THE OBSERVANT INNOVATOR
Ramesh Chauhan, Founder, Chairman and Managing Director, Bisleri International Pvt. Ltd, is the man solely responsible for what we can call the water revolution of India, and who introduced us to the concept of ‘packaged drinking water’ way back in the ’60s. His story of riches to even more riches is emblematic of what a man can achieve even in the face of corporate globalisation, if he just believed in his vision. We speak to the man himself.
How do you come with up ideas? Do you sometimes let your subconscious mind do the work for you?
Observation is the best way to get ideas. One should observe people, their habits and the changing environment. It’s always a combination of the alert and the subconscious mind that help come up with innovative ideas.
What do you give more importance to: feedback or your own gut feeling?
Both are equally important for me. Feedback gives a reality check to the ideas, whereas gut feeling gives direction and aspiration. Sometimes, I may get too ambitious with something and people’s feedback will help me understand if I’m going over the top. But then, if I don’t trust my own gut feeling, I’ll be incapable of pursuing an idea and leading my team. Both have their own importance and usually, it’s a combination of the two that gets great results.
How do you deal with it when the consumers don’t accept one of your products well? Do you alter it according to market demands?
Constant innovation is the key to succeeding in today’s time and age. If consumers do not respond positively to a product, it could be due to a lack of awareness or insight on their part. Marketing plays a vital role in ensuring proper communication and awareness of new concepts. However, I am also very adaptable to change and constructive criticism. If something doesn’t seem to be working in the market, then my team and I are quick to respond and react immediately.
You popularised the packaged water business with Bisleri years before today’s competitors (Kinley and Aquafina) came into business. Yet you constantly keep innovating. How do you stay ahead of the competition?
Observing the market and identifying scope for constant evolution is what keeps any brand ahead of its competition. Our quarter litre (250ml) pack size is a case in point. This SKU has opened the market to a new one-time-use consumption pattern, especially for use in conferences, parties, airlines, etc. So the idea is not to be complacent, instead keep your eyes and ears open so that you can identify the point where there is scope for improvement.
What’s been the bravest of all business decisions you’ve made so far and how did you back it up?
Not the bravest, but the toughest business move for us was when we decided to sell our brands to Coca-Cola in 1992. It was an extremely tough decision but it had to be taken because the majority of bottlers wanted to join hands with Coke. That said, I don’t regret it.