People react to tough times in different ways. There are some who just can't take the pressure, blame the fate & succumb. And there are others, who face all the challenges with a positive approach, ensure that their ethics and values are never compromised; and emerge winners. Mr. Kanaiyo Manhar Thakkar [KM Thakkar] is one of the latter!
Beginning to work in the early 90's with earning just a few thousand by doing data entry to heading a business worth Rs. 4900 million; from the humble beginnings of a small business man to the most respected person in the society; has been a long and an interesting journey!
Responsibilities came on KM’s shoulders very early in life. He was just 22 when he lost his father, Mr. Manhar Thakkar, who passed away during a heart surgery. “Suddenly our whole world turned upside down. My father was a Chartered Accountant holding a very senior position at GMDC. He was just 56 years old, and while he had started planning for his retirement and future, things were not fully in place yet. When my father passed away, the change in our lifestyle was sudden. We had 3 government cars in the house and in just 15 days they were all gone. We had one personal car but we had sold that during the treatment of my father. His salary income suddenly stopped, we found that we hardly had any savings and things looked bleak.” KM had just completed Law after B.Com, and was preparing for CA; when he had to adapt to this new situation.
At this juncture KM took the dual responsibility of doing a job during the day and data entry work at night. “My father had bought us a basic computer – a Hewlett Packard 286SX. It was a basic model but it was a big help to us. I used to do data entry work at night. I would source data entry projects during the day, go to my job, sell insurance ... anything that brought in money. What got us through this phase of our lives was the very positive attitude of the entire family.”
In the early 90’s, KM and his brother started financial consultancy – specifically truck financing. "The funding was done by the bank and we became the facilitators, helping arrange loans for customers and we would get a small fees for our expertise" he reveals.
In 1993-94, a number of finance companies entered the market and started focussing on financing passenger cars. "We too started to get into car financing. However, the problem was that cars were in short supply. We decided to look at this as an opportunity. "We became a one-stop solution for anyone wanting to buy a car. We would arrange for the car, it's funding, insurance, registration ... everything. Along the way, we innovated and overcame problems. We opened a chain of branches all over Gujarat and became the only Direct Selling Associate with a state-wide network. "If any customer was not able to get a car from anywhere, we ensured to supply it in 24 hours. We became a good corporate DSA, the dealer was happy, financer happy ... and so were we!" Customer convenience has been at the heart of KM’s approach to business since then.
KM had now learnt to keep a constant eye on the way the business climate changes. "One has to be ready to change in case a situation so desires. One can’t just rest on the laurels of the past." he says.
In 1995 KM joined a private company as the CEO. With huge expansion plans in mind, he wanted to tap the capital market and got the company ready for a public offer but as fate would have it, the capital markets collapsed.
"At that time I could have scaled down the operations and continue as a CEO with a nice salary. But that was not my style. I am a growth driven person, I cannot be happy with stagnancy. So I put in my resignation. When asked why, I explained that I must ensure that I give the company a return of at least 10 times my salary – which was not possible in the current scenario. Although the company tried to retain me, I quit the job. This fair-minded attitude has helped me a lot to become successful in life." he states proudly.
In 1999 the possibility of getting a TVS (two-wheeler) dealership emerged. To ensure that he started on a sound footing, KM went to take the advice of a prominent car dealer [whom he till today considers his guru.]. "I learnt a very important lesson" he confides. "He told me to go ahead and take the dealership as it was very low risk venture. Under one roof, he told me, there will be 3 businesses. If you are able to sell two-wheelers, great. If not, there will be sale of spare parts, accessories, or you can do servicing of the two-wheelers. Some or the other thing will work out, you won’t be unhappy."
KM started with the TVS dealership continuing with his focus on customer care. "Today we have around 8 branches and contribute to more than 50% of the business of TVS in Ahmedabad. There are 6 dealers but the combined sale of the balance 5 is equal to ours!"
In 2003 Thakkar brothers got dealership for Ford Motors. The ride onto 4 wheelers had just begun!
While things were on the upswing on the business front, the picture was painful on the personal front. His brother was diagnosed with leukaemia and was under treatment for a long time. He passed away in 2007. This was once again a huge emotional set back.
In 2007 KM Thakkar got Honda dealership and today he has 7 dealerships of Honda cars and 6 dealerships of two-wheelers. "We have over 2,00,000 happy customers with very high customer satisfaction levels." he says.
The latest feather in KM’s cap is the Mercedes-Benz dealership which he started recently. "We have established one of India’s largest showroom facility with all services under one roof right in the heart of Ahmedabad, so it’s a great convenience to customers. Our Mercedes-Benz facility has the Gujarat’s first & India’s second S Class lounge."
KM’s advice to the youth is straightforward: Play some sport. Do not compromise on important things in your life, stick to your basics, be constant in doing things and do not give up. It will eventually result in success.