Belonging to a 100 year old family run business by the name of Indian Handicrafts Emporium & Ivory Mart Jewellers, life is like a page out of The Jungle Book.
From where I see it, old establishments are surviving or have survived only because of our old timbers. There are couple of them at-least in a huge joint business like ours who go out there and do the job & build the structure so concrete that it shelters generations working now as well as generations under process.
I am a 4th generation guy working actively/collectively/hopefully sensibly, with the vision of taking the legacy forward.
Each youngster in such a setup thinks he can make a difference to the business, though he hardly made one in his studies. Anyways I knew at the back of my mind (wherever that is), that no matter how bad I score I will end up in the family pile up. Grass is always green on the other side, and so a lot of people thought it’ll be easier for me to work in an environment that is well established. But everything has it’s pros n cons.
It’s difficult for a 4th gener to be heard about how he thinks the business needs a facelift. Now a family cannot just keep changing with every generation. Old people don’t like too many changes, specially those who have built the empire all by themselves. In my case my father has 8 brothers, can you imagine! (hats off to my Grand Dad & Grand Mom) Our business is run by all eight brothers and their offsprings including me. Now try getting heard here. ;)
The other problem for new kids entering old established business is that we all go abroad, study, learn the modern techniques, get over confident- over excited to come back and perform at our father’s workplace. We just forget that India is a unique marketplace, quite unlike a lot globally. I myself faced this major issue. People here don’t care about the quality or all the other things related to it, they just want a big diamond which suits their price. Size matters here. They should be able to loudspeak the fact that their husbands just got poorer buying them such a big rock.
In family businesses, elders might not always be very accessible. We have 4 stores in Delhi and reaching out to learn from everyone was next to impossible. So the biggest help initially was getting a tab on what we sell. First step in any business for a new comer should be to know what they are selling or what exactly the company does.
Thus, first I got myself a degree from Gemological Institute of America, which really played a major role in handling customers. Best is when a supplier does not know that you have done a professional course from GIA and tend to take you to be a small puppy which cannot bite. Whereas the puppy is smiling inside and thinking that I am the dog buddy, you wait and watch. And this kind of confidence comes with the right knowledge needed for your trade.
We are all brimming with enthusiasm and fresh ideas but I personally feel that one has to just wait for his/her time. The new gen should first try to grasp & swallow all the practical knowledge. Oldies are masters at that. Try to keep a low profile and learn the way they do business, talk to customers, the confidence, the authority over the customer, the way they conduct themselves. All these skills are very important for the young ones to catch onto which no institute will teach.
End of the day, family businesses have their own pros and cons. Life might look way more easier and rosier this side but there are no free lunches anywhere my dear.
My family will disown me if they read this !!!!
Guest Author is Purusharth Aggarwal, Partner at Indian Handicrafts Emporium & Ivory Mart Jewellers who joined his family business 10 years back at the age of 22, sharing his side of the story on how it is to work in an established business vs. establishing a business.