin him whereas safer rate may mean losing the order to the competitors.   The Government and RBI may have to interfere to maintain stable currency rate.  Till such time, the exporters could still hedge their requirements to their advantage at present.


Possible solutions:

While the government does its part of duty, we have to question ourselves, ‘Do I change my strategies based on the current global scenario and thrive in future, or do I carry on with my age-old strategies and just watch to survive?’   It is time to take a decision…a decision that will decide the future.  I believe that those who can face the present challenge are the winners for future.


Every crisis carries an opportunity with it and we should accept this opportunity to our advantage. 


Exporters now need to find other alternatives to remain in business. 

  • Look for the alternative destinations to USA market.  Diversify to Latin America and ASEAN regions, the European Union, Middle East and African countries can be the next best market options to counter the shortfall.


  • Both manufacturers and exporters need to sit together, see where every penny can be saved and revamp their product catalog and their price tags. They need to integrate in their operations


  • Multiple price options can be offered to the customers. If a buyer finds the price of a product beyond his target price, offer an alternative product which suits to his range.


  • Different prices for different geographical locations can help exporters to balance their p their profit margins.


  • Dealing in difference currencies for different countries could help in protecting heavy fluctuation in one currency


  • Plan and shorten delivery time.  This will protect, to certain extent, any possible loss arising out of cancellation of orders due to changes in the economy of the importing country.


  • Change in marketing strategy by negotiating more on E-commerce media could reduce the overseas travel expenses

The nation today expects from us much more than ever before.   Well, let us try, if we can get the change in our business.


Badri Baldawa