Expanding with House Maid’s Loan, Scaling with Chakra Management style and loving Retail
An educated MBA working in corporate world US, Pratik Shah accidentally jumped into his family business. Pratik Shah’s determined thinking to get into his family’s retail business caused conflict between father and son. He started enjoying retail along with his equity research. Together with his wife, they planned to give SpecsMakers a shot and raised funding from angel investors. With his chakra style of management, they scaled from one store to 300 plus stores and implemented the idea of franchising. As an entrepreneur, he believes that success should not get into your mind, it should be in your heart. Listen to Pratik of Specsmakers talk about scaling with Chakra Management Style and expanding with house maid’s loan.
This Episode has a lot of Golden Nuggets that are uncanny.
Pratik became an entrepreneur by accident
Coming from a Gujarati family where familial ties are strong, he went against the grain and defied his parents and built a successful business. It left his relationship with his father in tatters but did not faze him.
First expansion of Pratik- second store, funded by a loan borrowed from his Housemaid
Pratik of Specsmakers follows scaling with Chakra Management Style where it is a circle of people as opposed to a Pyramid that we see in most organizations.
Below are some excerpts in his own words.
This Episode is worth its weight in Gold
Being an equity research analyst, you know how to dig information about any industry, you know how to find information. Started studying a lot of case studies about companies around the world, what is happening, how are they expanding? How are they scaling until then I was not even interested in the industry, but I was just researching as a part of my hobby. And it just happened that I started seeing that where am I and where this industry is like miles and miles away you know, the opportunity is like crazy.
It’s like the first guy who understood what email is going to be and bang on he started Hotmail right? So I said, Okay, this is a great opportunity I want to get into but I went and spoke to my Dad, look, you know, I like this industry and I started enjoying attending to customers. So I started enjoying retail, and I was not very bogged down about being at the showroom from morning nine to nine, you know?
When you start attending to different kinds of customers every day, you tend to learn so much from each consumer, right? And consumer research is one of the best things to do in this world because you get to meet different people every day. One is why do people love to travel because they like to see different places. Retail is all about meeting different customers every day. And I really enjoyed that opportunity. And you know, every customer walked into the store had only one question. If you studied so much. Why are you at the store?
Pressure Makes Diamonds
I kind of went and spoke to my dad that, you know, I like this business. I want to be a part of it. My dad is like, Look, I didn’t create this for you. So please step out, I’m fine now I’m going to start coming to the store in the next one week. So I said, Okay, fine, you know, doesn’t really matter. I’ll also be at the store. He said, No, it’s not for you.
A lot of buzz started happening around the family around friends and circles where you know, every time I come back home from the office from the showroom, my dad will be like, was this what for I made you study in the US? Was it so? So much of studying in the US, was it for coming and sitting at a shop, you’re not able to find yourself a job that’s why you’re actually sitting at the shop. You are scared, go get to apply for jobs in the open market. So by the time within three to four months, I quit my equity research job because I wanted to come into this full time.
First Funding From His Maid Servant
You know, he was more worried about my future. He was more worried about my future like, boss, we don’t have the money to basically let you start our second store also. We put in all our savings into the first store. What are you going to do with it? You know, how are you going to scale up there is so much competition that’s going to come in.
At that point in time, you didn’t have any brands, but there were brands coming in. I’m like, don’t worry about it when things happen, it will happen. But obviously, I did not get the finances and the funding from what I wanted and what I wanted to do. So basically, I kind of try to arrange my own funds. I still remember that my first funding came from my maid servant.
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Pratik Says His Journey is Great!
No no no ours was more of a long-distance love so I was in US, she was in India we met through a common friend but first four years have been completely online only thanks to your yahoo messengers and all that stuff then.
Yeah, but yeah, I mean though we kind of had a very great journey of you know, kind of getting to marriage, you know, a lot of backlash again from families, you know, saying that he’s only having one shop, what is this? This is not the kind of person we want for you. But it all happens right in every family that you want to get married. But I said Yeah, fine.
You know, I got her into business in 2010. So we decided at that point in time, look, you know, what is it that you want to do? Do you want to scale this business up large or, we can go a corporate ways very easily, you can still continue being in the corporate world? You can take that Comfort, I can take the risk. She was like, no, we will probably see what we can do together.
Beginning Of Success Comes With The Team
The beginning of a success comes with the team. It is not about me. I still don’t call myself successful. I called my people success. Right? You know, it’s true. You have to agree to it that it is not a one man’s job. It is a vision of one man coupled with a lot of hard work from a lot of leadership team into, right? You cannot say that I build the business, I always say we build the business, just because you are in the front end of it, it doesn’t work that way. You know, you need to build a team under you that basically has a vision that matches with your vision. If you can’t build a team under you that matches with your vision, you have the wrong team, accept it.
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Here is a word cloud with some interesting words used through the episode
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store, people, business, customers, money, retail, life, chennai, dad, day, investor, shop, optical, indian, family, pay, build, spend, larger, employees
Krishna Jonnakadla, Pratik Shah
Krishna Jonnakadla 00:01
This is maharajahs of scale, a podcast where we go behind the scenes and talk to founders who are demolishing the myths around building and scaling a big business in India. These are the stories that have shattered the assumptions around Indian consumers and of changing the game completely. I am Krishna Jonnakadla, serial entrepreneur, co founder of flip profession located in town and startup mentor, bringing you the stories. Hey everyone, this is Krishna from Maharajas of scale. Today we are talking to Pratik Shah of specs makers. You know, they say hindsight is 2020. I've never heard anybody say foresight is 2022. You know, maybe when foresight becomes hindsight, it becomes 2020. But here's pratiksha, who's helping people fix their current site, not foresight or hindsight, one of the largest optische optical chains in South India scaled it to hundreds of stores across the country critique Welcome to the show. Thanks, Krishna. So pratique How did you end up being a patient? I know a cousin who studied to be an optician. And today she's an accountant.
Pratik Shah 01:15
So okay, yeah. So thanks for personally inviting me for the session. And I'll take you through my journey of you know, being an optician and how did I become an optician but it's more by accident than by decision. Right. So Urbino been a person born and brought up in Chennai, pursued my engineering did my graduate in Chennai moved to the US did my MBA passion was to be an investment banker, more of a number crunching guy wanting always to, you know, kind of work on the stock trading firm. And that kind of made me become a derivative analyst with Morgan Stanley. It was a short stint for about three months, US was not my kind of place, I was never enjoying work in the US, I'm more of a family guy who likes to be with family wanted to come back to India. So decided to move back post my graduation, came down to India in December 2003. And landed up a job with a small startup, which was into knowledge process outsourcing as an equity research analyst. And basically, it was just me, my boss stepping out of New York, and my colleagues sitting out of Bangalore. So I used to basically have a work from home culture back in 2003. So what I see today of CO working spaces, is was just a more a larger than life picture. And at that point in time, we were just working out of home. So I basically used to track a lot of equity research markets, you know, looking at the telecom and the retail sector, I used to write buy side reports for companies a lot a bit of financial modeling, it was great honor to work along with two IBM guys at that point in time, you know, because you tend to learn a lot from your seniors. So I was kind of just creating financial models, listening to a lot of CFO and CEO calls on Moody's and s&p doing question q&a sessions with CEOs on what the projections are and what so really enjoying the work working from home at a very flexible life, then, you know, but I was not more of a corporate Citibank or a top end corporate culture kind of guy, I always kept myself to myself, and I thought, okay, it's, it's better to work in a small company than you know, be a small fish in a large company. So, I wanted to kind of continue that my family hails from the optical business Fortunately, my granddad used to work as an accountant with one of the optical stores in Chennai that is still also available. In 1958. He joined as an accountant when he moved back from Gujarat and he had three sons, my father being the eldest, so, he basically a typical ideology Gujarati family got his children into the business and my dad moved into wholesaling have optical lenses having a shop in Chennai, where he used to be a very unorganized mom and pop wholesaler supplying glasses to only lenses basically, it used to be glass lenses there to all the local retail mom and pop stores in the city. And people used to come down from Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Andhra to come and buy lenses from him. So he used to be a distributor basically, very unorganized business. Nothing great about it. It's a nine to 10 kind of a job Monday to all seven days a week I used to never see him also a lot of times, and he was very keen that I should not be a part of the business because this is a very kind of it rains you out end of the day, right? You have to be at a wholesale shop the whole day. And there were never systems and processes then so you never take holidays, you never take family breaks. He never used to take us out because he always felt that he has to be at the shop because you don't want things to go wrong without you not being there. Typical Indian middle class, business family mindset, right. I will open the shop, I will close the shop. If I'm not there. I'm sure some pilferage is happening at the shop. So that's how the entire mentality of the family and the business was and yeah, I was also happy with my job. I wanted to continue doing what I'm doing, you know, but I don't know how it happened. My dad so decided to basically start Have a retail shop because optical retail is more about a retirement business for the elderly. If you have one shop, you can open from morning, nine to three, go for a lunch, three to five, come back and open five to nine, Sunday holiday. All that you have to sell is two pair of glasses a day and you're happy, right? Because that's what people are independent opticians do that right? The thesis was that if I keep my customer happy, my customer will keep coming back to me. It is always about even if you know if you ask your dad he will be like I went to my family optician which is a Krishna optical or, you know, Saraswathi optical or whatever, because everybody wanted to buy glasses in their neighborhood in their vicinity. So my dad also decided to open up an optical shop, make it very small. He said, Okay, I will enjoy doing this business, you're not going to be a part of the business anyway. So you can continue your corporate ladder. I said, Yeah, works for me. I mean, I'm happy about it. It was very unfortunate in the in the October of 2005. I remember the date, October 23, also very well, I had come down from Bangalore. And you know, I was just kind of out with my dad and mom in the car. And he started having a bit of a blood oozing out of his nose and mouth. And, and he had already signed up a store and the store was supposed to open on October 23. And this happened on October 21, two days before the store opening, just imagine he signed up the store in May, until October is not open the store is one store, right? He's getting the interior done, you know, all the first time they're opening a store, right? And all that it was like a large format store or something. So he started having a lot of blood oozing out of his mouth. So I asked him what happened, you know, what's the issue? Why are you kind of having this blood oozing out of your mouth? He said, No, it's nothing. You know, it's just, sometimes my blood pressure rises up. And you know, and this, I don't know what's happening the first time, so I kind of rushed him to the hospital, I asked him to the hospital or immediately and then I kind of realized that his VPS shot up to about 300 Plus, okay, and that was kind of a panic attack for me, because what worried me is that, you know, my dad never take stress. He's a very conservative, composed, calm guy, who does not really take any aggressive measures, very conservative, very contented. He's not going to take that extra one step for his calls on his life. And he's like that. So as soon as I took him to the hospital doctor said that is, you know, BP shut up very badly. He needs to be hospitalized. And it's into a critical care unit. Because if if you guys had waited for a couple of hours more, maybe things are would have gone was so I said, Yeah, please do the needful and immediately just got him admitted. And he was more concerned about two days later, there's a store opening. He's called a lot of his friends and guests and everybody for the store opening. What is he going to do? I said, Don't worry, I kind of just go to the opening. It's not rocket science, right? But obviously, you don't want people to see me at the store. Because I'm an educated MBA from the US typically, you know, hi, fi guy. That's what the perception of the people is. And he didn't want me to even be a part of the business because that's what his thesis was. So anyway, I said, okay, don't worry, I just got until you get back in one week, I'll just open up the store. I never knew anything about selling glasses. I knew what is the glass, I knew what is the frame, but I never knew anything about selling glasses. That was not my USP at all. He had already hired to manpower of people. So I had to just go like, you know, sitting at the cash counter, counting the cash and putting it and tallying the accounts. And I had my laptop with me. So I was continuing doing my equity research from the office. It was a small showroom. So an optical business is not like you know, you have customers the whole day is business only the evening five to eight, the whole day are pretty much free. So actually, that gave me a lot of time to do my work. And at the same time, learn another business, which was optical thanks to Google thanks to Alibaba. At that point in time Alibaba was a new entrant in the Indian market a lot a lot of visitors from Alibaba at that point in time from Google also, but somewhere the equity research in me kind of helped me out a lot because you know how to take information. Were you doing the equity research job and also doing this at the same time? Oh, yes, yes, yes. Okay. I was basically doing my equity research from the showroom and also basically attending to customers. I mean, I've done some crazy things while attending customers didn't know anything about glasses sold the wrong power to people sold different glasses to people never do anything right a lot of errors and mistakes and you learn from a mistake got into it being an equity research analyst you know how to dig information about any industry you know, how to find information started studying a lot of case studies about companies around the world, what is happening How are they extract expanding? How are they scaling until then, I was very interested in the industry, but I was just researching as a part of my hobby. And it just happened that I started seeing that where am I and where this industry is is like miles and miles away you know the opportunity is like crazy it's like the first guy who understood what email is going to be and bang on he started hotmail right? So I said okay, this is a great opportunity want to get into but I went and spoke to my Dad, look, you know, I like this industry and I started enjoying attending to customers started enjoying retail, and I was not very bogged down about being at the showroom from morning nine to nine,
Krishna Jonnakadla 09:54
you know, not being able, yeah, it is like rescuing a damsel in distress, you figured out that she was married and she's she's got a family and and then there is unbounded opportunity and you transition from
Pratik Shah 10:11
i would i would rather say more of love at first sight because when you start attending to different kinds of customers every day, you tend to learn so much from each consumer, right? And of consumer research is one of the best things to do in this world. Because you get to meet different people every day. What is why do people love to travel because they like to see different places. Retail is all about meeting different customers every day. And I really enjoyed that opportunity. And you know, every customer walked into the store had only one question, if you studied so much. Why are you at the store?
Krishna Jonnakadla 10:39
You know, in Bangalore, there is this Avenue Road. Chick paid baby kangaroo area. Yes. Home to lots of wholesale, wholesale businesses. Yeah. And it is, you know, some people who know that area, well, no matter what they shop for, they would go there. And it was my mom that actually introduced me to that area. Yeah, that part nine, Bangalore, and what would happen is inspite of leaving in the US for over a decade. If I needed something, I would go there. And every time I go there, the amount of buzz, the energy and the amount of business that happens there always used to energize me. And I would say this is fabulous. And my wife would turn around and tell me you're perhaps one of the few people who who's traveled the world has lived abroad in such a long time. Yeah. notices the buzz, you're perhaps a rare person who tells me that energizes me you ignore all the other, you know, the ramshackle ness of the place the infrastructure.
step in the right place over there like that you have a similar area in Chennai called soccer. In fact, right. Now, you have like, You lie, like people just having stuff kept on the road, will have to find your yard will have to find the tar. You can't see the road also, you know, you have to
Krishna Jonnakadla 11:57
I get energized by, you know, customer contact, and I love it. There's
not only that, you see the bus of business that they do, and everything is without systems and processes. It's all in the mind. Yeah, I don't know. And the guy even after a week, you see me know what you How much do you owe him? And what did you buy last week? That's how they know their customers. So well.
Krishna Jonnakadla 12:18
Know what better than Gujarati today? Yeah.
So, you know, I kind of went and spoke to my dad that, you know, I like this business, I want to be a part of it. My dad is like, Look, I didn't create this for you. So please step out, I'm fine. Now I'm going to start coming to the store in the next one week. So I said, Okay, fine, you know, doesn't really matter. I'll also be at the store. He said, No, it's not for you. A lot of buzz started happening around the family around friends and circles, where you know, every time I come back home from the office from the showroom, my dad will be like, was this what for I made you study in the US was it so so much of studying in the US was it for coming and sitting at a shop, you're not able to find yourself a job. That's why actually sitting at the shop, you're scared to go apply for jobs in the open market. So by the time within three to four months, I quit my equity research job because I wanted to come into this full time,
Krishna Jonnakadla 13:02
you know, but so this is so different from you know, you know, average Banjara marwari family, you hear something opposite, you would say, okay, there's a family business, your grandfather started off as an accountant in this business. And then he went into wholesale. Yeah, you would imagine that you know, your son who's there's a hotshot MBA from the US would bring all the knowledge and take it places. It's very interesting that never heard
but my entire family's very contented. Nobody wants to take risk in life. My granddad had one store in 1958. He still as one stop the risk appetite and my family is zero. Okay, so they will not even break a red signal. They're so they're so kind of worried with things. Okay,
Krishna Jonnakadla 13:45
coming from home. You know, Gujarati shop businessmen, family, no risk. pylab is a formula based on which you take risk, don't you?
Yeah. But there was nothing zero risk. And I think I asked my granddad many times, you know, I said, Where the hell am I got the genes from taking the risk. He's like, it's from my great grandfather, my great grandfather used to be a Panchayat leader, who basically gave up his business at that point in time and was rock and went on for elections in the village. Okay, so he says that after him, it's only you will basically, you know, wanting to even think about building a business and stuff like that, because my entire family is very good. They call it Dharmesh. Holy, like my dad and mom go to the temple three times a day, my granddad spends half a day in the temple still date today. They don't eat after sex. You're Jane, very kind of meticulous followers of the the Jain principle in life, I mean, actually, very surprising things. Also, if there's a black and white walking modality, stop, let the black and cross otherwise you will kill it. So very, very contented in life. I don't. My mom's parents were basically like monks, they were basically teaching monks you know, so. So it's very, very, very traditional and very, very holy in my entire circle of family am the one odd one out. Okay, so
Krishna Jonnakadla 15:04
how long did this ping pong between your dad and you go on
it more than a ping pong, it became more of very kind of, you know, kind of an argument. And you know, we basically got into a very dirty situation at that point in time, where I told him Look, you know, I am going to be a part of this. So you have only one choice, sell it to me. I'm not walking out of it. Okay. So I bought out the store from my dad, you know? He said, You don't even know the business, how are you going to, you know, kind of pay me out and stuff like that. I said, Give me two years time, I'll pay you the entire money. I because I didn't have any savings. What I heard from my job was basically, hardly 25,000 rupees of salary a month is what I used to get paid then. So he said, Fine, if a job falls into it, but still, you know, in spite of me kind of taking over the store. And you know, the store was called reputation optics, very holy name. And the tagline to the store was Temple of vision. Right? So you can imagine the kind of, you know, holiness that got into it. But I really loved the business. I really enjoyed the business. I enjoyed doing what I was doing. But every night to come home, you know, you always have a tunnel, right? Or dad last, what's the business today? And you were like, no, today was bad. Like I told you, you're not fit for it, you can't do anything about you. Basically, I thought that if you push a tiger to the corner, it springs back in double. And I was sometime thinking that my dad is just trying to demotivate me a lot, lot, lot more that either I break, or I cannot spring back, you know, but I think that their nature was to kind of be demotivating. So that I go and try a job in the corporate world. So my classmates, my friends are all were studying with me, like they got jobs in Citibank, they got jobs. And like, at that point in time, you know, in great companies have salaries of 75,000, upwards of one lakh. And my dad said, What the hell are you doing, you know, you're not worth this is not what you are, you're just scared about going and working anywhere, and blah, blah, blah, thing started. So I always had a suitcase ready in my in my house that was packed for me to leave the house and go out. I was I was very kind of offended. With my dad, you know, he didn't really support me at any point in time for what I wanted to do. And I told him, Look, you know, if this is it, then, you know, let me be myself, and you'll be away. If you think that you want me to step out of the house, I'm happy to step out. But then you have the motherly love coming in between and saying that, you know, no, no, we you're the only son, you can't do all this stuff. So then we parted ways me and dad, we still live together. But we are not in business together. And you know, we don't talk we're not much in talking terms. Even today, just we talk to each other, but nothing, not. It's not as father son relationship. It's more of Wow, I respect him and you know, take care of him. But it's just being under the roof. But I don't really, there is no connection, there is nothing that you can talk to him about or connect with him about, what will I talk to him, I don't even talk to him about what his current affairs or anything because the thinking is so contented in life, right? And it's just that, okay, fine. He's there, I'm there. But we will live together, we enjoy living together and stuff like that. But there is nothing that you have, there's no striking conversation that you can have with him in. That's me personally. So that's the last that I had in my life for kind of building a business. I would say that's a shame. I
Krishna Jonnakadla 18:05
mean, shaky start, it sounds like in all of your
very shaky start, you know, it was very, very emotional to see that your parents are not supporting you, your granddad is not supporting you, the entire family says this is not the right time to be in the business. We made you study being very, very worried and very, so when people worry you, you get automobil, right, that you're taking the right decision. Right, right. But that's okay. I mean, that's part of life. And you know, that's the grind you have to go through in life to basically, I'm not telling people that you should not agree to your father and you will be successful. That might be 100 million that happens, you know, because a lot of times when I do these sessions, a lot of students ask me, yeah, even my dad is not agreeing to what I want to do. So should I go against him? I'm like, No, it is different. It's not that if you start being a rebel at home, you will be successful outside, right? You need to have patience.
Krishna Jonnakadla 18:51
Yeah, this false causation causality that people keep ascribing. It's like a friend and I, we study a lot of these business stories. And we will always say, if you study 10, Nobel laureates, yeah, if all of them were born, it is wrong to you that you need to be born to be a Nobel laureate. Right? That's wrong causal causality. So this, this happens everywhere, just because you disagreed with your dad and then went about designate that, that was a cause for success. It just
happened to be new events that happen. He was worried about my future. He was more worried about my future like, boss, we don't have the money to basically let you start on second store. Also, we put in all our savings into the first store. What are you going to do with it? You know, how are you going to scale up? There is so much competition that's going to come in at that point in time. You didn't have any brands, but there are brands coming in? I'm like, don't worry about it, when when things happen, it will happen. But obviously, I did not get the finances and the funding from what I wanted and what I wanted to do. So basically, I kind of tried to arrange my own funds. I still remember that my first funding came from my maid service. Wow. Yeah. Why did it come from my maid service because she's been with us for the last 1012 years. At that point in time, she sold one of our properties in Pondicherry. So she comes to me and says, Hey, you know what? I have this 10 lakh of rupees, can you help me invest this somewhere? I don't want to lose this money, but I want to give it to somebody who can pay me a basic interest costs so that, you know, if I keep it at home, my husband is going to blow it off. Because you know how those servant related families are Right, right. So I said, you know, look, if you don't mind, can I borrow this 10 lakhs from you? And she's like, why would you want to borrow for what I said, I want to set up a shop. Okay. She's like, okay, I mean, I know you since because since I was small, she's been with us. So I said, Okay, fine, I still owe about 1000 rupees as a, just as a goodwill. You know, okay, I said, I paid you everything. But 1000 rupees is still owed by me, because I still feel that you were the first person who kind of helped me out when I wanted to open. So I borrowed from her and borrowed from friends and family opened up my first store in 2007, under the name specs, makers, you know,
Krishna Jonnakadla 20:56
so you did a brand makeover.
Oh, yeah, that was another challenge in life. Because when you're changing your stores name from what your dad gave to specs, makers, it was riots at home. He said, How the hell did you change the name what I gave, you think that you're smarter than what you're doing? You have no rights to change the name what I gave it such a good godly name Venkateshwara optics, you don't understand. You think you don't believe in God and all that stuff. And all that blah, blah, blah, went on? I said, I don't even talk to you. Why should I ask you anything about it? Right? He said, But still, if this is what it is that, you know, you should go your way. And it just got more Messier. Right? But then yeah, I said, Look, this is what it is. You can't do anything about it. Right? I'm going ahead. And I've changed the name and stuff like that. So basically, went on from being a second store, again, learn from the business learned completely what I'm doing and all that. So
Krishna Jonnakadla 21:45
first store, which your dad started, and the funding from your maidservant. You started the second one. Exactly. Okay. Yeah. And they were
both in Chennai? Yeah, absolutely. Okay. It's a very, very different reasoning. When I was basically looking for a property for a second store, right? I was able to find a great location. So I found this location that when you go to the temples, they give you this kind of prasada, right, where they give it to you in a paper. So after I ate it in the paper, it was written, you know, 750 square feet shop available in T Nagar. Okay. Okay. And I found that sometime in July of 2006, that paper, I called up the landlord, I told him, Look, you know, hey, I'm interested, went and met the landlord. He said, No, no, no, I don't want to give it to you. You're just a single shop, you know, I don't know how you will do, I will pay the rent and all that. Sorry, I cannot give it to you. And that landlord had put up an ad in the paper for the shop. So basically, it was a newspaper. You know, kind of a pamphlet that I got, again, in the December of 2006. I got the same ad again. Because I go to the Tirupati temple quite often. And Tina got aware. I got the same ad. Ad. Yeah. So again, I called him up and said, Look, hey, I spoke to you in June, I'm in December and is still your shop is gone, gone. And again, I'm seeing your ad in the paper. Why don't you meet me once? He said, Okay, come meet me that I met him, I met his mother, convince them that you look, you know, hey, I can I want to take the shop very badly. They said, Okay, fine, we'll give it to you. This is the rent blah, blah. I just went ahead and immediately signed it up, you know, so there was a blessing of Venkateshwara that came in in another form. Right? So I'm ardent believer of Lord entity, you know. So I said, I started off my first one, the names pacemakers. had two stores had a lot of challenges moving from one store to two stores, because you don't have any systems and processes. So I was like, Okay, fine. We should be happy with two stores, not really do anything much about it. And but I thought, you know, there's enough opportunity to build a larger business, enjoy doing what I was doing opened up my third store in 2009, you know, and so my wife Sonal, and others love marriage. So she was basically working with icsi 2010. We got married. I kind of told her look, you know, ICSC is not going to pay you so much in life what I will give you 10 years later,
Krishna Jonnakadla 23:58
how did you find time for love and in the midst of all this?
So I mean, that's always the 1% of your life that is always needed right?
Krishna Jonnakadla 24:08
So your customers
are no no no as was more of a long distance love. So I was in us He was in India, we met through a common friend but first four years of being completely online only thanks to a Yahoo messengers and all that stuff, then it okay. Yeah, but yeah, I mean, no, we kind of had a very great the journey of you know, kind of getting to marriage, you know, a lot of backlash again from families, you know, saying that he's only having one shot, what is this? This is not the kind of person we want for you. It all happens right? In every family that you want to get married. But I said Yeah, fine. You know, I I got into business in 2010. So we decided at that point in time, look, you know, what is it that you want to do? We want to scale this business up larger, we can go a corporate ways very easily, you can still continue being in the corporate world. You can take that Comfort, I can take the risk, like no, we will probably see what we can do together. I think I think that was one of a very large support after a very long time in life that came in full time. And she basically was handling the entire backend. You know, I was more on the strategy, building the business, thinking about ideas and stuff like that. So I said, Okay, let's try and you know, give it a shot. So I have one fine day, I decided, Okay, we are three stores now and we are going to franchise out now. Everything was the time the world was around franchising, right? So you appoint consultants and you appoint pay money to consultants and do all what you have to do for basically wanting to build your store opened up my first franchisee in 2009. And shut it down in three months. Okay, what happened? Well, you got the wrong franchise partner. Ah, okay. So you have a franchise partner who claimed that this is his property, and you know, he is paying rent and all that. We didn't check the resort paid rent for the last five years. So he had a eviction notice. Oh, and I was shocked to see that. But that's okay. happens, learn from mistakes was a very expensive mistake for us. Because we didn't really put in a lot of capital. I still remember the time when, you know, I had to basically so how do I fund my business? When you're just three stores? You're not, you're not making a lot of money. But you basically want to know so because I was not supported by family I spent on my own wedding. You know, me and Sonal didn't even take a break after our wedding. It is after two to three years of our wedding that we actually even went on a break. You know, so that's the kind of sacrifices that we made. And you know, but that's how it is. And I still realize
Krishna Jonnakadla 26:34
that you're lucky to have a spouse like that. It is really a partner.
Well, Barney, but but the difference is, you don't do what you pay for lifetime. Now I have to go every year for a vacation. Yeah, so your your one time of missing the vacation, is costed you another 50 years of vacation. Right?
Krishna Jonnakadla 26:57
Right. Yeah. Yeah. So
basically, you know, spending on a wedding is very, very expensive, right, you know, especially without the wedding at that point in time. Had a wedding spent on you know, buying a car stuff like that, you know, so I had I had a lot of personal debt, personal debt, which was on credit cards, right? Because you have to keep paying the credit card companies that the cost of borrowing is very expensive. I still remember going and standing in the line early in the morning at icac Bank and depositing the cash to actually pay out my checks and my credit card bills and stuff like that. But yeah, that's a part and parcel of your growth story. You always get bootstrapped and then you I actually want to go forward I decided okay, fine. Now I want to expand from here you go talk to banks with the business plan they don't give you debt because you don't have a collateral I keep telling the bank so if you give me debt I'll build a business and build the collateral to give you a collateral but if you asked me for collateral before starting a business, how do I give you like we need collateral What have you run away with the money? I said, Okay, so that's not going to work Absolutely. started talking to franchisee people, but I was too offended after the first franchisee failed. So I said no more franchising went and spoke to a lot of friends and family as to what can be done for the business. No support absolutely anywhere till 2010 11, you know, built it from three stores, then one more store, then one more store, then one more store and build it to about a solid network of eight to 10 stores. I was really pitching in and at that point in time is when somebody told me there's something called angel investors all I never knew was an angel investor, to be honest. So I looked into all this What do you mean angel investor, somebody coming from the sky and giving you money? I never knew even a term like angel investing existed.
Krishna Jonnakadla 28:30
I seriously, you're in equity research and Angel.
I never knew angel investing. Yeah, I knew there is investors, there is VC that is P. But I never knew that this concept existed ever, you know, because then I understood that these are people who basically invest out of their personal capacity. But I wasn't too interested in doing that, you know, so basically, I was introduced to a fund, you know, okay, and I think I met the fund in the year 2011 2011. And I met them I created a business plan and gave them the fund took about a year's time to actually decide to invest and I was getting really frustrated. But then I happened to meet this guy, who's a very close friend now and an investor named Ashwin. And he really liked my idea and my passion and my business and I told him Look, you know, he asked me that, why do you want to dilute and you know, kind of do our business, you can still own the business 100% and be with repo, whatever stores you're having about it. And so, I said my logic is very simple. You don't you don't create a business to make money, you create a business to grow it that makes money. Yeah. So your your concept is very simple. Do you want to be 100%, owner of a one crore business? Okay, or a 1%, owner of 100 crore business, we both say that's what I shouldn't said. I said, that's my view. Okay. I said okay. My view is two people always have this question, right. Why dilute? Why do you want to keep diluting? Why do you want to keep giving shares right investors and all that, I suppose, if I'm going to grow a business, I rather have 10% of 1000 crore business then have 100% of 10 crore. business for me motors sake, right? And it doesn't matter what and how much you own, about creating job opportunities, employment opportunity for vendors, shareholders, stakeholders, you have to enjoy doing the business, it's not about this is my business, I want to own it, I never had that mentality, I mean, growing from a single store to whatever you want to grow in life, you cannot be greedy about it. And that's one thesis that I always follow. So I think I think I kind of was able to convince the fund and the investors and said, Okay, I want to take this to a larger scale, and I need support. And they were kind of very passionate and very aggressive about my entire strategy. And I struck a thin line over there. And, you know, I kind of was able to convince them, and I got my first round of investment for about three crores in the year 2014. You know, and that was a great move. I do not have anybody at home at family, my wife's family, nobody. You just told everybody that we've taken debt from the bank, you know, because you don't want to expose things about, you know, taking money outside, because people get worried and stuff like that. But yeah, I think I think my journey of getting my first investment then, and starting and scaling up the business was successful, I went on growing the business from 14 to 25, to 5200, to 300. You know, it is a very different ballgame altogether, because when you have investors in your company, it is not about your company anymore, it's a larger responsibility. People think the other way around that if there is investor money, you know, it is easy, but I think it is more responsibility and, and more pressure to see to it that their monies are given greater returns, because you have to trust that end of the day, it is not about you borrowing money, it is about you sharing wealth, and sharing the business, you can't take risks. And so when people ask me, what is the biggest challenge that you said that you see, when you run a business, do not make foolish mistake to have 1000 people lose their jobs, you don't want to be that even one person greedy today. And I tell everybody, don't try to be greedy in business where your existing vendors, stakeholders and employees lose their job. Because it's you can always survive, but they are dependent on you end of the day, and they have families to run. So that's where it's very, very important.
Krishna Jonnakadla 32:12
So we went through that 10 stores to 300 stores, you know, like a teraflop kind of a speed. So let's slow it down a bit. Yeah. So you you raise three, three crores at that point in time, you had only how many stores? Do you have 10 stores, right? Nine stores, nine stores, and they were all owned by you? Right? Completely. Okay. And, and this investment you see, as an inflection point, the investment was an inflection point. That was the first inflection point in my life. So So how did that change? The playbook? How did that change the trajectory? Who and What sort of decisions did you make after that?
So it is, it is purely that you know, you either want to open one store a year, it's not that you cannot open multiple stores a year? Yeah, by the time we came to nine stores, we had set up a foundation and processes very strongly. We believed in our principles, you know, we believed in completely doing things the right way, paying your taxes, doing things in official way and everything because till date, a lot of our patients don't do that, right, the independent mom and pop stores, but I was like, I need to sleep peacefully at night, whatever it takes. So from the time of getting an investment, how did we change me and Sonal our change came in more like we became more responsible, because we have we have we understood that we can make this larger, we never thought at any point in time that this is going to be this large. We thought we will take this to 2530 stores in Chennai, we will be very happy with that. You know, it is like every time you go to a particular goal, the goalpost moves forward. Right.
Krishna Jonnakadla 33:42
So it is not where you are right now. Haha. So where you are right now you you still have a lot of growth to accomplish that you can I'm sure you see Oh, it's always changing goalposts for me from now. Right? Right. But you but from where you started, when you raise that three crore investment you've already grown beyond your wildest dreams.
No dream is much more larger. Now the dream is much more larger.
Krishna Jonnakadla 34:04
Why should I dream that was then not now.
The dream was 45 stores. Right? Right. So you, as I said, as you as you become an entrepreneur, you don't have a goalpost, it's a moving goalpost right, the day you decide that. So I always believe in this one thing, the day you feel that you're successful is the beginning of your failure.
Krishna Jonnakadla 34:24
We have a lot in common critique. I have to say that, yeah, the day you think a friend of mine used to say and I say that to the only place where you where it says you have arrived is in your GPS. Yeah. And, and the day you start thinking that you have arrived in your life, that's the beginning of the end, right? That
that's the day you feel that you're successful. That's the beginning of your field. sobriety should never get into your mind to get into your heart.
Krishna Jonnakadla 34:52
Yeah, yeah. So So then what was essentially a possibly sole proprietor driven chain of stores became a professional organization. How did what were some of the changes you had to make? Obviously, hiring culture, these things, while you might have the foundational processes in place, it's easier said than done. Right? Yeah. What were those?
So basically, when I was, you know, in the process of, you know, raising the first Angel round, and then going into institution investment and meeting a lot of investors, one investor asked me a very simple question. I really love your business model, you and solar level did very well, you know, hats off to you guys. Y'all are about some 4550 stores of network, great job done. You guys have traveling in a flight and the flight crashes who takes care of the business? I was I was awestruck by that, because we will not build a leadership team under you. Right? The beginning of a success comes with a team, it is not about me, I still don't call myself successful. I call my people successful, right? You know, it's you have to agree to it that it is not a one man's job. It is a vision of one man, coupled with a lot of hard work from a lot of leadership team and right, you cannot say that I build the business, I always say we build the business through that, just because you are in the front end of it. It doesn't work that way. You know, we need to build a team under you that basically has a vision that matches with your vision. If you can't build a team under you that matches with your vision, you have the wrong team accepted. Not the division is wrong. It's just the team is wrong. So I went on building a team, you know, you basically have to trust your people, give them the leverage, mistakes happens, it happens, it's okay. You should be able to understand how much risk you want to take 20% risk is allowed, okay. 20% mistakes are allowed in life, no problem, we will correct it and make it 10. But 20 law becomes 30, right, because you learn from my mistakes. So be the leadership team under me, myself, you know, and Sonal. And I think from there on, we decided that everybody's vision to be that you want to be a 5000 10,000 store company, India's huge, everybody needs glasses, you're selling affordable glasses. Why can't people buy from you? Right? So and that was one of the second inflection points when this investor asked me, if you are traveling, and you kind of get knocked down by a car or your flight crashes, my money goes down the drain, right? Because I'm dependent on you, I'd only be dependent on you, you have to have a team. And that was the right way to explain. And I started building a team. And that was another inflection point in life. When you start hiring the right team. I don't go by just hiring people out of resumes. People have to spend some time with me a couple of weeks before they actually get to know me. It's more than you I wanting to work with you. You should want to work with me, right? It's not about you got a job. It's about do you want to work with at&t? You know, I am a very frugal guy. I don't have any fancy offices. I don't spend unnecessarily on things that don't add value. Why I always have a thinking why should I spend in my office, which is not going to impact my customer at the front end I spent in the showroom. Right, right? Because that's a cash cow. This is only your expense, right? So I don't believe in people spending in fancy offices spending things out of the way. I never spend like that, you know, I would still prefer spending in places where it is absolute need, even if it was a fat fan will do a fan will do you don't need any air conditioning. I'm very frugal that way.
Krishna Jonnakadla 38:10
So around this 2010 2011 timeframe when you began the investing or the angel investing journey. That's when Warby Parker in the US, God founded in effect, they actually showed that you could take a very, very boring industry like, you know, optische opticals and actually make it look exciting and take it truly online. Yeah, did did did Warby Parker, and everything that happened and eventually lens cart in India. Did any of those things play into what you were thinking about this industry?
Now? I knew Warby Parker started in 2010. lens cart bad Scott watch cart and Joel Scott started in 2011. And odd. I am a I am a roti Comic Con guy. I believe in physical stores in consumers in retail. I was never a ecommerce guy, especially for the domain that I operated. I still respect what Flipkart and Amazon all have done. That's a product that can be sold online. But I never believed in saying that something that is non measurable by size can be actually sold online.
Krishna Jonnakadla 39:18
Okay, not something that can't be standardized.
Exactly. You cannot sell it online. And that was my entire thesis from day one. I never played the valuation game. I was never behind valuations. I know at that point in time from 2013 to 2016. India was on a valuation drive. Right, right. It is like not how much business you're doing. How much are you burning? That's more important to the investor. Right? I still remember you know, I can't take names. You're meeting one of the investor and he said that, hey, you have 5060 stores. I'll fund you. I'll put another 50 crores convert itself into e commerce. I said thank you. If I don't know Spanish, I cannot teach Spanish. So I have a brick and mortar guy, which is consumer. If you believe in me and my story, invest, don't make me do things which I don't believe in because your money will anyway Go down the drain, you know, so I really respect for what you want to do. But this is not me where I want to change just because you want me to change, you know? Yeah.
Krishna Jonnakadla 40:08
Well, you said a couple of things about the investor spot, right. So there is definitely a responsibility, and it doesn't come easy.
It is a very large responsibility. It is more than anybody else. It is a trust factor.
Krishna Jonnakadla 40:19
It's important to have them investors that understand your business understand what you're doing. every investor wants
to double, triple and quadruple their money, no doubt about it. You know,
Krishna Jonnakadla 40:32
Everything comes with time, the more time the more compounded the money gets, right.
Krishna Jonnakadla 40:37
No question. No question. Yeah, yeah, no. So
if you want to double in two years, that's possible. But the risk of making zero is also possible. Right? Right. And right, and any consumer business today is all about, wait and watch. And retail is all about detail. It is not about just opening a store anywhere, it takes a lot of takes a lot of third party analysis, a lot of thinking into where I want to open, and I'm not a tech guy, I don't believe, you know, I have the acumen for tech, I don't understand tech at all, you know, because I have never written a program in my life, all that I've written is, you know, maybe a program in C plus C or c++ that said that to how to find your birthday or something would have been the best I've ever written. But I have never ever done programming logic in my life. So I believe that my strength lies in being a very roti kubla Khan, kind of a guy understanding retail understanding consumer understanding, I spend a lot of time with my consumers, I still call up my consumers on a weekly basis, at least 20 or 30 of them randomly and ask them hey, this is a CEO speaking. Do you have any feedback for me? I don't want to know the good thing. Send me the battle.
Krishna Jonnakadla 41:44
How have they surprised you?
So they basically they tell you know that your delivery took time, your staff was wearing a uniform? I thought the you know, store, air conditioning was not working, you know, very lame, lame reasons. But even that's important to me. What about store experience, and when somebody complains about that store, I take that stuff on conference, I said, this customer has a complaint I see to a texture that doesn't happen. And see when you're, when you're having a retail business having 1000 employees, you can't have everybody standardized, right? They're not robots, and everybody's got a family, they must have had some family argument at home and come to the work, and they will not have a great mood that day, then there'll be a grumpy customer who comes in, then they will get you into an argument. First, support your employees also, respect your customers support your employees. Because if you don't support your employees, then as I told you, the the five pies of of your entire business have to be responsible towards your shareholders support towards our employees and respect for your customers is very important. If you feel that you're going to just you just sold a product to the customer and happy about it one time, if you're happy is ever going to come back to you again, see it with that you respect them and respect the time they've taken to a company, I keep telling my staff the same thing. Never make a customer feel bad. Even if you have to give it back to them free. It's not the end of the world. I remember, I used to work in the delivery section of Walmart during my internship in college, where Walmart has a policy of 90 day return. Right? Right. So I remember college students at that point in time, especially they seize and they call, we will buy home theaters and all during the summer vacation and just before fall begins go return it back. Right? That's the success of Walmart, right customer service, you can't
Krishna Jonnakadla 43:20
worry about it. The Economics of that industry is structured in such a way that Walmart still makes money after that return. Right.
But leave the economics aside. Only 10% people come back with that the balance 90 are happy.
Krishna Jonnakadla 43:32
That's right. That's what I'm saying. So yeah, the the margins, the way the pricing is structured, all adds up to the fact that you could still do all of these things and still keep a viable business. And
yes, yes. Because it's all about the customer wanting to come back to you. If not use somebody else. That is right. That is right. Yeah.
Krishna Jonnakadla 43:49
And and the American playbook is vastly different from the Indian playbook. We managed for exceptions, they manage for mainstream traffic. That's the fundamental difference, right? And we manage exceptions to the tee. I see that everywhere. And even today. But I but that is slowly changing. You would when you're talking to you know the product that I'm building right now I'm talking when I talk to the product team, the product is like okay, what if we get this transaction? I say that's an outlier or not solution and thing for an outlier. What if the outlier brings the business down? They say, I said okay, we'll think about that we'll cross that bridge when we come to present now, let us not solution everything around an outlier. That's the wrong way to think about the business.
Never think about a broken bridge until you've arrived at the broken because there will be someone you can cross it over. So
Krishna Jonnakadla 44:41
you're you're in Tamilnadu, you're in Andhra Pradesh, outside of some of the usual things. What have you discovered about the Indian consumer the Indian market? How are the folks in the smaller cities different than the larger cities are they more demanding or less demanding, in what ways have has a market surprised you?
The rich and the famous one the most affordable products? That's interesting. I'll say India is all about Sundar sustained the cow. Right? It should be good. It should be durable. It should not be expect. The biggest bargainers in life in India are the people who have more money. Okay. It's a country. And that's the reason they are more money, right?
Krishna Jonnakadla 45:26
Yes, yes. They know how to get a better deal out of practically everything.
Absolutely. And there's nothing Indian consumer always looks for value for money. vfm is the way Indian consumer looks at, okay. Even a millionaire today has a geo connection. Not that he cannot afford anything else. Why? Right? Because he feels that the freemium era to make money. Oh, yeah. Yeah, free, he will buy another Apple phone, but he will take the SIM card which is free. Okay, right. The Indian consumer for you, they are very, very, very passionate about what did I get more out of this company? True? True.
Krishna Jonnakadla 46:03
You need to get a feeling that I got something for nothing. Exactly, I
got something better than what I would have bought got, right. Let it be value, let it be extra service, let it be anything. Right. If they go to a five star hotel, they want an extra bottle of water, even though there are two bottles kept. Because that's the Indian consumer, they always want something. And I appreciate that. Because this is where we value money. We don't
Krishna Jonnakadla 46:24
throw money only had a scarcity and some at some point in time in our life. So that's possibly what drives us to do that. Maybe not
not only scarcity, it is about the Aryan culture, it is about the Indian people we always have been demanding. True. So you have always been people who demand service demand value, and it's right. Why is it wrong? Why not? You know, because oh, no, just because you have the money. You don't have to splurge it. Yeah, true that true that, you know, it's only the fewer people who don't realize the value of money keep spending money like nobody,
Krishna Jonnakadla 46:56
right. So along this scale journey, we're just still got, you know, several places to go What have been some frustrating moments. And, yeah, what have been some frustrating moments.
Pratik Shah 47:09
So the the basic, frustrating moments when you actually want to scale up and grow is, you know, basically, at points in time when you want to take a decision, but you're not too sure about it. And you're taking the wrong decision, knowing in hindsight, this is the wrong decision, because you just want to grow. See at a point in times, you have a target that you want to open up another 100 stores this year. Right? Right? What if you're not getting the right location for the first two, three months? Right? Okay. It's like, it's like, out of the tail Ender batsman, right, who has to hit a six of that over, but it's not getting the right ball, but tries to go hit the wrong ball and get out. Okay, so we have taken decisions like that, where we've gone ahead, and like most Coca Cola, let's take a risk based person, you know, extra risk, you're going and taking it, but you're just trying to increase your account by store. And that's frustrating because you're running behind store count, and not by your decision making. And you've done that, you've done that, because you wanted to basically say that, okay, I've arrived, I want to be like those stores, 40 stores, you know, and you don't have to do that your, your team has to do that. And you have to still support them, right? Because if you don't support them, they lose morality. Like maybe the maybe the company doesn't want to expand, they're not getting as expand, you know, at times that your your team is going to make a mistake, but you have to still have a smile on your face and say, Okay, go do it. See, it's very difficult for you to always keep telling no to your team, right? as a CEO, it's very difficult for you to always only pointing out the mistakes, you also have to at times, let go of things for them to even understand that that was a mistake. And that is very expensive, sometimes on your front, because you know, it was a mistake, but you let it happen. Like a mother lets a kid fall because she wants a kid to get hurt and realize that that was the wrong way to walk around. Right? And okay, that's a frustrating point, I see yours, you have to let that happen. And you can't help it. It's a part and parcel of business.
Krishna Jonnakadla 48:53
So at any point in time, did you feel like this was going this was at any point in time? Did it ever feel like this was all going to fall apart?
Pratik Shah 49:02
No, I never let the business lose its sheen from me because I don't follow the pyramid system of how companies follow where the CEO sits at the top. And there is a middle layer and bottom layer sitting at the bottom. I follow the chakra system where I basically am at the center. And there are circle of people around me and everybody can communicate with me in whatever hierarchy they are in. So today, even a new staff joining in one of my 270/5 store has access to my mobile number and my email, and I still talk to them one on one whenever they call me up. It's not the talk to your area manager. Talk to your manager. Don't talk to me. No, I am involved very much with the people. I'm a people guy interested. So I get involved with the people a lot. The reason I get involved is because they should see that vision in you. It's not a structured business where Gary but I are. They have to be motivated. They have to feel happy that yes. If this Anything tomorrow wrong in our lives that is so to take care of us. Right?
Krishna Jonnakadla 50:03
So this. So if somebody had to start a brick and mortar business similar to what you've done, what what would you tell them? You know, if somebody was contemplating doing something similar, what would you tell them
1000 days, any store takes 1000 days for you to realize if it's right or wrong,
Krishna Jonnakadla 50:20
Pratik Shah 50:21
you need to have patience and retail, it's not about e commerce. It's not about just flying off the shelf. If it flew off the shelf, it's lucky, you can't get lucky every time, at least first one year, you need to have the patience and let the seed grow. You're sowing seeds right now, they will grow over a period of time. It takes time, retail is all about detail. It's so retail works on five P's, it's the product price promotion, place and people. If your product is right, your price is right and your promotions are right, it's solid, your people in place are the two things, if you have the very best place and the wrong people, it's a failure, you have a bad place and the best people might still be a failure. So try experimenting with your stores if you feel they're not doing right, by basically turning around the place or the people. So first, I always tell my people, if a store is not doing good, I put my best foot forward over there and say, Okay, my best off is going to go handle this for a couple of months. And if it still fails, I know it's a place problem or a people problem. And give yourself patience. Retail is about patience. It's not the overnight business. This is not ecommerce is a.com
Krishna Jonnakadla 51:25
and one.com. I think contrary to what the media will have us believe all of them have had several years of growth and this is part of what I keep saying revisionist history people keep changing their founding years just so that you feel that they became successful thing you know, in two to three years. If you read Sam Waltons, I think Made in America. When Walmart started getting noticed, somebody asked Walmart Oh, gosh, you look like an overnight success story. He said if so in Sam Walton quips saying, yes, you know, an overnight success story, which took 20 years to get to
see the largest retail brands in the world. They are at least 3040 years old.
Krishna Jonnakadla 52:11
Tell me one retail brand today. That would have become famous overnight. But had I been in Inception for the last 20 years? At least you take Mr. Kishore biani. He's a veteran retailer for ages. You're getting to know him now. Right? Yeah. Nobody knew Alibaba till 2012. And 13. It is this? Is it? 97?
Krishna Jonnakadla 52:29
Yep. Same with ATM.
Pratik Shah 52:31
Yeah. Nobody, No, nobody knows what goes into building the entire tunnel for the business. And then they only see the light at the end of the tunnel. They don't see actually how deep the tunnel is. Absolutely. Absolutely. You know. So it all comes by patience. You need to have patience. If entrepreneurs don't have patience, I don't think they should not call themselves entrepreneurs.
Krishna Jonnakadla 52:52
So at what point in time, would you say, okay, patience is one thing. But you also need to see how the market is moving. And surprising because
Pratik Shah 53:06
you need to have complete knowledge about the market that you're operating. If this is not a boardroom business, retail, right? You're going to sit in your conference room and say, kay Boss, I know everything and I am the best over you're, you're finished. I spend three out of five days at the field, visiting stores, meeting customers, meeting people. So even if I'm going in the airport, if I see a person wearing glasses, I asked her where did you buy it? Why did you buy it? What decided you to buy? I get information knowledge is free take on whatever you want.
Krishna Jonnakadla 53:35
Yeah, there's no doubt about it. Yeah. Take care of your customers and users, you know, you that if you know them, well, first
Pratik Shah 53:42
time users so that they can become your customer. Yeah, yeah. Understand what the user wants. Yeah. Very, very important in today's world, what is a pain point they are having? Maybe that you can implement in your company tomorrow?
Krishna Jonnakadla 53:53
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, why not? So pretty key. If you had to do it all over again, you change anything? Nothing? That's very, very rarely heard that.
Pratik Shah 54:04
Yeah, I would have I would have changed nothing. Because I have I have slowly built what I've built. People ask me, why didn't you go the ecommerce way, I would have never would have stepped into e commerce because that's not my strength. People ask me that, you know, you have another player coming in e commerce, you can get better valuations. If you're an e commerce. I am not worried about what's getting cooked in the other kitchen, I have to see what I'm going to eat at the end of the day. So you're
Krishna Jonnakadla 54:26
here for a 30 year marathon. That's what you want to build a legacy.
Pratik Shah 54:30
There is no timeline, there is no timeline, I want to pass this business on to my employees to my leadership team and everybody as long as they can handle it.
Krishna Jonnakadla 54:38
So so then that gives me a feeling that there's possibly a larger legacy angle behind this as well. What you got excited by retail now looks like maybe there are larger goals.
Pratik Shah 54:51
Well, as I said, the goalpost is always moving. Right. So we are so I'll tell you the kind of sacrifice that we would have made me and certainly made sacrifice in such a way that we didn't Wouldn't want to go the family way just because you want to devote our entire time to Wow.
Krishna Jonnakadla 55:03
You know, this is family.
Pratik Shah 55:05
Yeah, this is you don't want to have a legacy. You don't want to create something for saying that, you know, I created it. It's we created it. You're just a front runner. It's a Indian team. Earlier don't he was a captain Virat Kohli is the captain. That's.
Krishna Jonnakadla 55:18
So what's your advice for mirages of scale listeners who are just starting out,
Pratik Shah 55:23
as I told you have patience, build a business, don't run a business, build it to run, don't run behind it to build, don't do anything that you can get overnight success. Maybe one in a million people get lucky. If you're the lucky one. That's good. But otherwise, you will get doomed. And then the first failure of a startup should never be considered failure. That should be a learning. If you failed once Get up, try again fail twice, fail thrice fail until you succeed. It's okay. There's no harm in failing. Awesome. And don't sell so much that your family tomorrow is in trouble. Don't bet the farm don't bet the farm never never do something where your family is in trouble tomorrow. Respect you they are your stakeholders also.
Krishna Jonnakadla 56:02
So beyond specs makers, what's the real protect like
Pratik Shah 56:04
so I am a very kind of you know, avid passionate in browser I love to party on my Saturday nights you know, I love to kind of hang out with a lot of friends we all friends which are very close to each other since school spend a lot of time kind of visiting malls not to shop but to understand what people shop you know, I spent pretty much my Sunday evenings visiting malls understanding what consumers pay going and talking to retail employees at stores, which is not optical also like I will walk into an Aldo Charles and he often Spencer asked the customer what customer wants, how was the end of season sale? How do you think the sale is moving? What is impacting knowledge? Keep gathering a lot of knowledge. You know, I really I really love to do that. And I am a pro retail guy. And my second part is I love to work on analytics. I am hands on with my Tableau always. I keep opening my Tableau before I go to sleep or whatever not to look at what my business is doing. But just I love to analyze data.
Krishna Jonnakadla 57:06
What have been some interesting things you have found both through this offline research and this data. Interesting things as for the business as a person, anything something that I've that is totally surprised you? Ah,
Pratik Shah 57:19
I think I think what surprised me, I don't have anything off the head that I can think of at the moment. But I think at times you see that, you know, there is a bit of a pilferage in the industry, which is about less than 1% or 2%. Yeah, inform your employees, you know, pilferage is good to happen. But you the management also knows it's happening. So ask if you have to get something, don't try to say that you can bypass the process, you know, so I always also get into those, I always get put myself into the employee shoes and see that other medical management co bypass Karnataka, always try to think from the employees angle. Never portray yourself as a CEO in front of the employee, be a part of them be one among them, not above them. Never
Krishna Jonnakadla 58:00
any interesting insights on the customers themselves from the data and all your research. So yeah,
Pratik Shah 58:05
customers basically, you know, our kind of customers who come to us when I talk to them, and I do all kinds of feedback all with them and all that, you know, they like our customers are very humble. They're kind of very, very upright about what they want to tell. They were earlier going to their mom and pops, opticians and all that. So they're very vocal about what they talked about, which is very good. You know. So I had a customer yesterday, whom I spoke to who's, you know, so he had a prescription done from an eye doctor, and he got his glasses done with us. So we made it as for the eye doctor, but unfortunately that the wrong mistyping of the prescription by the Yeah, so we told him, okay, so don't worry, you will replace it for your phosphate, you have to understand where your customers coming from. It's harder when you have 2000 rupees with you spend. So you know, you have to accept your mistakes, even if it is not your mistake in retail, because customers always want that comfort factor with you and I keep telling my employees the same
Krishna Jonnakadla 58:54
thing. I have to agree with that. And the amount of goodwill that creates is phenomenal. The eyes always I always measure lifetime value LTV, right, yeah. I think you know, when we start looking at many, you know, the human angle sometimes that's when intangibles come out of that write it, it also becomes a good business decision. You don't do it just for good business. But I have to narrate this incident that happened in the UK. I was recently traveling, I was in London, there's a restaurant called tissue. It's an Indian restaurant. I think they have five branches across London, and you won't believe me. There's a one and a half hour waiting line to actually get a seat at the bar. Oh, okay. After you get to the bar, there's another half an hour, half an hour. wait time till you get a table. Oh, right. So it's an Indian restaurant highly in high demand. I went to two of those locations. The very first one that I went to in central London. It so happened We were ordering a bunch of things. And I didn't notice what up on the menu. I didn't notice how big on the menu. And it was it was in a specific box. And there was what about, and I thought maybe, Hey, you know what this looks this fancy restaurant possibly has a different take on what it looks like poverty. I ordered What about and he brought me What about and it wasn't powered, okay. And I told this guy, Hey, you know what I ordered poverty by mistake? What about by mistake, I actually wanted poverty, he took that off our back, didn't charge me for it and brought me the poverty. I had a terrific experience. And so, you know, that day, I made a note, you know, room for genuine customer mistakes, you know, when a business can have room for genuine customer mistakes? Because it's not. I'm not trying to get something out of nothing. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. It was. It was a genuine, it was a mistake, you know, I could have paid the price for it. But instead, you know, they decided to, you know, take care of it. And, you know, here you go, you know, I'm talking to you about it. And I've also written a review about it. And I'm I'm thrilled any business that takes into account that sort of thing. You know, we'll always have a customer for life happens. Yeah. Always. Well, Pratik, it's been fantastic chatting with you. amazing journey. And after all of the growth that you've seen, have you? Has your dad ever come back and said, you know, maybe Maybe I was wrong about it. Have you ever had a call? Yeah, yes.
Pratik Shah 1:01:31
Yes. So earlier since we had the end of the battle of not getting into and talking and stuff like that. I think he's kind of understood that Yes, there is. There is something that he is happy about. And he speaks to me. But it's just that, you know, it's that disconnect that never allows you to connect. Right? Yeah, it's that disconnect that never allowed. See, had you told me one time it's going to be a failure. Fine. But the the argument when prolonging for months and years,
Krishna Jonnakadla 1:01:56
one stone can't be put back together perfectly. Yeah. That's terrific. You have your fundamentals. Right. You have your basics, right. I think you're building this the right way. We are certain specs makers will go places. Sure. Thank you. It was great to have you on the show.
Nida Sahar 1:02:13
Thanks, Krishna. Appreciate it. We hope you enjoy the story. If this story made a difference to you. Tell us by leaving a comment on the website or our social media channels. help us spread the love by subscribing liking and sharing our show. And welcome speaker suggestions and collaborations. Write to me at email@example.com