“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!