SHINING, THE PITAMBARI WAY

Nikhil ballal

KYT – Tell us something about your
childhood
RP – I was born in a family with an
ordinary economic background. I was
supported by my parents and two sisters. I
spent my childhood days in my 203 sq. feet
chawl in Thane. My father completed his 19
years of service in railways, after which he
decided to do business. My father was
among the first ten people to buy an auto
rickshaw. Later my father started a fullfledged
transport business. Talking about my
education, I did my schooling from
Maharashtra Vidyalaya. Since my younger
days I was actively involved in RSS activities.
My father said, “It’s ok if you don’t go to
school but you should always go to the RSS
centre” (smiles). My school had no ground, so I
had to go to the RSS centre to play. I made
many friends there and we played many
sports. I can say that playing those games
taught me some important management
lessons. I took active interest in kabbadi,
langdi, long jump and 100m run. I attribute
my disciplined nature, orderly behavior and
leadership skills to this place.

KYT – How did you fair in your
academics and what were your favourite
subjects?
RP -I was an average student throughout
my academic career. I could merely study for
a maximum of one and a half hour (smiles).
My favourite subjects were History, Geography,
Statistics and Science. After completing
my schooling, I opted for Science stream and
completed my graduation in B.Sc. Although I
did my schooling and college studies, I was
more interested in being a part of RSS
activities. I even attended a 25-day camp,
which I feel has taught me lessons of life. Be it
the management principles or my soft skills,
that camp enriched me as a person.

KYT – Can you tell us more about that
25-day camp which you attended?
RP -those 25 days were the best days of
my life. Our day started at 5am and we hung
our boots at 10pm. Everyday for three hours
we exercised. The exercise session was
followed a healthy breakfast. During the day
we played many sports. These games instilled
team spirit, team work and time management
in me. There was this one game that we
played wherein one person is attacked by six
people and the task is that, that individual has
to rescue himself. The catch in this game is to
identify the weakest, hit him and run away.
The camp was an excellent blend of learning
and fun.

KYT – After completing your education,
didn’t you feel like joining your father in his
transport business?
RP -Not really. Though my father wanted
me to continue the legacy of Vikram transport
(our transport business), I wanted to do
something different. Frankly speaking I never
wanted to work under my father because he
was too strict and a perfectionist by nature
(smiles). But I was clear in one thing and that
was to start up my own business. There was
something that happened during my
childhood days that lit the fire in my belly todo                                                                                                                                 business and become rich. As I told you
earlier, my family was not financially strong.
At the time of family gatherings I could
clearly make out the discrimination that was
made between my family and the richer
families. These harsh realities triggered me
to do something big and earn the ‘affluent
class’ tag.

KYT -What was your first business
endeavour?
RP -I and my uncle started with a cement
tiles business. An initial capital of
Rs.5,00,000 was borrowed at the rate of
15% p.a. from my cousin. To learn everything
about the business I stayed at my aunt’s
place, which was near one of the cement
tiles factories. Staying in her home, I was
liable to do the some of the household
chores (smiles). The business started by me
and my uncle was unable to make
breakeven, leave alone the profits. We
thought that may be coming up with white
cement tiles would give us some profits, but
again we failed. To reduce the cost of
production, I started using 150 Mesh
powder instead of 200 Mesh powder.
Though this strategy increased the pace of
production, the quality of tiles was compromised.
From that day I have never sacrificed
the quality for anything and till date I test
every sample that is produced.

KYT – After the debacle of cement tiles
business, what was your next step?
RP -In the building where we lived, there
was a 1000 sq.feet area on the ground
floor. This was the birthplace of brand
Pitambari. I and my father’s friend Arvind
Gore, who had a profound knowledge of
making cleansing products and liquid soaps,
powders, together started this business.
During this period I completed my Diploma
in Business Management (DBM) from Thana
College which gave me insights into thisbusiness venture. Initially we followed a B2B
(business to business) model, but later I learnt
that targeting the FMCG (fast moving consumer
goods) sector would yield rich dividends. I
wanted to sell such a product that was not
existing in the current market. Here I would
like to attribute the success of Pitambari to
Vikram transport because it was during my
visits with my father to the various factories
did I see brass and copper utensils. We had
powders to clean the steel utensils, but what
about copper and brass vessels, I thought to
myself. This led to the development of
Pitambari powder. It was a well-managed
business. My father looked after the costing,
my brother-in-law took care of the marketing
and I was responsible for the production.

KYT -How has this journey of Pitambari
from cleansing powder to health care
products been?
RP – It has been an eventful journey. I still
remember the days when trucks carrying our
products used to come to unload them in our
ground floor office. People in the vicinity were
scared by these gigantic vehicles (smiles).At
the start when we went to the retailers with our
Pitambari powder, they were reluctant to
distribute them.We then thought of delegating
the distribution work to the local boys, who
showed a demo and sold our powder. We
paid them commission too. It was a win-win
situation for both of us. Gradually the
Pitambari powder became the talk of the town
and now these retailers wanted to sell our
product. Today we have many products to our
name and still there are 50 products in the
pipeline. The recent launch of Gomutra and
Gomutra Plus have garnered a decent market
share.

KYT – When you were steadily climbing
the ladder of success, did you encounter any
hurdles?
RP -Yes, I remember one such hurdle.There was a strike in Rabale factory. The union
along with the union leader had supported the
Rabale factory employees to go on a strike.
They wanted a hike in the salary, which was
astoundingly 100% more of what they were
getting then. This demand was unacceptable to
me. I had sensed that something like this was
bound to happen soon, when I and my core
team were discussing certain issues. The God
of fortune was smiling on me which triggered
me to set up an alternate factory in Baroda.
Eventually that Rabale factory was shut. The
repercussions were harsh. I went into the state
of depression and started resorting to spiritual
activities to get back the desired frame of
mind.

KYT – How did you strike the perfect
work-life balance?
RP -After being on the receiving end of the
Rabale factory setback, I indulged in various
spiritual activities, attended Satsangs, and
chanted ‘Shri Gurudevdatta’ several times
every night. I feel that meditation plays a
pivotal role and helps you to focus on what
you actually want. Today as an outsider you
may feel that the strong foundation of
Pitambariempire is resting solely on the pillar
of Mr. Prabhudesai. But let me tell you it is not
a one man’s job. Initially you have to dirty
your hands and later you can set the systems
that will take care of everything. My only job
is to generate new ideas. Thus I am able to
maintain the work-life balance.

KYT – Who is your role model?
RP -My father is my role model. He
himself being a businessman (transport
business), I got to learn various essentials from
him. Banking on being a perfectionist and a
hardworker, my father could succeed in his
business. Also, one of India’s biggest business
tycoon Ratan Tata inspires me. Best known for
his ethical practices and good governance, I
imbibe the same values into my business. Shri
Krishna and ShivajiMaharaj have been my role
models when it comes to getting out of any
problem or crisis.

KYT – What is your appeal to the young
and budding entrepreneurs?
RP -Any business can be successful only
and only when you convert your passion into
business. You should not always think the seeds
of business will reap cash crops, instead
believe in doing whatever you like and strive
for customer satisfaction. In any business,
innovation is quintessential. Keep a diary in
your pocket and whenever any idea strikes,
write it because ideas and opportunity knocks
your door without any prior intimation. Always
remember this golden rule of life – ‘If you give
to people, God will give you’. The three signs
of Mathematics will show you the journey of a
businessman. At the offset you are pessimistic
(minus sign -), then you slowly tend to stand
erect (plus sign +) and finally you bend to
create new ideas (multiplication sign x). So
pull up your socks and set yourself to travel
the journey of your passion.

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