Dilawar Hussain describes the struggle of a young entrepreneur to overcome the odds in the path of success.A.A. was happy working in a local bank; he had risen to the rank of junior manager in just three years. But then came the crunch. The bank announced job cuts in order for it to survive. A ‘golden hand-shake’ was offered. Staring at the cheque for Rs20 million that he had received for dues and ‘golden handshake’ money, A.A. wondered what he could do with it.
Family and friends advised him to invest it in a fixed deposit, but that would have meant depletion due to high inflation. He knew he had business acumen and luckily got a break when he saw an announcement in a local newspaper by a bank for the auction of the assets of a jam and jelly manufacturing company. A.A. made the highest bid of Rs8m. It was only when the hammer fell that he realised he had taken a leap in the dark.
It was a small plant and all of it had to be revamped which was a slow and nerve-wrenching process — hiring experts, seeking official approvals, getting essential power, water and gas connections and a host of other things to set the unit running. Half way, he was scraping the barrel. For starting trial production, he had to raise funds. Banks turned down his loan application for they could not risk losing money on a venture that had yet to take off the ground.
“I sold all the valuable assets at home, borrowed money from friends and lenders at high interest rates,” A.A. said later. There was an abundant supply of citrus and other fruits upcountry and the season was at its peak, which meant he could get apples and oranges at bargain prices. He himself travelled with the first truck-load to his factory. And finally, after a year’s hard work, when the first bottles of ‘Freshy’ jams rolled out, his eyes were misty, while his family and friends cheered.
A bank for small and medium sized enterprises (SME) finally dared to risk money at high compound interest. “That was one of the happiest moments of my life,” said A.A. But he scarcely knew the bridges he had yet to cross: setting up an unfailing system of flow of raw materials, hiring the right food technologists, the soaring cost of utilities, building a small team of salesmen who could persuade shopkeepers to put up a new brand on the shelf, taxes and bills and the inescapable greasing of palms.
It was more difficult to raise funds, but due to his good pay-back record the SME Bank agreed to extend the loan. It was only after three years of trial and error that the business finally reached break-even. “In the following year, I made the first profit. I assume prayers, honest business practices, hard work and belief in oneself can work wonders,” he affirmed.