These dynamic father-son duos are scripting business success

Meet three father-son pairs who have taken their businesses to dizzying heights due to their mutual understanding and strong bonding

   
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“It’s a father’s duty to give his sons a fine chance.” When George Eliot, the English novelist wrote this, she was probably delving deep into the core of a relationship that calls for candour, understanding and a bonding based on mutual care and respect.

In business families, this relationship can take a more mature form and assume new emotional dynamics. The tie-up could come about quite naturally; or at times, it may also require some effort from both sides to nurture it. However, what matters most is that this coming-together becomes a part of the larger scheme of things that take the business to dizzying heights.

To mark this Father’s Day, SME Futures finds out how three father-son duos have forged strong partnerships to establish their business empires, what were the challenges that they faced and how they are carving a path to success with their hard work and vision.

GM Packers aka Tulsi Tea

Tulsi Tea, a tea brand sold by GM Tea Packers Private Limited, is a household name for lakhs of Gujaratis. It was started in 1981 by Gordhanbhai Kathrotiya and Haresh Kathrotiya. It has grown at a consistent pace to become one of the largest and most popular tea companies in the state.

This father-son duo has shown everyone the right way to work out a collaboration and make it a success. There are more than 430 distributors and over 50,000 retail outlets of Tulsi Tea across Gujarat today. They have also built a strong distribution and retail network to ensure that Tulsi Tea is easily available.

How did they strike a partnership?

“The formation of our business partnership was the result of a combination of factors and circumstances, driven by both deliberate decision-making and organic growth. It all began with my father, Gordhanbhai Kathrotiya, who owned a provisions store and dedicated long hours to its operations. He had a deep desire for his son to pursue a different path and avoid the demanding work hours he experienced,” says Haresh Kathrotiya, MD, GM Tea Packers Pvt Ltd.

Gordhanbhai Kathrotiya says he explored various businesses, including wholesale trading of edible oil and sugar. Despite initial setbacks, his unwavering determination and entrepreneurial spirit led him to consider the tea distribution business after observing the popularity of the tea that he sold at their Kirana store.

“He encouraged me to explore the tea business, providing me with the courage, inspiration, and invaluable teachings necessary to embark on this new journey,” Haresh reminisces.

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Were there generational gaps?

Haresh explains, “Generational gaps are an inherent part of any family business, and our partnership is no exception.”

“From the very beginning, I had dreams, aspirations, and certain wishes that differed from my father’s more straightforward and humble approach. This disparity became apparent especially when it came to our marketing strategies and the need to showcase our business in a competitive market,” he adds.

But with time, these gaps got plugged.

Today, their shared commitment to the success of their business has created a routine of performance-driven decision-making, where their collaborative efforts are based on a “foundation of mutual trust and respect”.

“Working as a team with my father has been an incredible journey filled with unique dynamics and emotions,” Haresh underlines. “The foundation of our teamwork lies in the ideology of prioritising customer-centricity and ensuring customer satisfaction,” the duo says, adding, “The experience of relying on each other’s strengths and expertise is both empowering and humbling.”

“Our shared ideologies and thought processes have guided our approach, enabling us to effectively manage and leverage any overlap in responsibilities,” says Haresh.

“By aligning our efforts, leveraging our complementary strengths, and embracing a shared vision, we are confident in our ability to achieve our aspirations,” the duo points out.

The Rug Republic

The Rug Republic started from a garage in Meerut with six weavers in 1983. The small carpet making operation launched by entrepreneurs JK Gupta and Meenakshi Gupta has today turned into an industry leader, supporting around 5,000 families, and supplying rugs to more than 90 countries across six continents.

The eco-friendly rugs of The Rug Republic (TRR) are popular and have a global appeal. Being the only global brand of handmade Indian rugs, poufs and accessories, TRR promotes the philosophy of reduce, recycle, reinvent and be creative while saving the planet. It has made some amazing products from recycled materials and fabrics such as denim, PET plastic bottles, etc.

Just like Aditya Gupta, a name to reckon with in the world of furniture and home décor manufacturing, converted his father’s small business set-up in Meerut into a multi-crore brand name, his son Raghav is now taking the TRR brand to newer heights. Raghav is on a mission to transform the outlook towards recycled products across the world.

Raghav Gupta, The Rug Republic’s (TRR) Director of eCommerce, started as a marketing intern in 2017. Since then, the TRR has been fighting environmental degradation by recycling plastics into carpets. Both Aditya and Raghav are now driving innovation by recycling bicycle tubes, PET yarn extracted from recycled water bottles, recycled silk yarn, and other multi-fibre textiles, to create unique and vibrant rugs and carpets.

How did they strike a partnership?

The partnership between Aditya and his son Raghav happened gradually. Raghav never had any plans to join the business.

“It’s not something I planned to do while I was in college, but I figured that it was a very good way to gain experience and learn the ropes. Before I knew it, I started enjoying it,” says Raghav.

Raghav tried to find a space within the organisation. When he found a foothold, he started giving a new direction to the brand, got into e-commerce and expanded the company’s footprint on an international scale.

Aditya gave his son the freedom to plan and execute, since he believed in him.

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Were there generational gaps?

Even though the working style of both differed, there was a mutual respect for each other’s way of functioning. The differences don’t matter if the results are accomplished, and the targets are met.

But there are also times when everything doesn’t fall into place. Raghav says, “Not all days will be good but that shouldn’t come in the way of the relationship outside of work. Of course, in small-medium sized family businesses like ours, having two people at the helm instead of one is an absolute game changer.”

Talking about the overlap of roles, he points out, “Business owners can hardly have clearly defined roles as both involvement and supervision are required in every single department.”

Aditya always lends a fair ear to his son, so Raghav knows that even in the case of a disagreement between the two, his opinion will not be ignored and will be taken into consideration.

Both want their business to flourish and grow rapidly and want to foray into new product offerings and geographies.

Pansari Group

The Pansari Group’s roots go back to the 1940s when a small grocery store-Pansari ki Dukan-was opened in Poata, Rajasthan. Today, the group is a FMCG giant. However, it has a remarkable presence in various other industries as well. It’s their vision to build a health-centric food products company for home cooking with products ranging from edible oils to instant mixes. Today, they have over 729 distributors and more than 145,527 retailers.

Kamal Agarwal took over the business from his father and now Kamal’s son Shammi Agarwal is its director. The duo is always striving to achieve more through technology and innovation. The Agarwals keep a close eye on the consumers’ ever-evolving needs and adapt readily to changing circumstances.

How did they strike a partnership?

The business had been going on for generations, but it wasn’t much of a brand until 2011. That is when Shammi was inspired to switch the business from B2B to B2C.

“We were solely in the manufacturing business; however, building it into a brand was always a dream at the back of our minds. By 2011, when I joined the family business, we had extra manpower, so we organically came up with the idea of categorizing our work within the business where my father would handle the manufacturing and processing units while I took care of the sales and marketing,” says Shammi.

The road to even start it as a brand was not easy but Shammi put in the hard work and his father stood by him during this time. Kamal is always there by his son’s side to make sure that he is fine and emotionally stable.

“There once came an instance when the business suffered a financial loss. The senior management of the company forced me to switch back to B2B but fortunately, my father and uncle trusted me and supported me on the grounds that ‘there are no failures, it’s always learning’,” Shammi reminisces.

This was very motivating for Shammi as a young entrepreneur and till date, the duo has worked as a team, vowing “to respect each other’s differences through discussions”.

Kamal says, “We, as elders, also learn from the younger generation as they bring in new technology, which has helped transform our business into a brand. The new agenda, new packaging, and techniques they bring to the business add energy to the brand.”

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Were there generational gaps?

Shammi says, “I am of the opinion that the generation gap is good as it helps us to innovate in the business with minimized risks. Like in every other father-son relationship, there is a difference in mindset between us as the younger generation is usually optimistic and works quite aggressively, whereas the older generation is more conscious and keeps checking, which enables the brand to flourish.”

Kamal always gave a free hand to his son for trying out new strategies and this helped their business to grow.

The duo says that they bridged the gaps in their collaboration through trust and respect. “My father trusted me with trying out new ideas as some amount of risk is necessary to build something new,” Shammi avers.

The duo has clearly defined roles where Shammi looks after the sales and branding while Kamal looks after the manufacturing and bulk orders. However, there are instances when their roles overlap, especially over the pricing of their products.

“Conflicts and differences are bound to arise, but we do not see these conflicts negatively as they give space to brainstorming and innovation. As of now, we have partnered with hotels and restaurants and have a common goal to become a known brand in every household,” Shammi asserts as he signs off.

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