First project in construction was renovation worth Rs 25,000 for a Forest Department office, after which I started taking small contracts.
I didn't want to work for anyone, so entrepreneurshiphad always been an option for me. Much against the wishes of my family, I decided to start a business immediately after graduating from the NagpurMahavidyalaya. My father was working as a senior clerk with the Department of Statistics, while my mother was a teacher.
As far as they were concerned, a secure job in a government agency was the best option for a 21-year-old. However, I had made up my mind and began looking for a good, feasible business idea. I finally zeroed in on air coolers. My hometown, Nagpur, is known for its extreme weather, with the temperature soaring to 47 degree Celsius in summer. So, in 1984, I thought of setting up an air cooler business from my home.
With a seed capital of Rs 3,000—I borrowed Rs 2,000 from my mother and added the savings from my pocket money—I bought things like an air box, copper wires and air tubes for assembling air coolers. My first client was a relative, who had been planning to buy an air cooler for a long time. Since my offer price was much lower than that in the market, I convinced him to buy my product. To sweeten the deal, I also offered him a two-year warranty.
That was the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey. I made a net profit of around Rs 1,000 per cooler, selling 80-100 units every summer. Over the next four years, word-of-mouth publicity helped me to expand my customer base beyond the relatives, neighbours and friends. While the business was booming, I began to encounter two problems.
One, my business was seasonal, and two, my margins had begun to fall due to the increasing competition. So, by 1989-90, I started thinking of changing the line of business. Fortuitously, around this time, I found out that one of the offices of the Forest Department in Nagpur required minor renovation and repair. The work would have cost around Rs 25,000, and though I had never ventured into this line, I took up the challenge. Since it was my first job in the field, I wasn't bothered about the margin.