As children we were told different inspirational stories of great leaders, amazing athletes, larger than life warriors and other superheroes. On entering the corporate world we marveled at the success stories of large business houses, or the journey of enterprising youngsters who started off in garages and went on to create today’s multi-billion dollar conglomerates.
Here is a real life story that inspires me to this day.
The protagonist is Sadhana, my domestic help many years ago. She was about 34 years old and had had almost no formal education. Her husband had left her and she had two young sons to bring up. This she did, by working at several houses as domestic help.
One day Sadhana approached me with a strange request. She needed Rs.25000 (approximately $300 and about 10 months’ salary for her at the time)
Curious, I asked her why she needed this large sum. Imagine my surprise, when she told me that she was setting up a business to press clothes, to supplement her earnings, where hired staff would press clothes for a fee.
A shop owner nearby was shutting down his business, she explained.
This was clearly a great example of“Business opportunity Identification”as well as “risk taking”.
My management education told me that I was witnessing an “Acquisition“.The advance was given and acquisition accomplished. This astute new businesswoman had procured the cheapest possible loan wherein the terms of repayment were, for all practical purposes, “payable when able” and interest free.
She also knew she had a captive customer base in her employers’ families, who remained loyal since she provided right service coupled with timely completion and delivery. She got her sons to chip in sometimes for ironing as also for delivery.
“Cost control” got her reasonable profits.
A “Capital expense” of a motorcycle was made, to better serve the customer. “Customer satisfaction” as we understand it, was the cornerstone of the business.
She decided to hire people from her community who she could trust and who would work diligently. This was her version of “Hiring right” and “Productivity enhancement”.
When business improved, she gave up work at all other homes, barring two (one being mine). Her logic was, God forbid something goes very wrong. So that was “Business risk mitigation” in practice.
One evening, I came home to see Sadhana talking to my wife, all formally dressed. Apparently she was going for discussions at a housing society, hoping to get business for many houses in return for a security deposit.
She won the contract and provided me with a lesson on “Reinvestment into business” & “Business development”.
Dear readers, I narrate this real life story to illustrate a simple truth
Business isn’t just about economic theory and university degrees. Sometimes it is just about using common sense.
My personal takeaway
Very often life’s extraordinary lessons come from very ordinary people.
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Author: Ravi Menon
Ravi Menon has a career spanning 3 decades and more, with diverse business experience in fields of production, maintenance, executive support to top management,concept marketing, sales, branding and corporate strategy. He has had the opportunity to manage large diverse teams and participate in crisis management at different levels.