Suc­cess Story

When dreams turn into re­al­ity

Health & Nutrition - - CONTENTS -

As a child, I was meek and an ex­treme in­tro­vert. The few friends I had dur­ing my early grow­ing years were lim­ited to those stay­ing in the same build­ing as me. Though I ex­celled in aca­demics, what I most de­sired was to shine in sports. I grew up in a beau­ti­ful, green area lo­cated in the heart of Mum­bai. It had a very strong ‘sport­ing cul­ture’ and there were al­ways groups of kids out in the streets play­ing games like cricket, foot­ball and bad­minton. My burn­ing de­sire to play cricket got me to muster the courage to walk across the street one day and ask the boys from the neigh­bour­hood if I could join their club – a tall feat for a shy boy like me. They ac­cepted me and that’s when I first started play­ing gully cricket. One sum­mer, I wanted to join a cricket coach­ing camp. I some­how con­vinced my mother to pay the fees, but there was one more prob­lem – I had no equip­ment. Af­ter ask­ing around, I bor­rowed a bat from a friend but as luck would have it, on day three of the camp, the bat broke and I couldn’t buy a new one. That was the end of my for­mal train­ing in cricket. Yet, even though my bat was bro­ken, my spirit was not. When I turned 16, I was ex­pected to spend all my spare hours work­ing in the fam­ily shop that my fa­ther had es­tab­lished. How­ever, ev­ery day, at 5 pm, I would run away from the store to do what I loved most – play cricket. When I grad­u­ated from col­lege in 1983, I joined my fa­ther’s re­tail busi­ness. I was the third gen­er­a­tion to en­ter the fam­ily busi­ness, but my join­ing it was nei­ther a strat­egy nor a well thought out plan. It was sim­ply a copout – I took the easy way out to set­tle down in life. I slogged for 16 hours a day and while I loved the busi­ness, I de­tested the long work­ing hours and the style of func­tion­ing. I stayed in the com­fort of my own co­coon and will­ingly handed over the con­trols of my life to oth­ers. Yet this cre­ated a grow­ing sense of re­sent­ment within me with ev­ery pass­ing day! I wanted to do some­thing more – but what? And how? I didn’t lack the in­tel­li­gence or the abil­ity to work hard; what I lacked was courage…or at least that’s what I told my­self. Un­til this one in­ci­dent changed the way I thought about my­self. On the night of 4th Jan­uary, 1983, as my fa­ther and I were on the way home af­ter shut­ting shop, we were at­tacked. Some goons as­saulted us, want­ing to rob us of all the cash and valu­ables we were car­ry­ing. I fought them with ev­ery fi­bre of my be­ing. They stabbed me in the stom­ach, chest, head and legs; and slashed

When I turned 16, I was ex­pected to spend all my spare hours work­ing in the fam­ily shop that my fa­ther had es­tab­lished. How­ever, ev­ery day, at 5 p.m, I would run away from the store to do what I loved most – play cricket.

my fa­ther all over his body. We were bleed­ing pro­fusely but were saved just in time by a po­lice pa­trol van. My fa­ther was dis­charged in four hours, but I was in the ICU for 48 hours and re­mained in hos­pi­tal for 15 days. The in­ci­dent was a turn­ing point. I could not be­lieve that I had had the met­tle to do what I did and save my life and that of my fa­ther. Where did that fear­less­ness come from? It was al­most as if this other per­son­al­ity that I had tried to hide all th­ese years, had sud­denly burst out! I re­cov­ered in four months and started go­ing to the shop again. Be­fore I joined our fam­ily busi­ness, I had gone to Sin­ga­pore in 1979. I was 16 then. I had seen the face of so­phis­ti­cated re­tail busi­nesses there and was im­pressed. Af­ter the at­tack, I re­alised what I wanted to do – I wanted a sim­i­lar busi­ness set-up here. I re­ceived stiff re­sis­tance from my fa­ther who be­longed to the old school and liked do­ing things his way. But I was not go­ing to crib and com­plain any more about not hav­ing got­ten a chance to do what I wanted to. I was go­ing to find a way. In the 1990s, In­dia took its first baby steps to­wards lib­er­al­iza­tion and mod­ern re­tail. I spent all my wak­ing hours vi­su­al­iz­ing a multi-level store of my own. In the year 2003, I got an op­por­tu­nity to lease out a small 400 sq ft store. With­out even think­ing twice, I signed the agree­ment for a 10-year lease. Now, I had to come up with a plan. It didn’t take me too long – sports goods of course! For a sports fa­natic like me, it was the ob­vi­ous choice – ex­cept for the fact that I had no idea about the prod­ucts and sup­pli­ers. All I knew was that “Ev­ery­body loves to play” and any other flicker of doubt that arose, was put to rest by my wife Heena. We brain­stormed and thought why not add phys­i­cal fit­ness equip­ment into the equa­tion as well. Then I thought why not add sports­wear too, as I had per­son­ally al­ways strug­gled to find good sports­wear in In­dia. I had asked my brother and my brother-in-law to join me. My con­cept was sim­ple – shop for sports goods, sports­wear, fit­ness equip­ment and food sup­ple­ments un­der one roof. On 27th Oc­to­ber, 2003, our first re­tail store – To­tal Sports – came into be­ing. It was a hit right from day one! A lot of peo­ple thought this was an in­ter­na­tional brand and started ask­ing about fran­chis­ing. They had never seen any­thing like this be­fore. Within the first two weeks it­self, I re­al­ized I had hit bull’s eye. We built this busi­ness on strong val­ues and ethics and grew from strength to strength and opened four other stores in the next seven years. This was quite an achieve­ment con­sid­er­ing the fact that we were In­dia’s first mod­ern re­tail chain of sports and fit­ness stores. Apart from re­tail, we also started spe­cial­iz­ing in institutional sales, gym and recre­ational fa­cil­i­ties, and in­fra­struc­ture. I can­not ex­press in words the kind of joy and hap­pi­ness I ex­pe­ri­ence when­ever I in­ter­act with my cus­tomers. A cou­ple once told me, “We started play­ing bad­minton af­ter nine years. We never re­al­ized what we were miss­ing.” An­other lady once told me, “Ev­ery time I come to Dadar I have to visit your store! Both my son and hus­band are big fans of To­tal Sports. Now that I have fi­nally joined a gym, I ob­vi­ously want to buy ev­ery­thing I need from here.” I was de­lighted! I have found my pur­pose. I love each and ev­ery mo­ment I spend inside my store. And the joy I see on a young child’s face as s/he is fit­ted with the gear of his/her cho­sen sport, it makes me smile and re­mem­ber my own child­hood dreams that ended – or should I say started? – with a bro­ken bat. (Ex­cerpt­ed­fromthe ‘Chick­enSoup­fortheIn­dian En­tre­pre­neur’sSoul’.)

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