Exporting Innovations while Importing Lessons and Experiences

Dr. Trilok Kumar Jain
Published on: 19th March 2015
Meet Mr. Vishal Choudhary, who has established Parampara Exports. Let's ask him about his success as an entrepreneur. 

Q: Why did you opt for entrepreneurship?
A: My father is a bureaucrat and wanted me to be one. Everyone aspires to be a civil servant. I tried, but I was disappointed, my father motivated me, but I had lost my patience. Although my father wanted me to try again for IAS I decided to become an entrepreneur. I have two brothers – one with World Bank and one, an IT person working in Bangalore. I had two choices – one to become a marketing person, which would mean moving away from Jaipur as at that time Jaipur didn’t have corporates. I also wanted to stay in Jaipur. I knew my brothers would not be able to come to Jaipur and my parents would not move out of Jaipur. Thus, there was a need that someone should stay with parents to take care of their old age and give them company and care at Jaipur.

Q: How did you make the beginning?

A: At that time there were two sectors (in Jaipur) which were prominent – tourism and jewellery. In both these sectors family background plays an important role. In tourism, your family heritage like havelies, palaces etc., play an important role. In jewellery, people didn’t share information. There was one field which was quite glamorous and that was exports. It was easy to enter. It sounds glamorous to travel a lot, visit different places and learn about differenet lifestyles. I had no exposure of business. I thought that I should give a try. I needed exposure and thought of taking some experience. I worked in a company in Jaipur by name Ocean Exim India Pvt. ltd., Banipark. I gave my CV to the owner. I was also NET qualified to teach as a lecturer. The owner looked and wondered. He asked me as to why was I there. I told him that I would like to be like him. The person was taken aback. I told him that I don’t want to steal his business but just wanted to learn from him. I was offered a salary of Rs. 10,000. He was a tough task master. I used to report at 9 am and the work used to continue till 9 pm. There were so many things to do. It was a tough time – a time of learning.
Exporting Innovations while Importing Lessons and Experiences
After returning home, I used to search internet to explore the possibility of exporting

handicrafts like stones, puppets, etc. I used to search for potential buyers. Finding buyers was not easy at that time. I used to send a lot of emails. I used to get reply for a few against thousands of emails sent by me. After 4.5 months, I got a buyer by name Mr. Chris Watkins – from Australia. He was looking for a vendor and I was looking for a buyer. He was also starting a business. I decided to quit the service and offered my resignation. I left the job after 25 days. I was totally without anything for 2 months as Chris didn’t come forward. I was again back to ground with nothing in hand. Emptiness was the most troubled time. I kept mailing people about business but I didn’t have any work. I interacted with Rahul Duggar, owner of Aravali Exports (an export house). I shared with him about how I wanted to explore business. He told me that I should learn more. I requested him to help me. He agreed to help me. He told me not to expect salary but just come around. I used to observe his communication while he handled buyers. I used to understand the paperwork, the legal framework and other aspects. I realized that it was not easy to start.

Q: What problems did you face in the beginning?

A: The toughest question is when people ask, 'What are you doing?' You don’t have anything but a smile; you feel like you are good for nothing. I had a few suggestions coming that I should again try for civil services. But I had a conviction that I had to start a business. The real struggle started.

Q: What were the turning points in your business?

A: Mr. Rahul and a few other exporters were going to an exhibition in 2002. I had also created a website. I went to one exhibition and that was my first one. I took with me all types of things - stones, crafts, etc., from shops in Badi Chopad (name of a market place in Jaipur where handicrafts are sold by small firms), literally all kinds of stuff. Similarly, I had a stall there in the exhibition. I got one buyer by name Dawn from the USA. She wanted something of Felt. Felt is like Namda (a type of thick cloth piece) made from wool like carpet. it is a cheap substitute for a Carpet. The lady asked me for the products. The lady proved to be a change in my business. Till that time I was in handicraft. I learned a lesson that it is better to be a specialist. I thought that felt might be a good sector to work as a specialist. I left all my other businesses and started focusing totally on one business, that of Felt. I kept designing products related to felt. After 3-4 months I got my first order from Dawn. She also introduced one buying agent by name Ms. Radeika to me. They were tough people. My first shipment got rejected due to quality issues. I asked my supplier to look at the goods and he was worried about loss. We shared the loss and shipped again and this time it worked. Chris was reducing his orders. So, I had only one buyer now and that was Dawn. I went to the 2nd exhibition where I displayed only one product – Felt and related products. This time people observed me. I received compliments from people. I felt that it was a motivating incident for me. I got 2 more buyers from this exhibition. Now, I focused on design and development. Thereafter, I attended two exhibitions every year and kept on innovating new products and developing new products. I had some achievements. I joined an association of exporters and had interaction with the members of that association. Those interactions helped me a lot. I interacted with people there in that association. In 2005, they conducted an event called Craft Vision. In such events entries were invited for awards. I sent my entry for innovations in product design. I got selected for the best innovator and was awarded from the then Honourable Vice President Late. Shri Bhero Singh Shekhawat. Thereafter, I got very busy. Now my designs are far better for the market. In Netherlands, there is an agency called Centre for Development of exports from developing countries. They have a programme wherein they take an entrepreneur and fund the training of that entrepreneur. They subsidize the expenditure in exhibitions and other such expenses. Normally, they select 12 people from across the globe. There were many exporters who were trying and I could not qualify in first attempt in 2004. I again tried and this time was able to get selected. They were looking for a positive attitude and a company of future. I was a small player, but I was ready to learn and had positive attitude. So, I was selected. That changed the way I was doing my business. Earlier the buyers were small. Now, I have huge buyers, much bigger than what I can supply to with my limited capacity.
Q: What are the lessons that you carry from your business experiences?

A: I believe that you have to retain the buyer; it is better to retain the buyer than to focus on searching new buyers. Lady Dawn is still my important buyer. Parampara is known for innovations in design. We are expensive but buyers still like to do business with us. My ex-employees have started three more companies doing same business and are trying to sell the same products to the same buyers. Still, my buyers come to me only. That's business!
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