Servo Packaging Ltd, founded in 1996, has become a global pioneer in the plastic and packaging field in the last two decades. The ISO 9001:2008-certified company has diversified its business verticals in that time. Recognised as Star Export House by the government of India, the company serves more than 500 industry clients across the globe, including India, Southeast Asia, Latin and South America, East Europe and Africa. With a total output of 40,000MT per year, the company produces PP/HDPE woven bags and flexible laminated printed rolls and pouches to cater the various sectors.
Recalling his struggles and journey, Suresh shares, “We have been in this business for the last 40 years. We started with woven bags and then switched to plastic packaging as our customers began to use plastic/synthetic packs and insisted we manufacture plastic woven packs instead. We set up our first factory for plastic woven packs in Pondicherry, Kerala. And slowly, we moved to polyethylene packs, followed by introducing forward and backward integration in 2006 to develop our expertise in manufacturing and supplying master-batches of high-grade quality, which is also a raw material for our in-house production. We are supplying our product to sugar, fertilizer and chemical sectors. Today, we are an ISO-certified company with two plants in Pondicherry and Kolkata, apart from a subsidiary unit.”
Stepping into his father’s shoes is a childhood dream for any son, but adhering to those values and proving his mettle does not come easy, especially when it is about handling an established business empire. Speaking about his involvement in his father’s business, Sisir recalls, “During my school and college years my father was expanding the business and decided to set up the Kolkata unit. Since I was based out of Kolkata, I used to assist him. Gradually, I developed experience and an interest in the business and joined full time after finishing my education. Whatever we are, whatever we have achieved, is related to our interests only. We brothers somehow have gotten interested in plastic innovation only, and hence, diversified the business from our father’s umbrella enterprise unit into different verticals.”
It is a proud moment for any entrepreneur to see his successor as his son or family member, but whether this transition goes well with the staff and customers is a worry. “In my case, it was smooth, because our customers’ businesses also witnessed the same generational shift. And our next generation is now dealing with their next generation,” claims Suresh.
Maintaining the legacy
While a clear communication strategy is necessary for successful business planning, it is also equally important to value the opinion of others for earning the respect and trust of employees. True succession is based on inherited value, culture and vision from the old guards, believes Suresh. He says, “Though, they have learned with the experience, and I say three things that they should never forget in business. First is commitment with the customers and the employees. Whatever commitment you make, give everything to honour it. The second thing is modernisation; we have to upgrade the technology behind machines with time. The third is to explore the possibility for business growth to stay in the competition.”
Nurturing an enterprise requires a blend of high business acumen and interpersonal skills, which helps in motivating colleagues and workers towards a common objective. “I take everybody’s views in while making decisions. Even if one person is in disagreement with the decision, we take that into consideration. Either we convince them, or get convinced by their perspective. All of my sons are directors in the company, and we have one director from outside the family,” avers Suresh.
Changes are evident for any business house to grow, and this is the most difficult part to implement in a set organisation, because everyone needs to come out of his or her comfort zone. “Luckily for us, the transition remained a smooth process across the verticals due to the basic values imbibed by my father into the organisation, including his principles, policies, goodwill, customer-buyer relationships, market value and reputation,” says Sisir.
“Changes happen all the time, and it is a collective business decision after all. If there are issues, we sit together and find a resolution. Back in the 1990s, bank financing or borrowing were not a part of our expansion plans. We used to get money from private lenders. But, I pursued the process of formal lending into my business, and today we are trusted partners of some of the leading banks, which also eased rolling out of our business expansion plans,” he continues.
Value that bond
When there is a generation gap, difference of opinion and subsequent friction is obvious, especially while taking business decisions. When your boss is also your father, drawing a clear line sometimes gets difficult. Comparing his father’s persona in office and at home, Sisir opines, “I do not find any critical difference, whether he is in office or at home; he guides me at both places and in both roles. He does not really try to be something or don different hats at different times. Whatever I am is all because of him, be it in personal or professional life. It is only because of him, his legacy and constant mentoring at each and every stage of life. He has been an inspiration in all aspects of my life.”
Accepting newer skills and learning are critical for the future of a business. One needs to be humble enough in understating and giving due diligence to this fact. Recognising the role played by gen-next and its entrepreneurial skills, Suresh says, “Definitely, the younger generation learns and implements new business concepts very quickly, which is the need of the hour and also helps the business grow. It could be technology aspects, management lessons, or tackling regulatory and financing agencies. Things and procedures change with time, so do the business and business leaders.”
Business Tips by Suresh Jalan
First thing, keep your commitment with customers and lenders; secondly, stay updated with the current trends; and thirdly, do the business within your capacity and never go for anything that is beyond your limitations.