They sat Smiling: A Journey from under the Neem Tree to Supermarket

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Bina profiles the success stories of two brothers, Nagesh and Suresh, and talks of their journey from under a Neem tree in Chembur, Mumbai, to metamorphosing into a supermarket chain. Here’s a of honest, hardworking , succeeding in life, in the weekly column, exclusively in Different Truths.

Nagesh Nadar is someone who has inspired me but he is not my friend nor my dear one. He is a common man, a vegetable seller in Chembur. He was a young poor boy of thirteen years, who had helped his father Pichamani Nadar hawk vegetables. His younger brother Suresh joined him a few years later.

In 1990, I saw Suresh and Nagesh sitting under a tree, selling vegetables. What I liked about Suresh was his cheerful nature and the acumen that he was well versed with. He used to be always kind, cheerful and humorous. Suresh was very efficient and had the marketing skills and the older one quieter, good at handling bills. And both were hard working.

There was a “sari fall beading” shop next door. When they sat under the tree in the hot sun, the man in the saree falls shop was comfortably seated, on a white cotton bed in his shop. He had a perpetual frown and was quite stern and rude. I would think twice before going to his shop. There were hardly any customers there and I attributed it to his acrimonious nature.

In nine years, Suresh’s place under the tree became almost like a supermarket, with vegetables all so neatly placed in blue trays. He had even brought mushroom, basil leaves and Broccoli under that tree. It was amazing, he was certainly a visionary, only a very few are real visionaries. I said, “Mark my words he will own a supermarket tomorrow.”

However, some months later, we saw chopped vegetables in plastic bags placed in the blue trays. At that time there were no shops selling sliced vegetables. Suresh would call out to me, “Chechi (sister) why don’t you try our Methi (fenugreek leaves) today. You will love it. You have not taken Pappad this week.” He knew every customer and the personal attention he gave, attracted us to his shop. He knew what to say and whom to please as if those qualities were inborn in him.

The number of buyers under the Neem tree increased. He would see to it that our basket was full, and we were smiling by the time we left his open air shop.

Then one day I was taken aback by surprise, he was not there under the tree. The whole place looked so desolate. I wondered what happened. Then I noticed the banner on the tree. He knew, even how to advertise, “Vegetable shop shifted opposite Kohinoor Hotel.”  I couldn’t believe my eyes when I went there and saw his shop. That was not by any chance a small shop. It was A.P. Mani & Supermarket.

With the Haiko contract in the bag, the Nadars set up their supermarket in a plush 2000 sq. ft. shop. He employs one hundred people and they shifted from the chawl where they lived in, to an upmarket apartment. The property prices are currently in the range of Rs. 20000 per sq. ft.

Meanwhile, I noticed “the saree falls beading” person still sits on the same old bed, in the same old shop, with the same old frown. His glass showcases where he stored the saris were almost empty. And there were hardly any customers in his shop. How does a person remain stagnant for twenty long years I wondered?

Today, everyone knows A. P. Mani & Sons Pvt. Ltd.

Suresh said, “We got into tie-ups with a few caterers, who placed large orders daily. But we hit the jackpot in 1998 when we looked around and realised people in Mumbai, were running after time.” They were very friendly and spoke to all the customers. They had no ego and were open to suggestions. They followed the of a customer, who suggested they sell vegetables packed in plastic bags.  That was an instant hit. It was something unique they started, for an ordinary vegetable seller under a tree.

Their next move was, selling chopped vegetables in packets. No one had thought of it then. They realised in Mumbai people would be happy to carry home sliced vegetables, after a hard day’s work. Both initiatives were a first in Mumbai. One has to be a visionary to succeed and then work hard to follow their passion. One of his loyal customers had been to Singapore for her daughter’s delivery.  “She brought a ready to cook packaged veg-box as a sample to show me, as to how I can improve my packaging and labeling,” said Suresh.

When Nagesh was 49, and Suresh 45; their father passed away in 1983.  By 2011, the company had a daily turnover of Rs 6 lakhs.  Its revenue was around Rs 25 crore with a profit after tax of Rs 80 lakh. Unbelievable but true.  Since then, they have been growing by leaps and bounds. Their case study on Entrepreneurship Management AP Mani & Sons was done by DY Patil University.

He was elated when I said, “Suresh you and your brother, Nagesh, have been an to me. I have been following you from 1986 and I know how much of hard work has gone into this.”

With the same smile and humility, he said, “We have to work very hard even now to make it grow. We have two supermarkets and two shops, which sells at cheaper rates to help ones, who can’t afford a supermarket.”

“Then when do you eat and sleep?” I asked.  He looked so calm when he said, “We have fixed time for sleeping and waking up.” I thought they were blessed when he shocked me with a smile, “We sleep at 1 am and wake up at 4 am since the year 2000.  We have no fixed time for eating, we eat whenever we get time but to sleep and wake up we have a fixed time,” he repeated.

I was curious “What do you believe is the reason for your success? “I asked Suresh. Prompt was his reply, “The blessing of our staff. There is no attrition.” I do remember all of them since 1990.

Now, the picture of their success story is clearer to me. To gain anything you have to on something. Their dream and focus are on e-marketing.

The most beautiful people are the ones who have known suffering and defeat. They have found their way out, because of their vision, passion, perseverance and hard work. And they don’t stop dreaming.

©Bina Pillai

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#LyricalLife #RagsToRiches #Entrepreneur #DreamingBig #Mumbai #Hardwork #VegetableVendors #DifferentTruths

Bina Pillai

Bina Pillai

Writer and poetess. Writing, people, philosophy, and photography are her strength. Besides short stories and poems, she loves to write about issues, that touches her. She did the “Citizen Journalist show” for CNN-IBN to create awareness for children with Learning Difficulty. Administrator and jury member of two groups, “Galaxy of Literary Luminaries;” and “Panorama of Poetry”, she won prizes and recognition for many poems and prose. She believes kindness is the most appealing quality.
Bina Pillai

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