BY HIMANSHU JHAMB ON DECEMBER 28, 2009
I recently visited the holy city of Amritsar – home to the famous Golden Temple, the most revered shrine for Sikhs. Little did I know that my intended spiritual pilgrimage would turn into an entrepreneurial pilgrimage as well. It all started with a chance meeting with the owner of the hotel where we were staying, Mr. Ajay Kapoor. My brother and I were looking for an internet connection and were escorted to Mr. Kapoor’s office, for that purpose. It did not take us long to strike a conversation with Mr. Kapoor and find out that not only was he the owner of the hotel where we were staying but also an entrepreneur at heart. Many stories were shared but one of them stood out that I’d like to share, in Mr. Kapoor’s own words.
I do not have a lot of formal education but what I do have is a lot of practical, on-the-field education. One of the key things I have learnt over the course of my entrepreneurial career (Mr. Kapoor has been running various kinds of businesses for more than 30 years now) is that Relationships are fundamental in building any business. My son is pursuing formal education in Australia and I help him out a bit, financially. I do not send him money directly, I send the money to friends of mine in Australia and then ask them to hold on to it until my son comes and picks it from them… and I tell my son to visit these friends of mine and collect the money from them. Sometimes, I even send envelopes with “Very Important” written on them to my acquaintances (some of them are very accomplished folks) and request them to hold on to those until my son shows up to collect the envelope… and what I send inside the envelopes is a simple letter addressed to my son, that just says “I love you”.
I was quite moved by Mr. Kapoor’s story because it contained deep practical knowledge of an important lesson in entrepreneurship, in the simplest of ways – Relationships matter, big time! All Mr. Kapoor is constantly doing is increasing his son’s capacity by creating an opportunity where he can show up at the doorsteps of these accomplished people and coordinate some action with them. You never know which one would blossom into a rewarding relationship for life.
Here are a few other lessons in Entrepreneurship I took away from Amritsar:
It is all about the People: Mr. Kapoor insisted we address each other by our names and said that that is just his philosophy. According to him, without names, people just end up as titles once they are gone and that is just common practice that will generate mediocre results for the business.
Competitive Advantage: Our train was late the night we reached Amritsar and by the time we got to our hotel it was 11:30PM. We had a full 3 course meal before we went to bed, something that would be a luxury in most hotels (keep in mind we were not in a 24 hours service 5-star hotel, but a local hotel in this holy city). The hot meal, after a tiresome journey, just hit the spot and this does give Mr. Kapoor a competitive advantage over those that do not provide this service, that late.
Personal Touch: By the time we were done with our day trip, the next day, we were quite tired. Being a little short on time (we were leaving at 5AM next morning), I could not imagine leaving without eating the city’s favorite delicacy – Amritsari fish. Mr. Kapoor not only arranged for it for us but also accompanied us on our table with his charming company, while we savored the delightful dish. We were simply “Wowed” by the Personal touch he extended as part of his fantastic hospitality.
Trust from the ground up: Mr. Kapoor lives and works with his brothers where he and his brothers run the common business and the entire family treats the resources as a common pool – which he fondly called “Swimming Pool”. I was awed by the mere thought of how much one can learn about trust, a fundamental virtue in every business, just by living and working in this model.
While sitting on the train on my way back to Delhi, I could not help but reflect back on my trip to Amritsar, where I got much more than what I had bargained for – Not only was I fortunate to take my grandmother to the sacred pilgrimage, but also inadvertently was taken on an entrepreneurial pilgrimage of my own – thanks to Mr. Kapoor.
This article was contributed by Himanshu Jhamb, co-founder of Active Garage. You can follow Himanshu on Twitter at himjhamb.