Hey guys 🙂 Hope you’re having a great time!
Today, I’m sharing with you a personal experience of mine. I hope that you enjoy reading it. It revolves around my favourite quote on positive thinking: Nothing is impossible.
I bet it must be a favourite of yours too. 🙂
Well, I had believed in it since a very long time but I was able to experience it only some time in 2001 when I was working for a reputed buying agency dealing in home furnishings, hard goods, garments and accessories in Mumbai.
The firm was part of the family-owned group of businesses that included a garment export company, high-end retail shops and domestic brands, all of which were looked after by the Indian-British patriarch of the family who a year ago had appointed his son to look after the buying agency business after a change in the management. He was the big boss who took all the decisions. His son was more of a fashion designer than a businessman and was hardly ever present in the office. He used to spend most of the year in Europe and just 4-5 months in India. There were three departmental managers none of whom had any hopes from him for business which had fallen down with the change in management. For them he was just an immature spoiled rich brat.
I was just a little over six months old (with no previous experience of the work I was doing) in the office when one day my boss (the son) gave me an interesting task. At that time, two of the managers had quit due to personal reasons so I was looking after the operations for home furnishings, garments and hard goods. The boss wanted me to get quotations and samples from agency suppliers for manufacturing and exporting belts as per his design, the order quantity being 10-20 pieces per style. He had designed six styles of belts with beaded & embroidered fabric covering a leather base. He wanted the colours and beaded embroidery as per a few fabric swatches which had been lying around in the office showroom since a very long time.
At first, I wasn’t sure whether he was serious about the whole thing. I mean, he could have given the work to the elderly and experienced manager of the accessories department who looked after belts, bags, scarves, jewellery, etc. Still, I knew he appreciated my work so I got in touch with the agency suppliers from across the country who worked with embroidered and beaded fabrics. They all expressed their inability to provide a quote since they worked with large order quantities only. Moreover they expressed their reservations. At the time of cutting the fabrics for the belts, the embroidery would get messed up and the beads would fall off. For such an insignificant quantity, nobody was willing to take up the work.
The manager from the accessories department advised me to forget about the whole thing since it was impossible for an exporter to go through the hard work for such a small quantity… and the boss would eventually forget about it too. She had worked in the company for over forty years and knew him and his “ridiculous ideas” very well. I thought perhaps she was acting out her anger at being ignored. Although he didn’t have a keen business sense, he certainly was a very creative person. Although he was in his mid-30s, he was like a little lost child and easily misunderstood by most…maybe because of his own insecurities. He came from a broken family with half English-Indian and German blood which had given him blue eyes and auburn hair. It’s in my nature to root for the “underdog” so I was never judgmental towards him.
A few weeks later when he dropped into the office, he casually asked me about the quotations. Although I knew I wouldn’t back down from anything just because it seemed difficult, I had to tell him frankly how it was becoming impossible to get an exporter for just 10 pieces per design. “Nothing is impossible in this world, you just have to try hard,” he said philosophically. “If the samples appeal to buyers, it would mean business for the agency.”
I knew that “nothing is impossible in this world” but I didn’t know what I had to do next. The usual way of doing business wasn’t working. To get results I most definitely had to change my approach to the problem. Maybe, find a manufacturer who would get the required embroidered and beaded fabric and make belts out of it, and an exporter who would ship the belts. Since the family ran an export business, there was no need to look for an exporter to ship the belts. “Go to sari shops like Kala Niketan, Benzer…” the boss suggested, rattling off a few more names. Those were great places to shop for rich and exclusive saris. I was more than happy to visit them and check out the cool fabrics there even though I wasn’t sure how it would be of help to me. Still, I spent 2-3 days visiting a couple of rich and exclusive sari shops hoping that I would get some leads on a supplier who would work with small quantities. Apart from personal satisfaction, the visits didn’t help at all.
Next, I decided to visit all the fabric and cloth markets in south Mumbai. The tour stretching over 2-3 days was a great learning experience and highly memorable! I still remember walking around for 7-8 hours through narrow and crowded streets starting from Crawford Market going past cloth markets, garment markets, mirchi (red chilli) market, and specialized areas for products like bead and embroidery work, leather goods, jewellery, stationery goods, electrical goods, etc… and of course the famous chor bazaar (flea market)! I had never come across such amazing places in my city before! I was discovering something new in each area I passed through and it was very exciting.
At one of the cloth markets, I was walking around for more than half an hour before something suddenly dawned on me…I hadn’t seen a single female within that period of time! That I didn’t get any leads on what I was looking for was another thing. I visited well-known fabric markets in the central suburbs too but apart from the pleasure that I derived from window shopping, I didn’t get any results. I wasn’t ready to give up. Following a suggestion, I visited the Mohatta Market near Crawford Market. A walk around the place, making enquiries, didn’t yield any results. I was on my way out when a one-legged man, hobbling onto his crutches approached me and asked me what I was looking for. I told him about my search. He was a strange-looking fellow and I suddenly became aware of the fact that I was in a Muslim-dominated locality which had witnessed heavy violence during the 1992-93 communal riots in Mumbai. When he told me to follow him I was hesitant. It felt funny that he had to ask me whether or not I wanted to meet a belt manufacturer. I remember following him slowly checking out escape routes in case something had to go wrong. I followed him at a safe distance as he climbed up the narrow flight of stairs of a building. And then, I stopped. There was another flight of stairs which led to a steel door. I could see no escape route. Either, I had to trust the guy and climb up the stairs to enter the room or just turn around and just forget about the whole thing. It was risky to trust a stranger and enter a place not knowing what could be happening behind the steel door. I saw the guy opening the door and from the bottom of the stairs I tried to make out the details of the interiors. But it looked dark inside. Well, at least there wasn’t any strange-looking fellow behind the door to check on the new arrival. I immediately climbed up the stairs. The one-legged guy held the door open for me and I walked in. Surprise, surprise…the place was bustling with activity. A few women were checking out shiny fabrics shown to them one after another while others were finalizing deals on the selected material. I was introduced to the proprietor who told me that he had plenty of customers from the Middle East where he shipped most of his goods. They placed orders for saris and dresses according to their designs and he got them done complete with beads and heavy embroidery work, be it zardozi or any type of embellishments. I told him about my requirement for samples for the small quantity with leather base for the belts and fabric as per the swatches. To my absolute delight, he said he could get it done and at a good price too! His words were music to my ears. When I related my success story to the manager of the accessories department she was very surprised. But when I gave the good news to my boss he just smiled. I then realized that I was right in thinking about him not being serious about it. But at least I had got the chance to prove myself right in not giving up and firmly believing in “Nothing is Impossible”….and the lovely opportunity to discover the colourful markets of Mumbai.
Now, I can’t end this post without giving you a glimpse of the exquisite beauty of Indian fabrics so take a look at this photo…
Great, huh? 🙂
Well, I hope that you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed putting it together for you.
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