If one intends to learn “how to invite
a trouble and come out of it triumphant”, then one must meet Ashwin
Shah aka Lalit Shah of an empire popularly known as Oasis Ceramics
world over. But if you think Lalitbhai is the only one in his family
to do this, you are wrong. He has, in fact, inherited “the art of
first inviting the trouble and then coming out of it like a winner”
from his brother Rajnikant Shah.
Long before Lalitbhai had started his
own manufacturing unit in Jalgaon, his father Jyantilal Shah was
handling a small crockery retail shop since 1952. It was Lalitbhai’s
brother Rajnikant Shah who first invited “the trouble” by dreaming
to become a dealer from a retail shop owner. A very sweet dream
indeed! But the challenges were even bitter. But Rajnikant Shah
remained adamant. No problem if he did not have enough money to have
his own vehicles for traveling. No matter if he didn’t have adequate
communication facilities for marketing. He overpowered every hurdle
that came into his way and successfully used whatever means were
available to him to own advantage.
He traveled and traveled extensively.
It became a routine for him to travel by train, get down at
Chalisgaon Railway Station, borrow a bicycle from outside, approach
the retailers for outstanding amounts, book the new orders, return
the bicycle at Chalisgaon Station and back to Jalgaon again by late
evening train, the lists of the railway stations go on and on. And
soon he triumphed. The transformation from a small retailer to a
dealer was done.
By 1975 their standing in the market
became so well that Hitkari Potteries of Ghaziabad, the only
manufacturing unit of Bone China crockery in India, offered them to
work as its C&F agent for whole of Maharashtra and part of Gujarat.
Things worked fine for them, but in 1990 it was Lalitbhai who
decided to go into the shoes of his brother and experience “a
trouble”. He suggested to Hitkari for dispatching the materials
directly to the dealers so as to save the transportation charges and
other levies. He himself offered to sacrifice a portion of his own
margin to make the prices even more competitive. By this time,
Hitkari’s monopoly was no more in the country and for them the
suggestion came as a blessing.
However, the arrangement, which worked
wonderfully well with Hitkari and its dealers proved detrimental for
Lalitbhai. “The arrangement really worked as a timely shot in the
arm for Hitkari and its dealers. Within months of this arrangement,
their sales rose to the new heights. But like their sales it seems,
their minds also went to new heights. It made them think that they
could do it without our services also”, recalled Lalitbhai. And
Hitkari finally decided to ditch us in 1993. Shocked? “Not at all”,
Lalitbhai said and added, “We in fact already had some inside
reports and indications of what actually was cooking at Hitkari. We
were very much confidant of ourselves and were ready for any
Parted ways with Hitkari, Lalitbhai
started working with Bharat Potteries on even better margins and
yielding even better results. “But like Hitkari, anyone else can
also repeat the same “experiment” with us again. Hence to avoid
that, we silently started working towards setting our own
manufacturing unit”, Lalitbhai said with a rare determination. And
when in 1996, they took the veteran Suresh Dada Jain, a God-Father
like figure to Lalitbhai’s family and a Minister in Maharashtra
Government then, for a surprise visit to their plant, “Dada could
not believe his eyes”, said Lalitbhai with a clear sense of pride
written large in his eyes. Overwhelmed, Suresh Dada himself
requested Eknath Khadse, Finance Minister then, to inaugurate the
plant, the emerging empire that soon became known as Oasis Ceramics
in the crockery business world over. Inauguration done, Oasis
Ceramics issued its first invoice on January 21st in
People with determinations do not
settle for something and sit idle for long. It was now the turn of
Lalitbhai’s other brother Pravin Shah to experience “the trouble”
who was the member of American Ceramics Society. He invited
Lalitbhai for the display of Oasis products range in an exhibition
at Pittsburg in United States. Buoyed by the huge response there,
they started preparing for export. Their dream became a reality when
a UK based company tied with them for potteries in 1998. They
captured the UK market very soon and by 2000 the position in United
Kingdom became such that a Member screamed in the House of Commons,
“Thousands of jobs in UK are at stake due to Oasis”. Some
competitors even filed cases of copyright violations. The whole
issue made the headlines for over two months. But could not
challenge the Oasis, the cases were ultimately withdrawn and Oasis
Ceramics emerged triumphant.
And then there was no more “trouble”.
Just expansions. Oasis Ceramics continued its path towards success.
Orders kept pouring from all around the places and for the fast and
smooth supply of the products, Lalitbhai decided to go for an
expansion. When even this expanded unit in Jalgaon failed to fulfill
the overwhelming demands of their products, he decided to come up
with a totally new manufacturing unit at Ankleshwar in Gujarat with
a capacity to produce ten times more than his Jalgaon Unit. The unit
has already started commercial production. A landmark achievement
again, but does it mean Lalitbhai is going to sit idle after this?
No! Never! Lalitbhai is now gearing up to transform Oasis Ceramics
into a public limited enterprise by June 2010.
But let Oasis Ceramics become a Public
Ltd. Enterprise and let Lalitbhai utilize the complete land of his
Ankleshwar unit in further expansions, such is the demand of the
Oasis products, not only in the country but throughout the world,
that Lalitbhai will surely need many more such units in near future.
And for all his landmark achievements,
Lalitbhai - a very noble man indeed, does not hesitate to express
his gratitude and praise for the kind of support he has received
from his family and his employees, especially his brother Rajnikant
Shah and of course his trusted lieutenant, Satpal Sharma, who had
sacrificed his secured job at Hitkari in order “to experience the
troubles” along with Lalitbhai and is still working with him round
the clock since the day one.
(Jalgoan ICONS, The Times of India)