Day 27: An evening with entrepreneurs, crepe bandages, and a bike ride

man in grey dress shirt using brown cardboard vr glasses
The vision of an entrepreneur

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.

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Day 5: Psychological Intelligence, a Start-up, and Rain Storms

group of people in a meeting
A decision-making team

At 8 AM, I rushed through my readings for the upcoming B2B class. It was a long reading. But the rumor of a surprise quiz multiplied my resolve to get through these readings.

The quiz didn’t happen. We discussed a tiny case on the B2B sales process. In our respective learning groups, we were tasked to identify the important buyers on the client side.

I often presumed that there is scope for biases in B2B marketing as B2B buyer decision is rational and systematic. And hence there is not much role for psychology or emotions in B2B. But the class discussion and the readings told another story. Despite the rational process, as B2B marketers we have to understand the people and their motivations. And B2B marketers also need a good story.

In the end, it is humans making decisions. Where there are humans, there are emotions and motives. And we’d do better to understand them.

*  *  *

In the evening, I had planned to visit a recently founded manufacturing start-up at Rohtak. I had connected with the founder,  a b-school grad himself, during my Summer Internship. At that time he was working for another firm, looking to start his venture soon. I received a call from him today. He said that he started up his own venture. This was a joyful news for me. He invited me to visit his firm. This was exciting for me. There could be no greater learning opportunity for a business student than to be invited by a founder to have a look at his venture.

But it didn’t happen.

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At 4 PM

At 4 PM, the skies of Rohtak became its darkest. There was a rainstorm. We had to put our plans on hold.

After a week of scorching heat, the storm was a delight to everyone. It subsided after thirty minutes.

After a snack of sandwiches and tea, a couple of friends and I, walked around the campus washed by the rains.

That was a Saturday gift.

*  *  *