DEVAA HO DEVAA!

Nikhil ballal

Tell us about your childhood?
We belonged to a lower middle class
family of Amritsar. Due to my father’s job, we
shifted to Thane in 1966. He worked with
Gauri textiles then. I grew in an environment
where my day started with textiles and
ended with textiles. This triggered me to
pursue a career in the same field. Also my
peer group and neighbours were flourishing
in the same business. This motivated me even
more to opt for textiles.
RM-After completing a diploma in Manmade
textile technology I started working as
an apprentice and later as a weaving master.
I would sit for hours together creating a
shirting design. My designs garnered a lot of
popularity and I started getting orders from
some of the famous shirting companies.
God was smiling on me and everything
that I touched was turning into gold. But I
never wanted to do a job. There was always
business flowing in my blood. Since we
weren’t financially sound at that time, I could
not afford to take the risk of setting up a
business. So I continued to work as a weaving
master.

So finally when did you take the call of
becoming a businessman?
RM-One day while working I committed
some mistake. My owner got terribly
annoyed. He abused me and had no control
over his tongue. He said certain things to me in
utter rage which I could not digest. He
especially abused my father. I couldn’t bear
it. I was deeply hurt. Without thinking even
for a second I handed over my resignation to
him and came back home. I told my father
that henceforth I won’t be doing that job.
When he asked me the reason for my
resignation, I narrated the entire incident to
him. My father slapped me on hearing the fall
of events. He asked me,”Naukri Karni hai kya
Nakhre Karne hai?” He told me that if I had so
much respect for me then, Kuch ban ke Dikha!
That day I decided I will prove myself to my
dad and make him feel proud! This drove me
to ride the engine of business.

How were your initial days in business?
RM-I was in my late twenties when I took
a loom on rent and commenced with shirt
piece business. It was tough. I used to work
18-20 hours a day. I would keep approaching
and persuading shirting companies to give
me business. Since there were many big
players already existing in the market, it was
a Herculean task to get business. But I was
positive and confident about my talent and
designs. I knew they would click! And the day
was not too far when I earned my first deal.
Along with the designing work, I had to
look after production,finance, sales and
marketing. My younger siblings were too
small and were studying during that time. So
it would have been inappropriate to involve
them in business. After few years suddenly, I
fell severely ill one day and asked my both
the brothers to join me in the business. My
brother Jitendra and Sanjeev, an ICWA and
Law graduate readily accepted their
responsibilities. Today we have segregated
our roles. I look after sales and attimes
production whereas Sanjeev and Jitendra
handle finance and manufacturing.

How did you traverse the journey from a
small shop of 300 sq. feet to a magnificent
showroom of 5000 sq. feet?
RM-Each day was challenging
for us. In my 33 years of career I
haven’t taken rest for even 33
days! Neither I nor my family has
any regrets about it. We loved
every moment that we spent with
‘Devaa’. Every day we worked for
‘delight’ of customer. Money was
never our driving force. We never
worked on attaining a specific
sales target. We always wished
that our designs are appreciated.
‘Devaa’ always focussed on giving
the best product.
There are many customers who
are shopping at ‘Devaa’ for more
than two decades. This loyal base
of customers helped us in realising
our dream of such a beautiful
showroom.

For growth and expansion of
business what should one do?
RM-Instead of idolizing any
successful person of that industry
one should explore people who
failed miserably in it. One should
investigate their reasons of failure
and accordingly plan their business innings.

Today getting good people and retaining
them is a daunting task. How do you deal
with this problem?
RM-I recruit raw people (freshers). These
people are like a white slate and you can
carve any impressions that you like. I train
them, mould them and clone them like me. It is
like if you have unmixed mud you can mould it
in any way. It is upto us to shape it in the form
of Ganpati, Hanuman or Ravan (smiles).

What is your secret for success?
RM-I work for appreciation and not for
money. People should recognise me by my
designs and not by my wealth. I observe each
and every customer. I analyse them and
understand their tastes and interests. This is a
continuous process. As per changing trends I
give right designs to right target audience.I
begin my day at 10 and end it at 10 at night.
I love my work so much that I get involved with
my customer just like their family person. They
too take my advice and suggestions without
any hesitations.
Apart from this you will always see me
vertical in my showroom. More vertical you
are more you grow vertically (laughs). I will be
more comfortable if you interview me standing
instead of sitting (laughs).

We heard your surname has changed
from Malhotra to Godbole?
RM-(Laughs). My customers have changed
my surname from Malhotra to Godbole.
Because of my sweet tongue they call me
Godbole uncle.
With the introduction of new malls in
Thane and other branded apparel showrooms,
has this hampered your sales?
RM-No it hasn’t.Over the years we have
diversified. We provide plethora of clothes
which will meet requirements of the entire
family. Earlier we sold only shirts then
gradually we started showcasing trousers,
chinos, formal pants, casual shirts, wedding
dresses for groom and bride. We have
separate ladies wear section where females
can shop everything under one roof. And all
this in fully air conditioned space with smart
sales persons at customer’s service. Since we
adapted as per the changing times neither
malls nor other branded outlets have affected
us.We are changing with the time before the
time could change us.

You are also involved in a noble cause
that is Indian Library. How did this happen?
RM-The credit goes to my younger brother
Sanjeev. In our school and college days we
neither had enough space to study nor
sufficient books to refer. We decided that
once we are financially stable we will create
a library for all those who have a desire but
don’t have the facilities to study. We are
happy that more than 10,000 students are
now associated with this library. There is no
such library in Thane -Mumbai area. It is a
great feeling to do some noble cause for
Thanekars who have supported us over the last
two decades.

What are your future plans?
RM-We are now well established in Thane.
Now we are planning to spread our wings in
Pune and Nashik. Many Puneites and people
from Nashik come to our showroom for
shopping. This has encouraged us to start a
showroom in these places. We are confident
that it will click in these two cities.

When was ‘Devaa’born? And why did
you select ‘Devaa’ as your brand name?
RM-In 1992-93 after Mumbai blasts,
government stopped exports of textiles. This
hindered our sales. Also I realised that the
future belongs to readymade clothes. This
made me come out with ‘Devaa’. I am a
strong follower of Hanumanji (GOD- Deva).
So I named my shop after him.
I took a shop on rent (300 sq. feet) at
Ram maruti road for eight days and could
successfully run it for further eight months
(smiles). People started liking ‘Devaa’ shirts. I
could see customers were very happy after
visiting ‘Devaa’. I never work for Customer
Satisfaction I always work for Customer
delight.

According to you, what is the difference
between delight and satisfaction?
RM-There is a huge difference between
the two. A customer likes a shirt in ‘Devaa’
and he purchases it- Customer satisfaction. If
he comes back again with his friend to buy
‘Devaa’ shirt-Customer Delight. I always work
for Customer’s delight. Today I can proudly
tell you that I have more than 10,000
delighted customers who regularly visit
‘Devaa’.

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