Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Jaipur Rugs!

A couple of months back I had the opportunity of meeting Mr NK Chaudhury, the founder of Jaipur Rugs at a training on 'Sustainability', where he had kindly agreed to come and share about Jaipur Rugs approach to Business and Life.  I hadn't heard of Jaipur Rugs then and wondered what's the big deal.  Mr Chaudhury - NKC - as he is referred to by his family and friends - made a presentation - mostly speaking in Hindi.  His story is quite an inspiring story - here is a brief view.

In 1976, NKC started working on the hand-woven carpets by 1978 he had two looms and 4 families engaged in the production near Jaipur, Rajasthan.  In 1981, he started exporting formally.  Over the period of time he has been able to expand his production base to eight states in India, and now engages over 40,000 weavers across India.  They produce over 1million sq ft of carpet/rugs annually!  They only export!  Exporting to over 25 countries.

The carpets are all hand-woven and NKC realized very early that this quality product had much higher valuation in Western countries and he based his business model on that.  Jaipur Rugs is a family business with 2 of NKC's daughters (educated in US) driving the business primarily.  The elder daughter is the CEO and focuses on customer connect.  The younger one is the designer who brings out innovation from amongst the weavers to create new designs for customers.

Since I saw and spoke with Mr Chaudhary in person - I was amazed at his down-to-earth approach to life, the simplistic manner in which he focuses on his business.  In response to questions on what he feels is his mantra for success, he gave the following key messages:
1. Work directly with people:  When he started, people from his community outcasted him since he used to go and live with weavers from lower castes.  However, he did not give up on his approach and continues to go and live with the weavers today - as he feels that is the only way to develop people and also best understand them.
2.  Every one has ability and talent - we need to spot it and bring it out.  From his experience of living with the people, he says that each and everyone has something in them and it was his effort, learning, and challenge to figure out the abilities and nurture them.  Big thing is to give confidence to the people that they have the ability in them.
3.  Everything/every solution is inside us:  he is a practitioner of the belief that solutions to all problems and challenges lie within us.  He kept repeating the importance of introspection.  He said that when he reflected on himself, his approach, his attitude, his learning - he was able to build solutions to even people not working or being able to deliver quality work. 
4. Stay connected with customers always as the expectation and requirements change with time.  Bring the customer view to the development people/weavers regularly.

Jaipur Rugs story fascinated even CK Prahalad and he wrote a chapter on it in his famous book "Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid".  You can check out more on the company itself on their website.

Of course there is lots to learn from this simple man with simple dreams but big achievements and he encourages people to connect with him and his company, visit their production areas and in fact he proudly spoke of how students from many colleges visit them regularly.  So take the opportunity if you can!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Life - Like Riding a Bicycle

Whether its making a social venture work, or a regular business -- one is constantly striving for sustainability and balance.  I am calling this 'life' as we all anyway spend most of our living time doing this.

I just found an analogy from Dr Yash Pal's book - Random Curiosity (a collection of questions from children and youth about life and observations of phenomena and simple but scientific researched answers from Prof Yash Pal).  Prof Mashelkar (ex-CSIR Head and Scientist) in his tribute shares how Prof YashPal  in a response to question - why are we able to balance a moving bicycle as compared to one that is stationary - provides not only a simple physics explanation but also a philosophical understanding relating the riding of bike to life. 

The key point to note here is that a person has to continue to turn the pedal and keep the bike moving for it to stay stable/balanced versus trying to balance a stationary bike.

The fact that we need to pedal and move to keep the balance points to three key aspects of achieving sustainability in life:
1) Life is dynamic - balance comes with active movement,
2) We need to have a rhythm and regular action on the right set of activities
3) We need to focus on a distance away from the immediate and let the handle be held loosely only to be firmed up during bumps and turns.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year Every Day!

New day, new beginning!

As the new year dawns, the calendar is reset to begin from the beginning, the clock too starts afresh.  Only the moments gone by never repeat. 

Each moment that has been 'lived' builds our legacy.  Each moment that is waiting to come, brings an opportunity to create a legacy.

I determine to sieze every possible moment in this new day of the fresh calendar towards a worthwhile legacy!