Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Fail, that you may succeed

Month: December
Year: 2007
Place: Hearty Mart, Ahmedabad

Sabir had just arrived at Hearty Mart, a super market at Vishala Circle near Juhapura, Ahmedabad. After having a thorough look at the store, he made himself comfortable in his chair, ordered a cup of morning tea and booted his computer screen. It was a signal to rest of the store employees that the boss is around and he means business.  

It was December 2007. After three consecutive years of losses, the attractive figures on the balance sheet which Sabir – the Operations Head at Hearty Mart, had just opened on his computer screen gave his otherwise serious face, a very happy and satisfied look. In the early 2007 the first franchise of Hearty Mart was launched at Ilol, a small village in Sabarkantha district of Gujarat, with the idea of bringing Hearty Mart into the profit making mode. Every strategy from the books of marketing had been employed but the top-bottom lines of Hearty Mart had never changed so far. 

“The store has gained lots of ground now and for the first time we would be seeing a healthy profit. At the end all the hardwork is paying rich results.” Thought Sabir. 

But fate had something else to offer as when the final accounts were getting matched under the guidance of a Chartered Accountant in the early 2008, the store behaved as it was habituated to. Apparently there was some error in the accounting which Sabir had followed and the store was still in losses and the situation was déjà vu. This sudden development shook the entire management of Hearty Mart. It was difficult for me to bear this news as I had planned many things for the coming year for Hearty Mart. 

Being a qualified MBA and a successful advertising professional before turning into an entrepreneur it was a matter of shame that I could not change the fortune of my business. How would I face my partners? What reason would I put forward for these continuous losses? All these thoughts rattled me further.

Sabir was even more devastated as he was responsible for the day to day operations and he somehow could not come to terms with one more year of loss. He was my man Friday and I had seen him working dedicatedly with me since Hearty Mart’s inception. I could not afford to lose him now. I quickly made a decision. In the evening at the time of closing my store I called him and casually said “We need to renovate our store with more vibrant colours.” There was a look of amusement in his eyes as he must have thought that I was out of mind to think of an expense when the store was still in losses. But I stuck to my idea. I wanted to remove the gloomy looking old colour on the walls and wanted to breathe in a fresh perspective to the store. My logic was that with the new environment the team would feel more energetic.

Within a week the store had a new look. The pillars were coloured in brick red while the walls were shining white. This colour combination worked, as our loyal customers had great words of appreciation which encouraged Sabir and his team. 

One of the customers said “You are ready for a Valentine’s Day party it seems.”

Needless to say that the initial gloom was removed from the walls of the store and the hearts of my employees. With renewed enthusiasm we started working on the ideas to turnaround the fortune of the store now. We pulled in some amount from our retail operations and started a new sister company ‘Hearty Mart Enterprise’ with the idea of foraying into bulk hotel supplies of food-grocery. This diversification paid off and it became a good support to our retail operations as we started getting food-grocery items at a lower purchase rate due to the economies of scale involved, which meant that we increased our profit margins on most of the food-grocery products at the store. 

March 2009 eventually took Hearty Mart to new shores of healthy top-bottom lines and our efforts got recognized by IIMA a case study on Hearty Mart was published in 29th FDP programme  titled ‘Where there is a will, there is a way’ in their journal ‘Cases on Business Venturing and Sustenance.’

Every failure is a stepping stone for a bigger success. If we remain calm and focussed during the testing time and see the situation as a jigsaw puzzle we can come out with innovative ideas that would solve the problems and make our business grow beyond imagination. 

(Nadeem Jafri, Chief Mentor, Hearty Mart, www.heartymart.com)