EDII Alumni Speak-up Series 9#: Brick by Brick by Kinjal Patel (Shreeji Ceramic Industries)

Kinjal Patel (PGDM-BE 2014-2016)
Shreeji Ceramic Industries

It’s a common belief that it comes easy for family business successors. And, it is this tag that Kinjal wanted to break-free from. Her father recalls, “Ever since she cleared class tenth, she had become keen on contributing to family business and would always tell me that she would be different from other successors and add wings to the growth graph of the enterprise.”

Kinjal wanted to prove it to herself for which she charted out a plan of action. While she tried to understand the nuances of her family business of ceramic tiles, she simultaneously joined the Post Graduate Diploma in Management – Business Entrepreneurship (PGDM-BE) at EDII, in order to learn all about running and managing a business. As she puts it, “I trusted myself and was convinced about working hard but, I realised how important it is to possess updated knowledge on business trends and practices. That was the reason I had done Bachelors of Business Administration from M S University but, I still felt the need to upgrade my skills. I was clear as to what I wanted to equip myself with and hence, surfed the internet to gather details on the syllabus of various business-related courses. I had heard about EDII’s PGDM-BE course and a closer probe into the course curriculum convinced me about joining this course. My decision to join PGDM-BE was by far the best that could have happened to me. My two-year stay at EDII opened up a new world for me. I was surprised to know the scope my family business had in terms of expansion and modification.”

At EDII, Kinjal specialised in Family Business Management and worked out a five-year growth plan for her family business. The focus of the growth plan was on identifying strengths and weaknesses, and addressing these with forward-looking strategies to place the business on a higher growth trajectory over a period of next five years. Kinjal was now ensconced in knowledge and felt comfortable.

So, after completing her course at EDII, Kinjal joined her reputed family business of ceramic tiles. She was determined to be the torchbearer of a business where presence of women is almost negligible. Hundreds of families in Morbi are involved in manufacturing ceramic products but the number of women entrepreneurs in this business is negligible. Also, the manufacturing units deal directly with the suppliers and there is no retail selling. Kinjal says, “Customers do not come directly to the manufacturing units to buy products. The owners of ceramic units have to deal largely with labourers, truck-drivers and suppliers. Therefore, even if it is an established family business, parents do not encourage their daughters or sisters to join the unit. But, with the new generation of girls wanting to make a contribution, they are now joining the business although mainly in the marketing and accounts departments of the units.” Kinjal was fortunate to have a supportive family. Very soon, her card bore the designation of Managing Partner – Shreeji Ceramic. Kinjal shares her card with an exuberant smile.

She says, “EDII is one of the most prestigious institutes offering Family Business Management course. I had joined the institute wanting to learn the nuances of family business. And, EDII not just made me competent in this area abut also taught me several other aspects related to entrepreneurship. First and foremost, I gained immense confidence which helped me sail through every situation.”

Kinjal had ideas for her family business but the biggest challenge for her was to get them accepted. Being an age-old business, certain practices had almost got embedded. To change them needed to primarily assure the promoters that these are further contemporary in outlook and will guarantee far better results. Kinjal also looked for freedom in decision-making and style of work. She did not want to get inhibited by the interference of the promoters.

Talking about problems faced by second-generation entrepreneurs, Kinjal remarks, “In family-managed businesses, family relations and business ethics overlap and come in the way of each other, and it is from here that confusions emerge. I did not want such a situation in my business on account of my joining it. I was aware of some of the gaps but I did not want to impose anything on anybody too soon. I was fully aware of the repercussions of such a pressure. So, I decided to take one step at a time. All my soft-skills training at EDII was being put to test – creativity, leadership, communication skills and so on.”

Kinjal recounts how her training in family business management helped her at every step. Gradually, she introduced professionalism in business and made everybody do away with the traditional ways. Kinjal researched the ceramic tile industry, carried out a market research and pointed out how the consumer preferences had changed and that a progressive business is always the one to match steps with the market trends. Today, her production unit produces several new varieties which is in keeping with the demand and leanings of the people. Kinjal understood the importance of innovation for a business and therefore introduced several innovations in tile designs. This was an instant hit among the consumers, and also positively impacted her company’s productivity. Kinjal also technically upgraded the traditional tile-making process which was prevalent earlier, which resulted in better-finished products and in turn increased demand. In another landmark move, Kinjal ensured that in line with campaigns such as Digital India and Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, her organisation too adopts green and clean fuel for power sources.

Step by step, Kinjal almost turned around her family business. She not just imparted it a progressive outlook in terms of its business processes but also introduced positive modifications in technology and design.

Today, a happy Kinjal says, “Initially, being the only working woman in my family, things were not very smooth. Slowly and steadily, I have made my place in the business.”

Kinjal admits that the creative marketing ideas she learned at EDII proved to be very useful to her. She remarks, “In our industry, needs of the suppliers are highly neglected. I learnt at EDII that if I want my suppliers to give preference to my products or buy only my products, I must take care of their needs. It is important for the manufacturer to know if the supplier is facing problems; these could be in transportation, in procuring the supply on time, etc. Here lies the gap as generally manufacturers in ceramic industry do not involve themselves in such issues. I just identified these gaps and addressed them. I was delighted to see the results and more importantly, to see my family develop faith in me.”

Kinjal now envisions to give an international standing to Shreeji Ceramic. She is working on branding Shreeji Ceramic internationally by resorting to all modern tools of marketing. She has also joined hands with another EDII student Nikita Maheshwari in developing a website for selling ceramic tiles online. This initiative has earned rave reviews and appreciation.

Familiar with the problems related to online sales of ceramic products, she says, “Customers chose to touch and feel the tiles before buying them. The colour of the tiles displayed on the website varies from screen to screen. Indian customers are still not used to buying such products online but there are ways and means which can be relied upon to address these problems. I am doing all of it and I’m sure things will improve.” Kinjal has made her mark by introducing several new business and marketing practices in her company and is determined to take the business overseas in the years to come. Today, Kinjal is an example for other potential women entrepreneurs and is a testimony to the fact that women can succeed in any field of their choice. She says it’s time that we stop associating women with limited products such as fabric, handicrafts, cosmetics, etc. Kinjal is highly confident about the technical bent of mind among women and says that with right knowledge and orientation, they can fly. Kinjal thanks her stars for having got an opportunity to hone her skills at EDII.

A second-generation entrepreneur, Kinjal has carved a niche in the domain. Today, the senior members of her family acknowledge her support and look forward to being guided by her. ‘That is my achievement,” Kinjal signs off.