An unpretentious, home-like entrance led us to the production area of the new fledgling start-up that seeks to become a strong brand in consumer medical products.
I was here with a colleague from my batch. We were here at the invitation of N, one of the two working partners, whom I’ve known from my summer internship days. Into my second year of b-school, I was looking for consulting projects where I could apply the skills I’ve gained over the past year and strive to get close to my professional mission of helping businesses add value to society.
Past the entrance, there were a couple of rooms just being constructed, which will support the packaging operations and also serve as a mini-warehouse. A bright lit room of concrete, four or five machines, rolls of cotton and elastic, and cross-webs of threads.
N gave us an overview of the crepe bandage production process, from the cotton raw material to rolling into smaller and then twisting two threads together to increase support and elasticity, and then rolling into larger rolls and then finally, feeding the cotton roll and the elastic roll along with the characteristic bandage brick colored roll. On the other side came long bandages. They felt soft and firm that I wanted to roll them on my arms.
We sat in the small air-conditioned office of the partners, began a long conversation over Sprite in styrofoam cups and a huge pack of Lay’s. N gave us the newly designed brochure for their brand. I instantly took a liking to the brand name. The brochure was as good as any I’d seen. They were into the production of crepe bandages now, but they had plans to move into other products like knee supports, back supports, respiratory masks and many others. N then briefed us on this market opportunity for these products. A few minutes later, S, N’s partner, and friend, joined us.
On to the problems the firm faced. The moodiness of labour productivity, vagaries of electricity, and cut-throat price competition from firms that don’t play by the rules (bribes, free electricity, don’t pay their labour well). We also spoke about the opportunities we have in packaging, tier II cities. The conversation traversed to Indian medical tourism, Make in India, India’s retaliation to Trump’s moves, brand loyalty in medical products, influencers.
It was close to 8 PM, it time to head back to our campus.
I had one final question for the partners: “What do they seek to achieve in the next two to three years?”
“Grow revenues by 300%.”
We went around to see the new construction going on. It was dark outside and we moved to our vehicle. As we shook hands and left the place, it was the aspiration of these two young men that stayed with me.
. . .
N’s firm was near Rohtak city, which was 20 kilometers away from our campus. I rode pillion on my friend’s bike through the hinterland of Haryana. Twilight, cool breeze, no tall buildings that stifle your imagination for as far as you can see, green farms on both sides, hefty trees, the farm people finishing their work for the day. I’m not really a bike person, but this is a ride I’ll remember for long. After a tough week, this was great.
. . .
It’s always important to end a day well. Tonight I made a mess of it.