Known for their business acumen, adaptability and success Marwari business men and their methods of business are a great source of inspiration and learning for modern as well as traditional businesses. In history, Marwari entrepreneurs migrated from their homeland Marwar (a region in Rajasthan) and have spread across India and now world. They have adapted themselves successfully to the industrial and business environment of large business centers of India such as Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad. The emergence of Marwari businessmen and subsequently expansion of their business form regional to global geographies in the past 20 years establishes that in business, Marwari school of thought is very much relevant in the modern era as well. Read the book, Made In America and after first 50 pages you will realize that, Sam Walton’s business and even life philosophy was quite close to the Marwari school of thought. Sam’s frugality in business and being a family man are some of his traits which you can find in an average Marwari businessman too. The only difference was Sam’s business vision was very big than an average Marwari of today. However this too has started changing in the past couple of decades. Accomplished Marwari businessmen such as L N Mittal, Rahul Bajaj, Gautam Singhania, Rakesh Jhunjhunwala have proven their metal not just in India but all over the world. Their business philosophy and practices have succeeded at all level be it regional, national or global platform.
It is believed that you do not have to teach business to a Marwari. They get their business knowledge and acumen not from any business school but it is transferred from one generation to the next in various forms both practically and theoretically from a very early stage in life. Let me show this to you with one example in this blog. By now you must have rightly guessed that I belong to the same Marwari community and have seen the business world from small town enterprises to global corporate.
My “bauji” (grandfather) left his family business in Rajasthan and migrated to Madhya Pradesh where he grew his business from a footpath vendor to number one fabric retail shop of the town. I was born during the era when his business was already at its peak. During my early ages, he used to teach me his business principals in the simplest and transparent forms. One of his theories was “if you can learn to purchase best quality of vegetables at best prices from a vegetable market you would become a real Marwari businessman”. I used to go with my bauji to the big vegetable market and observe his whole process of buying vegetables and coming out of the market with the best quality vegetables at a price very few people in the town could negotiate. Through observation and practice I also became an expert in purchasing the best vegetables at the best price. Unknowingly in the process I had developed certain skills and realized why bauji said what he had said. So what do you think my bauji wanted me to learn from this act of buying best quality veggies at the best possible price?
I didn’t even realize what I had learnt from that practice until recently when I observed and analyzed my skills of buying household items from the best seller in the market and at possibly the best price. Working backwards I realized bauji’s teachings gave me following:
1) Ability to scout the market to see who is selling what
2) Ability to judge the quality of merchandise
3) Ability to identify vendors selling the best quality merchandise
4) Ability to negotiate with vendors/sellers
5) Ability to develop a relationship with vendors so that they can a) impart give category knowledge and also b) negotiate to a price they would not sell to anyone else usually
6) Skills of clubbing purchases together in order to get more bargain
The more I thought the more I dug out about what I had learnt during my childhood. During those times I would also not just scout in one market but would travel to more than one markets located in different parts of the city. I also learnt that there are different times of arrival of fresh vegetables in various markets and therefore could get fresh vegetables during any time of the day for home. I had developed relationship with the best vendors who after a while would reduce the price of the vegetables before I would negotiate with them. Not only this, they would also keep good quality material for me separate and would show the new arrivals to me before they would show it to any other customer. I learnt that advantages of good relationship go beyond just the business. Two of the vegetable vendors who knew my bauji and because of him me, came for marriage ceremony as well.
All that I had learnt from my bauji has unknowingly become the way I live and helped me immensely in my various jobs. I also realized most of the Kotlers, Aakers and Poters which I had read during my MBA were not all that new to me as they were to most of the other students in the class. The art of procurement which I had learnt during my childhood from my bauji in a small is practiced by the large global corporation world around.
So here is the secret of a Marwari businessman: A Marwari learns the tricks of the trade right from his childhood which therefore, later on when he takes on the business on his own come very natural to him. This wealth of knowledge is the collective wisdom gathered over the ages and refined by thousands of Marwaris constantly and precisely falls under the category of “What they don’t teach you at the Harward Business School”.