Mr Ravindra Prabhudesai, Md. PITAMBARI Products Interview by Danish Reyaz
Q. 1. How and when was the company started and what is the story behind the brand?
The entrepreneurship environment and training was available in the home itself for Mr Ravindra Prabhudesai from his childhood days. His father owned a transport business and Ravindra got a chance to travel with him to various large engineering, chemical, pharmaceutical and dairy industries and feel the pulse of the industrial vibrations of machines. Ravindra used to help his father in his business. At that time Mr. Wamanrao (Ravindra’s father) had the railway clearing and forwarding contract for two major companies namely Johnson and Johnson Tiles and Poysha Industries. With the self entrepreneurship base of his father Ravindra inherited the principles of self-decision, business has a better chance of progress and monetary gains, the importance of punctuality and the value of your word. All these prepared him mentally for choosing the option of business rather than any other one. A seed for setting up his own huge business was sown in his mind. After graduation, he had three options before him.
2. Helping his father in the transport business
3. Own business
Ravindra chose the last option and decided to use his knowledge gained to start a somewhat different entity start as his own business.
Failure is said to be the first step to success. Ravindra took charge of a sick mosaic tiles unit in Dombivali and strived hard. However it failed. When he analyzed the failure, he found the following reasons:
1. Lack of skilled workers and technical know-how
2. Non existence of Quality Control Department
3. Lack of Administration and accounts departments in the office
4. Non existence of marketing department
5. Non availability of Sales personnel
6. Non utilization of modern management techniques
7. Lack of any Time management system
When he observed that the time, energy and expenses were being incurred without any tangible results on the work front being obtained, he decided to close the unit forthwith.
“However, this failure taught me many lessons. I came to know that it was very important to know certain things related to business which we may not be aware of. The lesson proved immensely useful in my future ventures” said Mr. Ravindra Prabhudesai.
PITAMBARI today is a huge business. But it started as a very small unit manufacturing and selling detergent powder. The initial start up was A. V. Cleaning Products Pvt. Ltd. (with the initials of his grandfather Anant Vinayak Prabhudesai) which produced detergent powder and liquid soap in his own residential premises. The product was being marketed to the canteens of large houses & prestigious hotels like Taj & Precedent. However it soon dawned that there has to be a larger clientele if the business growth has to be sustained. Ravindra started studying about the same through media such as Economic Times and Business India. He went thoroughly through the biographies of world famous industrialists. He attended seminars and went through the detailed interviews of the people in the top echelons of companies. He was able to master the techniques of marketing management. Considering the needs of the time and the importance of Management in business he decided to go for Diploma in Business Management (D. B. M.) and joined Thane College for the same in 1985. While working for the whole day he spent evenings in College studying the finer details of business.
This was the time to identify and define various terms. Ravindra understood the meaning of the BRAND here and also the importance of a supply chain of Superstockists – Distributors-Agents-Shopkeeper-Customer. It was also new knowledge that the product should have a higher shelf life. Another principle also made itself clear. If a product has to be turned in to a brand, the product has to be unique. Ravindra then started to think about the products he had and whether any of these products could be converted in to a BRAND. It came to the mind that the product should be of the daily use priority and should not be available in the market till the time. The Liquid Soap and detergents were thought of but there were numerous manufacturers in the market and it would have been very difficult to overpower them by competing…Another thought came to the mind for some product which would be needed every day in almost every household…
Ravindra used his chemistry expertise for experiments in his home laboratory. For cleaning the Brass-Copper utensils in the house the women use sour elements such as Tamarind and buttermilk. A composite product would have been ideal. The product should not be in liquid form as it would be liable for wastage. During these experiments a powder was prepared and named as COPSHINE. The samples were given to the relatives and they were quite happy with the shining performance. The product was then sent to some reputed Hotels as samples… and the first customer we earned was TAJ INTERNATIONAL…Hotel Taj appreciated and praised the A.V. Cleaning Products Pvt. Ltd. for the shine it bestowed on the Copper–Brass utensils. Based on the experience of Taj other hotels followed suit and Ravindra was inundated with orders from Centaur, Ambassador and others. In fact this was a unique market earned by A.V. Cleaning Products Pvt. Ltd.
COP-SHINE…the powder bestowing shine on the household Copper-Brass utensils became our exclusively different product. The larger companies in this business at the time had never thought this area as a market. As a result, COP-SHINE proved to be our strength in our business. With a continuous Research and Development effort and improvement of the Quality of our product and testing the same in-house, we carefully maintained the landmark quality of the product. We purchased a Grinder and Mixer and the powder manufacture stared on the ground floor of our residence. Once the powder was ready and passed through QC check, 50 Kg bags used to get filled up for delivery to hotels and other customers. But these orders were not continuous & hence I was in search of a business through which I could get a guaranteed monthly sale & reach up to the Six Crores population of Maharashtra.
Slowly the information percolated the common people and the maidservants that a powder is available for shining Copper-Brass utensils. The demand was increased from such people and PITAMBARI was born. The name PITAMBARI is fusion of two wrds i.e Pit (efHele) – Brass & Tamb (leebyeb) i.e. Copper, a product that shines both copper & Brass. This was a product that would be used in almost every household every day and hence we decided to launch the same as a pouch packing of PITAMBARI-Shining powder for Copper-Brass. This was PITAMBARI for common household…
Q. 2. How did you weather the competition and what was the toughest situation you faced?
There were THREE extremely difficult occasions which would be always remembered…
“While trying to reach the growth target, I experienced extremes of low and high. However, I learnt from every episode of experience and hence I could keep my higher ranking in the business” Mr. Ravindra Prabhudesai said. “I took a lesson from the workers’ strike in my factory. I established my manufacturing units at various different places even outside the State. With independent existence of these manufacturing units, I could overpower the non-cooperation of the workers and in spite of the toughest competition could keep my PITAMBARI supplies on time and as per my commitments. I could also learn that in order to strengthen and enlarge the customer base, one needs to keep a step ahead of the time…”
In order to comply in time with the largely increased demand of PITAMBARI SHINING POWDER, we purchased a machine from a company worth Rs. 12.50 lakhs. The contract for the order was ready and the proofing of the machine was going on. 100 packets came out of the machine. Although there were certain drawbacks in the machine, it was purchased on the condition that the machine will be returned if problems persist. Purchase was complete and the machine started giving troubles. Sometimes the weight of the packet was wrong, and at other the powder was wasted while being filled. Sometimes the packing would not sustain the transport. Ravindraji was perplexed. On the one side there was a loan of Rs. 12.50 lakhs and on the other the PITAMBARI market was going to be affected if the supplies were not delivered on time. Ravindraji took a bold decision and increased the worker strength in packing division. But he saw to it that the product was available in the markets with regularity. The manufacturer of the machine argued that due to the ingredients of the powder there was deterioration of the machine parts. The option that Ravindraji placed before the company was that of replacement with another machine, selling of this machine to anyone else and refund of the cost of machine after deducting normal charges. There was no use of any discussions. In the young age this was a very startling experience for an entrepreneur. There was a lot to learn as well.
1. The terms of agreement
2. Casting of the terms and conditions of contract
3. The importance of documentation in details
It is true that while observing the upward swing of other businesses you can yourself find the lacunae in your establishment.
A few years ago, PITAMBARI introduced their product PITAMBARI SCORING BAR as PITAMBARI HYGIENIC BAR with a new introduction. However, the quality loss was observed in the product and the company had to take back all the distributed materials. There was a huge loss and the name was also tainted to some extent. However, the loss was manageable as the decision to recall the product was quick and effective.
Q. 3. What is the present turnover?
Q. 4. What is your vision for turn over?
We foresee a turnover of about 100 Crores within a span of THREE years from now. If we could add to our product range with some new products, we shall definitely be able to muster a turnover of Rs. 500 Crores within the next TEN years.
Q. 5. Have you ever faced or are you facing any threat of acquisition?
No. We are a Private Limited Company and all the shares are divided within the family.
Q. 6. Do you have any plans for using an opportunity of Pvt. Equity, if available?
At the present moment we do not have any plans or thoughts about the same. At the same time the Bank rates have also been lower than before and many banks such as ICICI, Thane Janata Sahkari Bank, HDFC etc have approached us.
Q. 7. Do you have any plans for Pan-India presence? If yes, why? If no, why not?
All the Homecare Products Division Products of PITAMBARI are available in almost all the States of India. Apart from this PITAMBARI products are being exported to other countries such as Singapore, Mauritius, U. A. E., Malaysia and Nepal etc. Recently PITAMBARI has finalized arrangements through which the distribution network in the United States of America will be effective and the customers will be able to buy all quality PITAMBARI products. I the future our efforts would be to take PITAMBARI products to the markets of U.K. and other countries near India. The PITAMBARI products from the Healthcare Division are now available in the States of Maharashtra, Gujrat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh.