Some of them had modest holdings that they consolidated and expanded, the others started from scratch. They are living proof that a big dream, some finance and a great deal of enterprise can lead to a successful business. While the stories of Anjan Chatterjee, who gave up a career in advertising to start Mainland China, and Lovey Burman, the lady behind Kookie Jar, are well-known, the faces behind other leading new-age brands from the state are...
Name: Anargha Chowdhury
Company: Anjali Jewellers Pvt Ltd
Joined in: 1999
Business style: Chowdhury started going to his family’s jewellery shop at a young age. “The first time I handled a sale was when I was 12 years old. After my ISC exams I joined the business,” he says. “I don’t have an MBA degree. But I bond with the customers and the staff. I involve my staff in the decision-making.”
Chowdhury relies heavily on his gut-feeling. “I wanted to open a showroom before the Puja. Others in the team thought that we should do it later, but I insisted and it paid off,” he says.
“Earlier the business was more personalised. Now one needs to stress more on the products. And you have to make the most of opportunities like the Pujas and Valentine’s Day.”
Growth curve: Anjali Jewellers had one showroom in Gariahat when Chowdhury joined the business. Today it has five showrooms across the city. “I introduced diamond jewellery in a big way in 1999. After Chokher Bali, we designed jewellery for Bollywood films like Parineeta and Ekalavya. Business has grown 10 times.”
Chowdhury has also entered the realm of real estate. “Anjali Estates and Developers has built residential flats around Ruby hospital and our first commercial complex is coming up in Behala.”
Plans: Consolidating the real estate business and taking the jewellery business beyond Calcutta.
Name: Sanjoy Kumar Ghosh
Company: Transceivers India Ltd, which owns the brand Simoco
Started in: 1994. Simoco was added in 2001.
Business style: “In business two things are needed: passion, and a dream. You need to assess your strengths and know where you need help,” says the man who had started out as an employee in a telecommunications company, but left when he had differences with the management.
The Shibpur BE college graduate has an exposure to the technical side and product manufacture, as well as finances and management. “In a technology business one has to keep updating oneself to survive,” says Ghosh.
Growth curve: “When I started I had only Rs 6,800 in the bank. I took loans from the open market at a very high interest rate,” he remembers. The first year’s turnover was Rs 7 crore. There were only 15 employees then.
Today he has offices in New Delhi, Mumbai, Nagpur, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bhubaneswar, Ranchi, Patna and Guwahati. The wireless market was stagnating, but Ghosh added Simoco to the company in 2001. It started manufacturing mobile phones in 2006. “This year our turnover from Simoco Telecom was Rs 50-60 crore. By next year we hope to make it Rs 150 crore.”
Plans: To strengthen the GSM handset division. “We are also entering the mobile infrastructure segment, which involves construction of towers and composite site management,” he says.
Name: Darshan Shah
Company: Weavers Studio
Started in: 1993
Business style: “I depend on gut feeling. Integrity, a clear mission statement, aims and objectives, a target and paying everybody on time are rules that I follow,” says Shah.
She does not involve herself in everything. “I delegate responsibility with accountability. I am in the over-seeing role,” she says. Her team is important. “I have trained my people through workshops and interactive sessions. Today aggressive marketing has become very important for success.”
Growth curve: The boutique Weavers Studio was born in 1993. In 1995 was started the production unit Rangeen. Veda Commercials, the family’s export unit for jute, was taken over by Shah in 1994 and changed into a textile export unit of the company. The Weavers Studio Centre for the Arts, an art space, was opened in 2007. The Weavers Studio Resource Centre is coming up. “Our first year’s turnover was Rs 25 lakh. We have shown a steady 10-15 per cent increase every year. Today the company’s turnover is about Rs 9 crore,” says Shah.
Plans: “More work with people at the grassroots level and sharing the infrastructure we have built up.”
Name: Natasha Agarwal Roy
Company: Mama Mia
Started in: 2005
Business style: Has a hands-on approach. “I am involved with both the production and the business side. I do the conceptualisation and the research and then let my production guys take over,” she says.
Her business mantra is to offer something new to the customer all the time. “A new flavour is introduced at Mama Mia every week,” she says. So from gelato, she moved on to gelato cakes, frappes and even coffee, informs the business school graduate from the UK, who has also trained in making gelato in Italy.
Growth curve: From the first cafe at Alipore, Natasha has expanded to a second one on Ballygunge Circular Road and six outlets across the city. A third Mama Mia cafe is coming up on Hungerford Street and two more outlets at South City and Mani Square.
Plans: The lady wants to enter more into the frozen dessert segment. “I want to take Mama Mia outside Calcutta.”
Name: Naveen Pai
Company: Pai’s Foods Pvt. Ltd
Started in: 2001
Business style: “Interest in what you are dealing with makes a success of your business,” says Pai, whose interest is coffee. “We sell leisure. Everything from the ambience to the flavour of the coffee has to be perfect and I take care of it all. In fact, finance is not one of my strong points.”
Growth curve: “I started with one vending machine in Bakes and Cakes. Then a small counter at Bengal Rowing Club. After that came the first cafe on Camac Street,” says Pai. Today the company has two cafes, two Melange lounge cafes and a stake in Blue Potato.
“The turnover was Rs 70,000 in the first year. The company turnover now is Rs 1.5 crore,” smiles the businessman.
Plans: A third Melange is coming up in Samilton hotel. A multi-cuisine restaurant is being set up at Durgapur. “I want to take Coffee Pai to the national level,” says Pai.
Name: K.D. Paul
Company: Aparna Group, a distribution company that owns the Biskfarm brand of biscuits
Started in: Aparna Group was started in 1974 as a trading company that distributed Nestle, Amul, Henkel, Dabur and other products. Biskfarm was born in 2000.
Business style: An entrepreneur who believes in team effort. “I take my staff and workers into confidence. We are all colleagues in the company,” says Paul. The trust has paid off. “We don’t have a trade union in our company.”
Paul believes in delegating responsibility. “I have given the responsibility of marketing and finance to my son and son-in-law. I look after the production,” he says.
Growth curve: His success as a distributor of other companies encouraged him to enter manufacturing. “We started from scratch with the first factory in the Uluberia Industrial Growth Centre. We have another factory in Sankrail Food Park and a total capacity of 3,500 tonnes,” says a proud Paul.
Though he hails from a business family, what he inherited was nothing compared to the empire he has built. “My father had a small trading business, but I got little after the property was divided. I started Aparna Group in 1974 with what I got,” he says. The company’s turnover from trading today is more than Rs 230 crore and from manufacturing Rs 200 crore.
Plans: “We are set to start a factory in Siliguri.”
Name: Arijit Dutta
Company: Priya Entertainment Pvt. Ltd
Started in: 1995
Business style: “I listen to my heart,” says Dutta firmly. He admits that there have been times when this has backfired, but reasons: “I need to feel interested in a project. Sometimes many might feel that I have lost a lucrative opportunity, but it has not appealed to me.”
Growth curve: Dutta joined the family business in 1990, when he owned only one movie theatre, Priya, at Deshapriya Park. Soon he started distributing films too and Priya Entertainment Pvt. Ltd was born in 1995.
“We are perhaps the only distribution company in the world that has the rights of two of the three big Hollywood studios, Paramount and Sony, and also Walt Disney because of its association with Sony,” he laughs.
The company has also started distributing for UTV and others. It also runs Geetanjali Cultural Complex, Krishti Cultural Complex, Vidyasagar Bhavan and now Star Theatre. “We’ll be opening Annapurna Cinema at Sonarpur soon.”
Plans: “I want to venture into eco-tourism. And I am looking at some theatre contracts,” he says.
Real estate ropes
Name: Sumit Dabriwala
Company: United Credit Belani Group, the builder of Hiland Park
Started in: 1997
Business style: This entrepreneur counts passion for his job as his best quality. “I love what I am doing. My weakness is that I am a bad negotiator,” says Dabriwala.
“In the real estate business you can see the changes from one day to the other, unlike manufacturing where it takes time to see the results,” he says. “It has a profound impact on people and cities. And in India what you create continues for generations. I involve myself with every part of the project, from the design to the construction.”
His family too was in the construction business, so in college, he used to visit sites but not the kind of big projects that he likes to do now.
Growth curve: “We started with nothing and are now managing projects worth Rs 3,500 crores,” says Dabriwala. Hiland Park was the company’s first big project. It is now working on Hiland Woods, Hiland Willows, Calcutta Riverside and others.
Plans: “I would like to build larger places and address townships,” he says.
Name: M.K. Jalan
Company: Keventer Agro Ltd, which owns Metro Dairy
Started in: 1986. Metro Dairy was born in 1993
Business style: The B.Com and B-school graduate counts marketing as an important part of business today. “I focus on marketing and finance, though I am also involved in the HRD and purchase,” says Jalan. “You have to understand the time and the market to be able to grow.”
Growth curve: Keventer Agro started with fruit juice and edible oils, among other things, and finally moved to milk and ice cream with Metro Dairy. The company has a turnover of Rs 450 crore. The family has also been exporting stainless steel since 1978.
Plans: Real estate
Fowl is fair
Name: Prasun Kumar Roy
Company: Arambagh Hatcheries Ltd
Started in: 1973. Roy joined the company in 1974.
Business style: Having established the business, Roy now believes in delegating responsibility. “I am only in policy-making and consultative role now. I am enjoying life. But one thing we follow in the company is that everyone is approachable,” he says.
Growth curve: The family’s agro-based BK Roy Group has been there since 1942, but Roy joined Arambagh a year after it was started. “The turnover then was Rs 5 lakh, today it is Rs 200 crore. From an employee strength of five, we now have 1,500 people working for us,” he says.
For the first 15 years business was restricted to Bengal. “Then our production base expanded to Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, and at present our sales is concentrated in Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, the Northeast and of course Bengal,” says Roy.
Plans: To venture more into food-related business. “We want to open more restaurants and convenience stores,” says Roy.
Just do it
Name: Bikram Dasgupta
Started in: 1996
Business style: “We need a platform to improve, harness and develop youngsters for the knowledge economy, and make them excel globally. In spite of a large number of companies coming up around us, our attrition rate is one of the lowest,” says Dasgupta.
Growth curve: Started with two companies, Globsyn Webel Ltd and Globsyn Technologies Ltd. He created Infinity, the first intelligent workspace in the state. Globsyn Technologies started Asia’s first software finishing school in Calcutta.
“We were the first to come up with a programme that picked up fresh engineers from any discipline and converted them to IT engineers,” he recalls. In 2002 he started Globsyn Business School. In 2004, the Globsyn BPO Academy, and a range of finishing schools for the knowledge economy. Globsyn Infotech acquired Synergy Login Systems (Synlog). In 2006 the company’s second real estate project, Globsyn Crystals, was launched.
Plans: “We will keep empowering the youth for the knowledge economy,” says Dasgupta.
A new script
Name: Joy B. Ganguly
Company: Moxie Entertainments Pvt. Ltd
Started in: 2006
Business style: “I am not just the financier. I am a producer involved in every stage of film-making, from conceptualisation to the last print marketing and distribution. The Bong Connection was my concept,” says the management graduate in IT and media arts from the US.
Ganguly claims credit for having brought some structure to the Bengali film industry. “We worked out very detailed contracts with everyone and put everything on paper,” he says.
Growth curve: “We had invested Rs 1 crore in The Bong Connection and broke even. Our market capital has grown four times. My two upcoming films Via Darjeeling and BBD have budgets that are on a par with any medium-budget Bollywood film,” says Ganguly.
Plans: Via Darjeeling and BBD will be releasing this year. Other films are on the anvil.