When I joined my family pulse processing business, 18 years ago, I faced several systematic issues pertaining to non-availability of commodities, abnormal losses during storage, bad crop protection, and unavailability of the structured finance. These issues caused me to look for solutions. This, in turn, led to the birth of the SLCM Group (Sohan Lal Commodity Management) in its present form, thus keeping the family lineage intact, as the name signifies.
The Group is doing pretty well, showing promising growth. But the journey has not been that easy. It taught me some lessons, through both my good and bad decisions. Today, we’re in a stable situation, so it seems apt to share some of these hard-won lessons, which might be useful to many young minds eager to do something different on their own.
Others will only believe in you if you believe in yourself. To convince people, and execute your idea well, you really need to trust in the idea yourself. You will have to slog day and night, but that should not lessen your conviction in your venture. When I decided to start SLCM, people were not very encouraging. There were apprehensions expressed, not only by family and friends, but also by some peer group companies, who have been operating in the sector for quite some time. The apprehensions were due to the shift in paradigm caused by setting different rules for the sector; I was innovating a concept which was quite exclusive, and was being introduced for the first time. I was devising innovative processes, while others had never considered warehousing a process-driven approach. My biggest challenge was changing perceptions of the sector; it is not very glamorous, and I was trying to bring about an exceptional change in the policy framework as well. Today, the group has brought about a major shift in the sector, by defining processes and completing the entire supply chain with innovative products and services. I am glad that I have been able to deliver what I had planned to.
Human beings are bound to make mistakes. Some decisions will be difficult to take, and it will look impossible to make the right one. You might spend hours in the boardroom without an answer or an outcome. Some might even turn out to be wrong and insignificant. But during the journey, it becomes imperative to ignore the wrongs, and explore the rights and move forward. One example that I can share on this is that during the initial period, I wanted to save costs on branding. But that was a bad decision, as branding was required in order to change perceptions and hence, would not have been an expense, but an investment. In hindsight, this decision delayed the branding exercise, but at the same time, made me realise the importance of perception management. This laid the path for my journey forward.
If your customers are happy and satisfied, growth is bound to happen and success will touch your feet; to any company, they are unpaid endorsements. The focus should be on providing the best possible product to customers, along with the most reliable customer service. At SLCM, I started with the vision of creating state-of-the-art processes, technology, and talent for stakeholders, keeping the customer at the forefront. The perfect example of this is that my first ever customer, who partook of our services in 2009, is still our customer - and a happy one, of course.
Even if you have graduated from a top business school, and have been a topper all throughout your school years, you should be open to suggestions. The power of being the CEO or the MD should not manifest in stubbornness or bossiness, as a good idea can come from anyone, from top management to a trainee, or even from someone not related to your company. Take opinions from everyone if you are uncertain about any decision, but, being a leader, you have to take the final call.
You are going to spend most of your hours with your team. They are your second family. Trust, understanding, and togetherness are the most crucial factors in your company’s growth. In the long run, you will even understand the capabilities of each person and you will grow with them. On the contrary, sometimes you will also have to make the hard decision to part ways with members who aren’t suitable for the company and don’t match the values that you stand for or are trying to create. If it happens, do not defer doing so, as the effects will only be realized in time.
Your startup will need time and dedication, which many times will lead to stress and deteriorated health. So, take care of yourself, and seek ways to distress that rejuvenate your energy. Your startup needs healthy leadership and you should ensure that.
About the Author:
Mr. Sandeep Sabharwal, Group CEO, SLCM. The Group is his entrepreneurial venture, and caters to the agri-logistics sector. It is one of the leading companies in this sector. SLCM manages a technology-enabled network of more than 760 warehouses and 15 cold storages, across 17 states, with a total capacity of over 1.76 million metric tonnes, spread over 9.58 million square feet area, and a throughput of more than 240 million metric tonnes.