Successful enterprises usually have their origins in humble beginnings. JK Gupta’s rise from a humble clerk at UCO bank in Jalandhar to one of the most prominent Toyota car dealers in the country is one such story. In 1960 JK Gupta was working in a small, bank branch office while his father was running a low tension, switches business. As fate would have it in the same year his father suffered a stroke and his capacity to run the business severely diminished. Almost by default, Gupta was saddled with the responsibility to manage the family business.
JK Gupta approached the managing director of the company making switches and told him he was ready to step in his father’s shoes. He argued that though he was not an engineer he would run the business successfully because of his capacity to work hard and honestly. The MD of the company, VP Mohindru saw in the young man a desire to excel himself. He gave the go ahead for JK Gupta to manage the business. The rest as they say is history. Read on.
Your decision to sell off your running business to Havells was a smart one. What prompted you to do so?
JK Gupta: By 1985 Mr. Mohindru’s three sons were ready to join business, while I had only daughters. I felt it was a matter of time before they would join the business and I would be edged out. So, I approached Mr. Mohindru to have division of business. The division happened peacefully in 1990. So, Indo Asian Switchgear Company P Ltd became my company with 100% shareholding. By 1990 our finance minister Mr. Manmohan Singh opened the country to the entire world and invited investments with an open mind. He wanted foreign investment to come in and he made things very attractive by devaluing the Indian rupee twice in a short time of two months in early 1990. Once again fate had other designs.
By 1995 most of the world known manufacturers of switch gear had already established their units and were able to offer high quality, latest technology. Our products were of low technology and could not match them in quality. It was very clear that our product life cycle was hardly 3/5 years unless we upgraded our products to the level being produced by other well-known companies. I therefore contacted various small and medium level companies in UK/ Germany/ France. Since we were regularly visiting Hannover Electrical fair every year most of them known to me. But they were not interested in doing business with us due to our Jalandhar location and absence of airport facilities. They would only be interested if I am shifted to Delhi and use Jalandhar as a production base. I could not think of shifting to Delhi. To use a local idiom, I prefer being the “Head of goat than to be the tail of a Lion “. I knew this was the end of our hunt for better technology and by 2000 I was unable to find a solution for this. Once again destiny intervened. One day I got a call from Mr. Qimat Rai Gupta, Chairman Havel’s group to meet him in Delhi. He wanted me to sell of my company to him. We had one more meeting and Price Water House was appointed by Havel’s for due diligence. The price was fixed. Final payments made on 31/03/2002. This was yet another act of the Almighty.
What advice will you give other promoters about whether or not to sell their business?
JK Gupta: There is no definite advice for such promoters who have grown their businesses and naturally have lot of attachment to them. It is very difficult for them to imagine that their identity is suddenly lost and normally most of the promoters will continue even if it is a dying business. I fully appreciate the feeling of the promoters. I for one would advise such promoters to look at their business dispassionately and realize the facts of business. I personally feel that they should work thoroughly to revive it and if that is not possible, it is better to come out of that business. It is also very important to understand the age factors and the family constitution factor. And then accordingly the decision can be taken. But my advice is to dispose of such business and restart your life rather than killing yourself in unviable business.
How difficult was it to convince Toyota to take you on as a dealer?
JK Gupta: It was not very difficult to convince the executives at Toyota since my daughters & son-in-law was there to look after day to day work and my financial resources and experience could be used by them in promoting Toyota business. Somehow, they were convinced that I would be able to devote full time and work successfully. Therefore, we had no problem in getting a Toyota showroom from Mr. Neel Chahal. Within 2 years we were able to do reasonably good sales and we were able to establish ourselves as a successful dealer for Toyota cars.
How was the transition from a manufacturing business into a service business?
JK Gupta: I have had no problem frankly speaking changing over from manufacturing to trading. As a matter of fact, it is far less challenging and far more comfortable. In manufacturing there are so many elements and factors which you cannot afford to overlook, but in trading and particularly in automobiles the only important factor is the customer and how to give his vehicle the best and proper after sales service.
What keeps you going even now?
JK Gupta: I firstly believe that age is never a factor. It is your inner desire which keeps you going. I personally feel that at this age 82 years, I have to create a culture, which is in the best interest of our people because I firmly believe the organization is known by its people rather than its size. And I feel that there is so much which I can do for my people which should make them better citizens and lead a better quality of life. And I sincerely wish to utilize my next few years in this direction. How far shall I be successful, it is again his wish. Your business is doing well when we are respected by the society and also by all the government departments; having a very clean record as well as total upright working is my motto.
What has been the role of your family in your business?
JK Gupta: Fortunately, I have had 3 daughters and a very understanding wife. She was very clear that all her girls should have the best education and remain within family discipline and culture. So, she was trying to provide a very healthy homely atmosphere and stay within the boundaries of our culture. Therefore, there was hardly any outside influence on our girls & we used to give them company as much as possible. Perhaps this is what made them homely, yet very competent. They have all achieved gold medals in their studies. In fact, my second daughter who studied in the USA and passed out in 1989 was considered the best student of the year. There were few years when we were under a lot of pressure for executing our export orders; my wife gave her total support and never complained about anything. Rather she encouraged me to achieve as much as possible. It is very rightly said “ It is the family behind every successful man”.
What is the vision that you have for your business and the family?
JK Gupta: I consider next 3-5 years as the golden period of my life and my family is involved in my business with a clear cultural vision, high standards of ethics, upright dealings, for creating a desirable place to work. My aim is that anybody working for my organization enjoys his job, put in his best and is part of prosperity.
I have had no problem frankly speaking changing over from manufacturing to trading. As a matter of fact, it is far less challenging and far more comfortable
“I firstly believe that age is never a factor. It is your inner desire which keeps you going”
“To use a local idiom, I prefer being the “Head of goat than to be the tail of a Lion”
It is very rightly said “It is the family
behind every successful man”
I firmly believe the organization is known by its
people rather than its size.