Nikhil Ballal

When did you come to Mumbai?
VS-Abject poverty and an almost hand to
mouth situation in our family compelled me to
come to Mumbai. I was 14 years old then,
and educated till seventh grade. One of our
family friends had a tabela in Dahisar. I
started working there. I had to do all kinds of
work here. Not only had I assisted him in
cleaning the animals but also in all his domestic
chores which at times also included cleaning his
children’s shit. I had no option as I wanted to
earn a livelihood and support my family.

When did you enter the industry of
VS-After working in tabela for a year I got
an opportunity to work with Popular dresses.
But within four months I joined Liberty cutlery.
With a fear of breaking the fragile cutleries I
left the job and joined a loss making
readymade garment store in Andheri.

How was your experience?
VS-It was a great learning experience. I
converted the loss making shop to profit
making venture within a year.

How did you do that?
VS-My shop was located near a fish
market. One day I happen to reach my shop
early when I observed many fishermen doing
brisk business. I use to see huge cash in their
hands daily. One day without informing my
malak i opened the shutters much early than
usual. On the first day I did a business of 85
rupees! And it happened within a span of two
hours. When my malak came at his usual time
he was astonished to see me and the shop
open. Without saying anything I handed him
the cash generated from the business which I
did in the morning. He was shocked to see the
business that I did in two hours which we
normally use to in two days.

How did you learn tricks and trades of
this business?
VS- I used to insist my malak to take me
along with him to the market place. I would tell
him to deduct the ticket fare from the salary. I
learnt the art of purchasing and dealing with

When did Nagrik happen?
VS-One day my brother who was one of
the partners in Nagrik called me and asked me
to work in another branch of Nagrik which was

known as Kala Niketan. I was asked to work
with his partners of Nagrik in Kala Niketan.
Over a period of time wholesalers and
dealers would prefer dealing with me
instead of my partners. That would hurt their
ego and lead to disputes. Within six months I
left Kala Niketan and we separated. My
brother took hold of Nagrik and thereafter I
started working in Nagrik. Nagrik was
formed in `1969.

How were the initial days in Nagrik?
VS-Since inception till today we never
had any problem in getting customers. Thanks
to my innovative ideas. I always loved to
introduce new things. Ours is the first shop in
Thane to have automatic door and CCTV
cameras. Our out of box advertising
campaigns fetched us great business.

What were these advertising
campaigns? Please elaborate about them.
VS-We are the first one in India to use an
airplane for brand promotion! I hired an
airplane which carried a Nagrik banner at its
tail. The plane use to fly between Thane-
Kalyan and Bhiwandi. Since there were not
many high rise buildings then, the airplane
used to fly at a lower altitude which made

the banner visible. People were amazed to
see the airplane at such a near distance! Only
‘Nagrik’ was the talk of the town that day.
I also used an elephant to promote our
brand. An elephant decorated with the banner
of Nagrik would keep making rounds of the
city. This helped us spread our name in every
house of Thane. Also elephant being one of the
manifestations of Lord Ganpati people would
take its blessings. When I bought this elephant
at Rs 25,000 people found me crazy and
ridiculed me but it has been the most effective
advertising campaign of Nagrik in last 46
years. Nagrik incidentally became the first
shop to advertise on air. Thanekars were
bemused to hear Nagrik’s name on Vividh

We also devised various out of the box
schemes which lured the customers.
What were these schemes?
VS-Our schemes have always been the talk
of the town. For instance my Lakhpati scheme
was a huge hit in which we gave away prize
money of more than five lakhs to our lucky
draw winners. One of the most popular
schemes has been One day free sale where
we would refund the purchase of a customer
who has purchased something within a month

on any random day of the same month.

How have you overcome the competition
of new entrants and massive malls?
VS-It has definitely affected our business.
But my personal touch, quality and service has
helped me to overcome the competition to
some extent. Our innovations saw us through
thick and thin.

Has the parking problem affected you?
VS-Yes. But I will soon start pick and drop
facility for my customers. Also I tell my loyal
customers that if they are afraid of parking
then I will send vehicle to pick them.

What has been your success formula?
VS-One who keeps on repeatedly
boasting that he himself has done something
will ruin him forever. Never be under a wrong
impression that you are doing it. It is because
of Him that it is been done. A destiny,
directory and dictionary of every person are
already written at the time of his birth. We are
just acting in a movie which is already scripted
by Him.
This has kept me grounded. Always
remember it is customers who take care of our
livelihood. One should respect them like God.
I believe it always multiplies what you give.
There have been several such instances when I
have helped someone and by evening I have
got exactly same amount of money from an
unexpected source. “Laxmi Jitna Kharcha
karoge utnihi badhegi”.

What would you advise the budding
VS-Don’t take tension about tomorrow
leave it to the God. If you are working hard
then he will help in every situation. Bhagwan
bhuka uthata hai sulata nahi..Always keep
doing accha karma( good karma) it will help
you reach your destiny quickly. If you cant do
accha karma then at least avoid doing wrong
thing! I have been following this golden
principle throughout my life which has helped
me to reach this stage.

What are your future plans?
VS-I will continue working till my last
breath. My sons Pradip and Manoj are now
actively looking after Nagrik. Elder son Manoj
is also in construction business. Pradip is
successfully handling our two stores Nagrik and
Men’s studio.

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