Professor, Consultant and Mentor – Kapil Tandon talks about his life experiences, and what keeps him going strong at 72 years…
The following interview was conducted by Rohan Vachani who was a student of Kapil Sir for 8 consecutive semesters during his undergraduate and postgraduate programs in media studies and business management.
Currently, Rohan works as a Freelance Event Curator & Manager. He is also associated with his family confectionery business in Dehradun (his hometown) and collaborates with his father in the family business “Chocolate Corner” as Manager – Brand Building & Communications.
Speaking of him, Kapil Sir fondly remembers, “Rohan, because of his eclectic interests, was always one of my favourite students. I used to keep him in mind while formulating my teaching and mentoring strategies.”
72 YEARS OF CHALLENGES AND LEARNINGS: THE INTERVIEW
Give us a brief overview of your life! What made you who you are today? What has kept you going?
I was brought up in a joint family involved in the business. My thinking was certainly influenced by my father and other three uncles who could think and talk of nothing else but business. Consequently, I developed a liking for business. Business jargons like planning business, projects, growth, profitability, and development sounded familiar and natural to me.
As a youngster, I also had an immense passion for teaching and guiding those younger to me and convincing people and sharing my ideas with them. I vividly remember playing teacher-teacher in my childhood and conducting fake examinations and evaluations. In retrospect– the businessperson and the teacher inside me were taking birth and were being nurtured parallelly.
I always loved being with people, talking to them, understanding them, and appreciating their capabilities and skills. Managing or running an institution or an enterprise always fascinated me. All this drove me to pursue further achievements and provided me with much-needed inspiration. Studying engineering and management followed by many years of working with the corporate world developed an intense desire to begin my venture. I started my own FMCG company as the main promoter and enjoyed my entrepreneurial journey for over 14 years. Later, I decided to exit for family reasons, dominantly because both my sons were not interested in business and wanted to settle abroad.
Do you think studying business can make you a better entrepreneur?
We often talk that an entrepreneur needs an MBA or a base skill in finance or marketing. But it is not so. These are all the skills which can be bought in the market and the successful entrepreneur builds these resources into his/her team. So, my answer to your question is, no, I don’t think it is crucial to have a degree to be successful in the business world!
So, what sets a businessperson apart is their mindset! Think about it, typically, the main functions that an entrepreneur must perform are— to organize, to be able to take risks and to innovate! Those who work with a positive attitude and mindset can overcome many doubts, fears, and apprehensions.
Every business as it grows faces constraints, challenges and problems and this zigzag path becomes a way of an entrepreneur’s life. An obsessive passion is so important! One needs to have the passion to challenge the status quo i.e., the passion to change the way things are done!
A passionate entrepreneur embraces every challenge and accepts change and can adapt as and when it is required.
Should business and family mix? What role did your family play in your success?
Family support is essential to every successful entrepreneur, or at least it makes the journey easier. Starting a new business with an established family business by your side is certainly a great advantage! It acts as effective insurance or fallback option (or call back in case of any problem).
You can always take advantage of their expertise, learning from their systems, procedures, and network. The seniors in the family business are always there to act as your mentors and guide – free of any charge!
However, parents, siblings, spouses — all of them have something to say when we start a venture. Sometimes they can be supportive, and sometimes they may be restrictive and too careful against risks.
In my case, I was quite lucky as my family was generally supportive of my going for the entrepreneurial venture of my own. The proposal was for starting a venture in Lucknow – my home place in Uttar Pradesh (U.P.) with the support of my joint family. However, my wife was not in favour of moving to Lucknow from Mumbai. According to her, this move was likely to pose cultural adjustment problems, like adjusting to the culture of U.P. and even adjusting within a joint family. Both these apprehensions eventually came true and affected our life in several ways.
Do you regret anything, or do you feel if you missed out on something?
With my venture, I had undertaken the blending, packaging, marketing, and distribution (through market intermediaries) of packed tea. We had created our brands of tea and were managing the entire value chain right from sourcing the tea to its packaging, then the marketing and sales (including debtor-management, collections of receivables etc.).
In my instance, I think that it would have been a better idea to start as a producer supplier or purely as a marketing outfit (without any manufacturing) rather than undertaking the management of the entire value chain. That would have given more and quicker success!
Only in hindsight, I have learned that a new/first-generation entrepreneur with limited financial and managerial strengths should better go for modular growth and build up step by step deploying suitable backward/forward integration strategies. This will provide the entrepreneur with enough time and opportunity to consolidate and grow in a slow but sustainable manner.
What do you want to tell the coming generations?
I would strongly recommend entrepreneurship to all young persons. Now more than ever, the world needs entrepreneurs of all kinds who think and act entrepreneurially, who can transform opportunity into reality, and create social and economic value for themselves and others.
I get so excited imagining young entrepreneurs jumping into uncertainty because they are passionate about their idea! The creation of new products or services, participating in markets, managing organization to generate jobs, income, and other activities beneficial to the local community. This is a life-affirming activity and it also is essential to the vitality of economies.
Aren’t entrepreneurs the true creators, innovators, and the leaders of the world? They can give back to society as directors and trustees. They are the people who are prepared to take risks to create high value and jobs which support the economy! Anyone can become an entrepreneur but not everyone survives the journey. A small percentage of students choose to become entrepreneurs, while the rest take the safer path of becoming employees for someone else’s business organization. Of course, there is nothing right or wrong about that decision, but isn’t it thrilling to make a mark of your own? I urge the youth to give themselves and their business ideas a real shot! If it works, it will transform your life exponentially!
Any dreams yet to be pursued?
For over last 10 years, I have been doing what I love– teaching, mentoring, guiding, and motivating young students! This is precisely what resonates with me, and creates positive vibrations for me… I am also guiding young and grown-up students to design and implement their success blueprints for whatever they want to do in life – including starting their entrepreneurial ventures.
I strongly feel that all smart young men and women should come forward and invest their efforts, resources, and time to start their venture. This will give them a happy, fulfilling, and prosperous life plus a great feeling knowing that they have contributed to the nation’s GDP.
I am now 72. I work all 7 days a week – at least 6 to 8 hours every day but I do not get tired because I enjoy my work! I call the present phase of my life as my third inning and I always maintain that this has been my best inning!