4 years in
advertising at the beginning of my career, which was so much
fun that I can't figure why I ever left it. But I did so well,
everyone kept giving me raises until I got a swollen head and
decided I was too bright to work for anyone else. That I was
going to be a colossal success on my own.
one was a sleepy ad agency called Grant Advertising (which I
almost bought 10 years later but was pipped to the post by JWT).
Nothing much happened there, Thank heavens I left. I would
have become totally dull.
fun was a company called MCM (Mass Communication and
Marketing), started by a maverick called Kersey Katrak. When
it looked like this wild ship was about to sink (the
rats has started running, so I ran too. I was obviously a rat
at that time, a rat with low self-esteem who didn't think what
I did mattered to anyone else except me. When I think back I
should have stuck with that genius. He went belly-up but I
should have stuck by him. I would have learned a little more
self-respect). Soon you'll find a link here offering tribute
to that great guy.
I have no
idea where I found the courage, but
I did go
into business on my own and launched and nurtured what became
India’s No.1 brand of jeans. The name was Flying Machine, a
name I'm proud of choosing. Even then I had this notion that I
was going to build a tongue-in-cheek lifestyle brand, a brand
that would encompass many products and services.
retrospect I should have stayed in advertising. I have all the
right instincts for it except perhaps the ability to network
and be buddy-buddy with nincompoops and charlatans. In that
respect entrepreneurship is the way to go. You can call a
spade a spade. Of course you pay a big price.
Flying Machine period was total and
unadulterated fun. I'm surprised they don't either censor or
tax entrepreneurship. But its taxing when you get so
emotionally involved. I was so successful we were growing at
an annualized rate of 400%. In those days the Indian banking
system called that overtrading under some idiotic norm called
the Tandon Committee Norms. I wonder whether this bloke Tandon
knows how many souls he must have destroyed.
I broke. I actually cried from frustration.
So I sold
the brand and the company, and “retired”. I thought I made a
good deal but eventually discovered that this was another
stupid move. I sold it for a pittance and it took me close to
15 years to get even that pittance into my hands, bit by bit.
I had sold out to get capital, which I never got.
But I was a
star. My constraints were known only to me. The world thought I
was the greatest thing since sliced bread (why sliced bread, I
wonder. What's so hot about sliced bread? Give me Brun Pau
any day. For those who don't know, Brun Pau is a hard
crusty bun introduced by the Iranis who run those restaurants
all over Bombay, which goes phenomenally with tea, wine or
Fondue and is a delight to eat by itself.). Being a star was fun. Having the media write about you,
being recognised and discussed in hushed whispers wherever you
go... oh man, that was fun.
whining. Even the interest I earned on that pittance (at 24%
per annum, this was good fun) made me so lazy that I
forgot what enjoyment there was in work. I was 35 at the time.
I wasted, yes, wasted 15 years of my life after that.
involved with a number of diverse businesses, in many cases as
an informal consultant, that ranged from furniture to dot coms
to real estate. For 5 years I was involved with Ogilvy & Mather in a consulting capacity wherein I set up an Identity
Management division for them in my own office in Ahmedabad.
It didn't quite work out as we hoped but
I enjoyed it and discovered that branding and identity
management comes naturally to me.
some ways this was spectacularly successful and in some ways a
total disaster. The quality of our work was readily
acknowledged as being spectacular, and we made pots of money, but our location in
Ahmedabad became a major impediment. It was wound up in 2000.
uniquely Indian term time-pass best describes that
period. Again for any non-Indian reading this - time-pass
means a colossal waste of time.
back I started Norquest Brands Private Limited in association
with Sanjiv Sood, a good friend of mine. We export reusable
cloth bags (See
with my website being our primary marketing medium. We're now
serving customers across the world and have, at customer
request, added a variety of products to our repertoire, which
include jeans and trousers, chef's clothing, laboratory
clothing and a number of other specialty products.
It is an
enormously satisfying business.
Particularly gratifying is the fact that Sanjiv and I have
been able to discuss and agree on a series of values and
principles that guide our business.
Indian business environment there is a cynical feeling that
you can't make money honestly; that you have to cut corners
and be "clever" in ways that aren't visible to others. I think
we've succeeded in completely blowing that myth out of the
water for everyone who comes in contact with our business.
just happy to have proved once again (after Flying Machine)
that complete devotion to customer satisfaction and total
transparency works like magic, but also to have a partner who
has completely internalized these values and actually revels
I get great satisfaction from hearing Sanjiv talk to his
friends about what we're achieving and how. It's wonderful to
have a partner who shares the same basic values.
source of joy is the fact that my daughter Kaajal is involved
and I am every day amazed to discover the depths she has. From
evolving dedicated software to serve our changing needs to
every day evolving newer ways to please our customers, she's a
huge asset to the business.
retrospect, I am grateful for all the kicks I've taken. Having
to strive at this age teaches you humility, makes you think
and keeps you young.
welcome consulting assignments. Why would I take out time from
my existing business? Because shifting my mind to different
problems refreshes and stimulates me.
frankly, I could use lots more money. Read on to see what I can do