ITS A GOODY-‘GUDDI’ AFFAIR

Nikhil Ballal

Tell us something about your childhood.
RD-I was born in Amritsar but my father’s
job compelled us to shift to Thane. I was
hardly six months old then. My mother Mrs
SavitaDhirwas serving as a teacher in a school
in Punjab. She tried to pursue her career in
Thane but didn’t get a right opportunity and
so she finally took up LIC as a career.
However that also didn’t work out as well.
Finally, in 1974 we decided to do a
business of industrial valves.We bought a
shop near Naupada police station. Success
played truant once again. It was from JK
HelenCurtis(A Cosmetics branch of
Raymonds). As there were hardly any shops in
the city selling gift articles, bed covers and
cosmetics we thought it would be a good
opportunity for us to try our hand in this
entirely new area.. This is how actually we
entered into this business.
My mother started this shop and gave her
own pet name ‘ Guddis’.Initially, some people
made a mockery of our decision to buy a
150 sq.feet shop on an idle road which was
also far away from the busy Gokhale road. It
was indeed risky but my mother silenced
them. She is the first Punjabi lady to start a
business in Thane. Today we have two lavish
shops at the service of Thanekars. The once
‘idle’ road is now humming with shops all
over!

Don’t you think it was difficult for your
mother to start a business in Marathi
Dominated city?
RD-Love doesn’t have any language. My
mother’s unconditional love towards every
customer breached the cultural and linguistic
gap. Our 90% clientale are Maharashtrians
today. We have struck a chord with them! First
fashion show of Thane was organised by my
mother.

How did you enter in this business?
RD-My mother had not taken a single
holiday in 14 years( 1974-88). My father
compelled her to take a break and asked me
to look after the shop for 15 days. I was
reluctant but at the same time also wanted to
give my dearest mother a much deserved
break.
Those 15 days introduced me to the
wonderful world of entrepreneurship! I
started liking ‘Guddis’ so muchthat i decided
to opt it as a career. Color dresses, gift
articles, cosmetics, sareesenticed me. Within
no time I realised that I have all the qualities
which any businessman should possess. I had
an aptitude to select right fabrics, garments,
cosmetics and color schemes. Perhaps it was
in my dna.
When my parents returned from vacations
I told them about my decision and their joy
knew no bounds. I started assisting my
mother. The plan to make a career in
computers was finally dropped.

What has been your USP( Unique
Selling Point)?
RD-Many shops came into existence till
late 80’s. The competition was stiff but my
mother’s excellent rapport with suppliers and
customers helped us stand strong in the market. She also had a terrific relationship
with our competitors.
The key to our success is exclusivity that
we maintain. Our patrons will get some of
the unique garments that are normally not
available in our city. The choice in selection
of merchandise considering the liking of our
loyal patrons is a long drawn process that
we indulge giving maximum satisfaction to
our customers. It requires tremendous
observation to understand their pulse.

What were the challenges that you
faced over the years?
RD-Our customers were so use to shop
under my mother’s able guidance that they
would immediately ask me Mom
NahiHaiKya?.It took me lot of years to win
the trust of my customers. I would accompany
my mother in shopping. Over a period
of time I developed a knack of selecting
right things at a right price.
Since our shop was isolated from the
main market area many were not aware of
our shop. So to make it popular I would
constantly engage into innovations. We were
first to introduce Archie’s cards in Thane.                                                                                                                                          I would walk from Churchgate to VT Station with
a sack full of cards sling on my shoulders
weighing 30-35 kilos catering to different
occasions.
Suddenly we saw increase in footfalls as
many youngsters would come to us to buy
these cards. This not only made our shop
popular but also augmented the sales.

How you ‘read’ your customers?
RD-I can make out whether a person is a
serious buyer or not in 10-15 seconds. In last
thirty years I have served more than 30,000
customers. I can read any women! Many
people feel it is the toughest job in the world
but I feel otherwise. The best way to read a
woman is through ears. Their language can be
decoded by observing their body languageI
can also ascertainher profession, family
background and standard of living within two
minutes. That makes it easy to understand her
tastes and preferences.

What is the process of showing dresses
to a customer?
RD-It is an art which I learnt it from my
mother. We always show these dress pieces
delicately. We unwrap the dresses from the
boxes in such a way as if we are unveiling a
secret. The climax thereby created makes the
drab affair interesting!

How tough it is to deal with different
customers?
RD-It requires a lot of patience. Since
patience is in my name ‘Dhir’ I can handle any
customer. I recollect one of our old customers
who once came to our shop along with their
relatives barely 15 minutes prior toour usual
closing time. We started showing them dresses
until it was almost midnight!However none of
them appealed them. They went empty
handed. We did not lose patience. The
customer still keeps coming to us even today.

What is your success formula?
RD-Always endeavour to grow relations
instead of business. If you are able to
develop relations then business grows
simultaneously. Today all my customers
consider me as their family member. I not only
help them in their shopping but also in their
other matters. At times I have also played a
role of an agony aunt!
I am an elder brother to most women and
that is why they call me Bhaiyya. Guddis also
teaches every customer to identify the false or
true type of apparel. We show them the
difference by burning the threads.
There was one incident when a women was
not finding the stuff which she was looking out
in our shop so I took her to Peshwai. She got
the stuff which she wanted and thanked me.
Also later she bought few dresses from my
shop too.
Guddis has also been a help desk for
many. I have helped many people in booking
their air tickets,movie tickets and at times also
their banquet bookings. Husbands never get
bored in our shop as I give them magzines(
including your KYT!) and newspapers to while
away their time. Also I am voracious reader so
I can interact with people belonging to
different professions. This makes them calm
and helps women to enjoy their shopping
peacefully.
In last 40 years we have created such a
wonderful bonding that customers involve us in
their celebrations. Patrons send gifts not only
to me but also to my sales people. They often
get me souvenirs when they go abroad.
Instead of conducting a sale of old stock I
donate it to the needy ones. My philanthropy
is the secret of my success!

What is your fashion statement?
RD-Never wear others on you; instead
wear yourself!

How has your family supported you?
RD-My wife Seema and daughter Tanmayi
who is presently in third year of Architecture
have rendered unstinted support to me.

What are your future plans?
RD-With an experience of four decades
we are starting a wedding planning office
soon.A novel concept which Thanekarswill like.

Mr. Rajesh Dhir gives talks on two sought
after topics ‘How to read a woman’ and
‘Fabric & Fabric care’. He has also served as a
Rotary club President of Thane Lake city in
2008-09.
Guddis are also into customised services
where they stich clothes as per customers size
and preferences. Also they are famous for
their trousseau packing solutions too.

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