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Monday, June 08, 2009 12:36:52 PM, Aleem Faizee

 

Lalit Shah MD Oasis Ceramics Jalgaon

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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 eventuality.”

 

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 1996.

 

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)

 

 

 

 

 

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