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Interview with India based Owen Alum entrepreneur, Manik Mahajan

Andrew Bouldin

What has been your entrepreneurial experience since Owen?

As soon I graduated from Owen and shifted to India in 2010 I incubated my new company Sutra Products Pvt Ltd. We signed a distribution contract with 2 major Italian toy brands “Trudi” & “Sevi” for exclusive marketing and selling their products in pan Indian sub-continent. These brands cater to the kids of  affluent families in the age group 0-13 years old. We were the first company to launch premium category toys for kids and now the products are sold through all major e-commerce players, large format retailers such as Hamleys etc. and through sales and distributor network in all major cities pan India.

What does Sutra Product do and how are you trying to grow the company?

Sūtra Products sources, distributes, licenses and markets rights to a collection of innovative consumer brands that are designed to enrich the lives of customers within India & the Indian subcontinent. All 2014 we have worked on developing a new brand and a product range that we will launch in India in 2015.

This brand is named “Invincible” and will manufacture quality clothing and miscellaneous gear targeted at Fitness and Sports. Currently the sportswear market is dominated by Nike, Adidas & Reebok moreover the masses wear domestic brands that are of inferior quality. Invincible will focus on producing premium and high quality clothing and price it right in between the 3 sporting giants and domestic brands. There is no other brand that has done this so far.

What are your goals for the company in the long run?

Our goal is to provide the consumer with high quality products at competitive prices while making sure our business and retail partners achieve the margins and networking services vital to assist them in driving sales. Our vision in the next 5-10 years is to be a conglomerate that will be marketing and distributing numerous consumer goods brands pan India.

What was the startup process / entrepreneurship scene like in India?

India is a tough market to crack as 80% of the traditional retail channel is still unorganised and fragmented the payment terms with retailers range from 60-120 days. With this scenario it was very difficult to break through any business without a heavy monetary investment.

Fortunately the E-Commerce boom just hit India and a lot of small start-ups were opening every day and would pay for the merchandise in advance or within 20 days.

We started selling to small players initially and gradually to the giants as the product was amazing. Slowly & gradually the products are now available with almost all major toy retail counters in India.

Have the skills that you learned at Owen been helpful, what are the ones you use the most?

Obviously education is always helpful but the skill that I have used the most is from Germain’s entrepreneurship class and it is called “cash gap”. Knowing the payment terms with retailers of 60-120 days I knew there was no way I could invest in so much stock and pay my suppliers in advance. I negotiated with the brands to offer us, their distribution partners, an open credit for 210 days from the date of their invoice. Within these 210  days we were able to import the goods, sell them, get money and pay the brand back.

Without the tough negotiation lessons and entrepreneurship classes with financials I wouldn’t have been able to do this business for last 4 years.