Mr. Manan Doshi is a partner in Giri Plast and the president of Bombay Industries Association (BIA). He did his schooling from Jamnabai Narsee High School and followed it up with a Bachelor of commerce degree from Narsee Monjee college of commerce. Mr. Doshi also pursued inter CA but chose to get into his family business as against completing the professional course.
Nazim: Tell us about your business.
Manan Doshi: My father and Uncle started this business as acrylic fabrication unit. He was also into manufacturing of ladies handbags, jewelry boxes and other articles made out of acrylic. When I joined in 2001 that was practically the line of business we were into. Post my joining we have ventured into field of vacuum forming, processing materials such as HIPS, APS, HDPE and other plastics. The use of this particular process is wide right from automobiles to medical, packaging, FMCG, Advertisement etc. Being a plastic product the uses are many and therefore the scope is practically enormous and it pretty much depended on our ability to develop it to its full potential.
Nazim: Did you get into this business because you were fascinated about it or was it just about getting into your family business?
Manan Doshi: Absolutely I was fascinated by it. What I love about this business is that there is no monotony. Today if you are working on something in the auto industry tomorrow you are developing something for the advertisement sector. There is always some kind of R&D going on, new materials and design requirements coming in. What excites me is a lot of research and development going on for designing new jobs. Our success or standing in the market today can predominantly be attributed to the fact that we are not in the business of manufacturing something similar to what our competitors do. We ask our clients to give us jobs that are currently not being done in plastic, give us the specifications, and we pretty much convert it into plastic. We basically convert their dull metal made machine enclosures into fine looking plastic enclosures which will enable them to compete with European or Chinese markets. In the international market you need aerodynamic body for your machines to make them look attractive. I find this of great interest.
Nazim: So is it your childhood dream come true, this line of business?
Manan Doshi: Not exactly. My childhood dream was to just become a businessman because it was something I have been seeing everybody in my family – my father, uncles ‘and brothers doing, all my life. Being an entrepreneur was the goal since childhood.
Nazim: Can you differentiate between the two terms entrepreneur and businessman
Manan Doshi: I am not an authority to explain the exact dictionary meaning of an entrepreneur and a businessman. But I would say both these terms overlap each other. The only difference in my mind being that an entrepreneur is one who is always open to new ideas, new challenges and new areas of work. A businessman on the other hand is somebody who will utilize his time to develop his existing business into something which it is not right now. Entrepreneur is one who will always be on the lookout for opportunities for new ventures, innovative ways to take the business to the next step. That is the basic difference according to me.
Nazim: Recently about a month and half ago you were appointed as the president of Bombay Industries Association (BIA). Are you excited about your new role?
Manan Doshi: Very much so because Bombay Industries Association is a sixty year old body and there is a lot of history to it. Very senior and prominent people have been president of this august body so it is a great honor for me and also the fact that I have given about eight to ten years to BIA and this is probably a culmination of all those years of work I have put in. The other thing that excites me is that we are over thousand members and there is lot of scope for taking your thoughts forward and ensuring that we, that is the office bearers and my team, share our experiences and thoughts with our members, we give them a platform to do things which they think is impossible. So there is quite a lot of excitement, quite a lot of work to be done there.
Nazim: Practically every business has a vision and mission for it, what was yours?
Manan Doshi: I got into business when I was still studying. At that time I had started a business of photo frames. There was no vision or mission then. There was only the thought – the idea of getting into a business because I used to get excited at the thought of money. That led me to do business and many other things. The vision and mission according to me keeps on changing. They are very subjective words for different people. As for me my vision keeps on broadening because of my association with BIA or my association with other people who are into business because they keep helping me to see things in a different perspective. That is the reason the vision keeps broadening encompassing new technologies and progressive field of work. As far as the mission is concerned, after all these years I have figured out that the mission is to be happy. There may be many ways to do it but ensure that whatever you do at the end you are happy. You never know how long you will be able to do a particular thing so we have coined this term ‘You have to be happy everyday’ and that’s about it. Be happy every day and ensure that you take out something from each day that keeps you motivated for the next day. Being happy for a businessman could be from completing a small job, or developing something new or spending time with your children in the evening, whatever it takes. So mission of a business for me is to be happy.
Nazim: It is commonly accepted by many people that when you are into business or when you are starting you entrepreneurial journey you have to sacrifice your family life.
Manan Doshi: I feel that if you cannot understand one simple fact then there is no point in being an entrepreneur. Being an entrepreneur or businessman gives you a choice. You can choose whom to work with, you can choose when to work, you can choose what to work with and then you can choose your field. Along with these choices you also have the freedom to choose the time you spend at work or at home. If you feel spending time at work gives you happiness or motivation to do better work then do it. If you are constantly under so much pressure that you are not able to take time out for your family or the things that you need to do like maybe having a glass of beer with your friends there is no point in being an entrepreneur. There is something wrong in your system. What typically happens is that when an entrepreneur is growing he may feel that his business is small and he needs to devote more time. That is fair enough. He may decide that when his business touches a turnover of twenty five lakhs he’ll have a secretary and when it touches a turnover of fifty lakh he’ll have an accountant, when it reaches one crore he’ll have a driver, manager so on and so forth. But what happens in most cases is that ever when the turnover crosses two crores we still find him managing the entire process all by himself. Time management is really important and one must do things that they like be it spending time with your family or friends or probably for your hobbies. Personally I have experienced that it helps me focus more on my work the next day. It gives me the satisfaction of achieving something. I always tell my friends that you will not remember what work you did on a particular day but take some time off with your family both you and your family will remember it for the entire year. That’s how it is. At the end of the day the mission comes into play – that is being happy. And nobody is going to be bothered by the bank balance after a number of years. The fun is in the journey – it is not about balance sheets and books.
Nazim: There are times when one becomes demotivated – be it business or work. You would also have experienced demotivation at some point in your life. What drives you to overcome it?
Manan Doshi: Demotivation happens virtually every day, losing a job, non-payment of dues by clients, things not working out according to your plan these are part and parcel of your everyday life. The only fact that matters is that you have brought your business to the level it is right now from a startup or from whenever you took over a business and it has reached a point where it is on course towards its goal. Don’t lose hope. You have done so much you can do it again. You should not lose hope for not fulfilling your short term goal; it’s not the end of the world. I also do a lot of activities to keep myself motivated. I am very passionate about my business. But after some time I take it as a as a means to achieve the goal or mission of being happy. For me my business is not the goal itself although it feeds me, it feeds my passion and I devote most of my waking hours to my business but after a while you understand it is just a means to do other things. It gives you the freedom to spend money, spend time, spend your energies to do other things because you are secure financially.
Nazim: The new generation of entrepreneurs today has lots of new ideas. They devote some time to it but if they do not find success immediately they abandon it and take up something else. How much time should a young entrepreneur devote to his business before giving up or moving on?
Manan Doshi: I think we have a very huge dearth of young entrepreneurs. School children today do not even think of business as a career option. If you ask them they would probably list all professional career options. Very few would actually say I want to grow up and become a businessman. The problem lies with our school. Our education system does not recognize someone’s trait of entrepreneurship. They only evaluate you general traits of proficiency in mathematics and so on. But what about a student who is a good manager and has the traits of becoming a good entrepreneur! More often than not the brighter students aspire to gain a degree and a masters’ degree maybe in a foreign country and build their lives around it. The onus of becoming an entrepreneur, according to whatever little research we have done in BIA, falls on the latter half of the class, whose families have a business background. When we track this latter half of the class who have not fared good in their studies over a decade after completing their studies we find they are hugely successful in whatever business they are doing. Just imagine what would happen if the top end of the class does end up taking to business or become an entrepreneur. So one part of our motivation in teaching young kids is to make them aware that becoming an entrepreneur is not a taboo, they can do it. On the other hand kids today do their MBAs and think that they know it all when they join their family business or start their own venture. The will have this buzzing ideas of how to do things but they have to respect certain things which their forefathers have earned on their job – The degrees that their fathers have earned, not in three years but in the thirty years that they have been doing business. Irrespective of what your teacher may have taught or professor may teach you in your degree college, your father or uncle has a whole lot to offer, a treasure trove of experience that you must take advantage of. If you understand that simple fact and are able to cope up with it and prove yourself to your own company in a short span of time I am sure everyone will be more receptive of your new ideas. It has to be a blend. No business can grow only with traditional ideas and very few businesses have the success rate only with modern ideas. So I would say a success would be a culmination of backing of a traditional business support, with the thought or acumen of a businessman and the radicalness of a younger generation business leader who will ensure that the business is in sync with the global markets or the new trends.
Nazim: Do you feel that an entrepreneur should have a mentor to succeed in business?
Manan Doshi: If I say that I would probably be wrong because you see that there are so many entrepreneurs who are hugely successful and you read about them all over the paper. However if you have read about say ten entrepreneurs who have become successful how much have you read about those who failed in their business ventures. The ratio of the latter is 1:99. As a country whose backbone are the SMEs we have to analyze why the latter 99 have failed and put some effort towards that end. The ten who are being successful are brilliant. You will find every ten from hundred or every five from hundred people will be successful but we want to ensure that the ninety five also are moderately successful and they contribute to the SME sector which is why I think a mentor is a must. A mentor may be in the form of a family businessman or family friend or someone else. For people who do not have such support we at BIA provide mentorship – guidance, talks whatever they need, including internship.
Nazim: What are the qualities, startup entrepreneurs should have?
Manan Doshi: The foremost quality is being inquisitive. If you want success you have to be inquisitive enough to look at all possible small alleys and pathways to see where success lies in the end. More often than not the hugely successful businesses must have worked at least five to seven years before they hit upon the right calling and found success in a particular path. So being inquisitive is highly important. The second most important factor I would rate is time management. One has to, in today’s times, manage time between work, family, social life and ensure that every aspect of your life gets the time it deserves. If you think your business requires ten hours of your time at a particular juncture do it. But be a manager of time so that you ensure that you are able to sustain this over a long period of time. The success of a new company would probably come between the periods of five to eight years. You need to ensure that you continue in that particular business with patience, time and with energy for that period of five to seven years to realize that success lies after that period. You may put all your energy and put in eighteen hours a day for the first year and still when things don’t materialize you may get demotivated, disheartened. You lose a lot of money and you wind up losing everything. But what is required is time and energy management because the graph will come up at one point but you have to be in the right place to grab the opportunity at that time.
Nazim: Funding plays an important role for any kind of business or startup. Today we see young entrepreneurs say they have an idea but no funding. Is that the real reason why most aspiring entrepreneurs do not actually start a business? Or can they actually leave aside the thought funding and start a business without it?
Manan Doshi: I would rate entrepreneurs in two categories one is a novice entrepreneur who is just starting up, has not done anything but wants to start with a business idea. Second is a person who has done a job over the years and wants to switch over to business. For the novice entrepreneur funding is important because although he has the idea people are not really sure of his ability to deliver. More often than not they do get stuck up in that particular phase itself. They have to start with a small shop, if I may say so, and prove themselves before somebody is persuaded to fund or loan them money. They have to initially start with family loans or friendly loans etc. I can hardly see a venture capitalist funding a novice without any experience or backing. On the other hand there are people who have done a job for a major part of their life and want to switch over to business because that is what they wanted to do. I think there are very few people who do that because people who have been doing a job for a long time they get bound by the security of their job and the threat of the possibility of the business not succeeding. They may not even have much reserve fund to take this particular risk. But when the do take up doing business they prove brilliant. They will find it easy to secure the trust of someone who’ll take up their idea, put up a joint venture with them, and invest money on them. This is my take. If you are a startup and you are very sure what you want to do and you have put in your own money chances are you may induce someone to invest in your venture.
Nazim: BIA publishes its own magazine ‘Entrepreneur’. What is the role and purpose of this magazine?
Manan Doshi: Entrepreneur magazine is the mouthpiece of BIA which we publish bi-monthly. The activities of BIA is targeted at the SME and our goal is that our members from the sector develop themselves and achieve higher levels. We conduct trainings for our member’s employees. A small company with an employee base of about thirty people may not be able to afford a sales program for five of their sales staff. So we conduct a monthly sales program where our members can send their staff. Every month we conduct events on sales, communications skills, and time management etc. for the staff of the members.
The second program we conduct is for the members itself; we call it the Entrepreneur’s Knowledge Café. More often than not the day we start our business is the end of our formal learning curve. We do not have time and we feel that we have no need for any new knowledge. The programs, which may be as simple as understanding the balance sheet or a public speaking class, are carried out every two to three months, mostly on Saturdays so that members can make time to attend. The program intends to update them on the current trends which are a requisite if one has to survive in today’s times.
The third program that we conduct is for young entrepreneurs – we work with kids in the ninth and tenth grade, we throw them the challenge of coming up with a novel business idea and award the winners with rewards such as laptops etc. We also offer them training, internship, mentorship. We provide summer internship to around three to four hundred kids every year for two months. This is mainly possible because BIA is a generic association with members from various sectors and industries.
We also conduct intra-city and inter-city tours for our members wherein we take a group of members to visit other companies, corporations to observe their processes. Similarly international visits are also organized where we set up one to one business meet-ups with entrepreneurs there to learn how SMEs in those countries work. We have tie-ups with various foreign embassies that facilitate visits of entrepreneurs from their country to meet us. We share thoughts and disseminate the information gleaned from such meetings among our members and whoever else wants to take advantage of it.
This year onwards we have started a theme called ‘Live Your Dream’ wherein we motivate our members to take up a hobby of their choice. Every one of us has some hobby which we may have lost track of over due course of time, we encourage members to take it up again. A program is organized every couple of months that involves a hobby. Recently we organized a Ranthambore National Park – photo contest where members participated and we had a gala time. When you put a group of businessmen in a room networking is going to happen. This year we let networking take the backstage and organized an informal meet – a leisure trip and let our members relax. We had great response and our members were really happy about it.
Now we plan to have a formal networking meet probably on the third of April which we have named as the Speed Networking event. Every member will meet another member one-to-one for about two minutes and then move on to meet another member. This way hundred members will get the opportunity to meet hundred other members followed by a general networking evening wherein the members can carry-over conversation with members who interested them.
Nazim: Since you touched on the subject of hobbies share some of your hobbies with us
Manan Doshi: I have a host of hobbies. I like to scuba dive, I love trekking, I play basketball every week, I go camping once in a while, I love reading, I love collecting anything – I collect junk, I collect stamps, coins and pretty much anything that fancies me.