Bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, Eric Oommen runs not 1, not 2, not even 3 but 4 enterprises. Back in 2009, Eric completed his graduation in Australia and had an offer letter for the position of a sales manager ready in his hands but he chose to leave it all behind and head back home to India to take the reigns of his family business. Despite having an established family business it wasn’t an easy journey for Eric, he started off as a delivery boy and worked his way up to becoming the CEO of The Professional Couriers. With the dream of having his own legacy, he started 3 other ventures on his own and its safe to say all of them are thriving under Eric’s leadership. Read about his thoroughly inspiring KYETalk here:
My journey has had a lot of ups and downs. It was all because of a few people who said I can never go out of the country to even study, they challenged me. That drove me to actually I go out, go to Australia, and pursue higher education. However, I realized theoretical knowledge will not suffice. I needed to gain some practical experiences which I could bring back to our country and implement it here. Our country needs that kind of expertise to grow. The best opportunity I could get was to actually understand the markets over there at that point of time, may it be a gardening franchise or cosmetics, I was a cosmetic sales agent at that point of time. The plus point was they were ahead of us by at least a few years technology-wise and market-wise. That felt like an opportunity that yes we have that gap and we could definitely bridge that gap between each other. When I finished my graduation, seeing my performance during one of the cosmetic sales a company approached me gave me the job opportunity of a sales manager. Back then, I had to come back to India as I had to take the reigns of our family business here. I came back in 2009 and since then I’m in India. I started off at the lowest level of my company because my father said I won’t be put right on top, I had to start at the bottom. I started as a delivery boy then branch manager then area manager then sales manager then accounts manager so on and so forth and for the last 5 years, I’m holding the title of CEO of The Professional Couriers. Even at that point in time, I could see there were a lot of gaps but primarily I had to come out of my family’s shadow and create a legacy of my own. That was the first strike of my entrepreneurial skills, I started with my first company called CQ Logistics and it did not fair out well and I had a bad episode of failure at that time. Safe to say we made a good come back soon after, I actually recovered all my losses in the last 3 years. What is important is that failure taught me quite a lot about how to handle a company or to be more precise on how to start your own company. Mainly the downfalls, the flaws of having your own enterprise. Then I started an online boutique with my wife called NITHRIK, my wife is the head and I’m a silent partner, I manage the finances. My fourth venture is called ESS
Enterprises which I started with a few of my friends. Seeing that there is a demand for LEDs and Tower Fans and I know the supply of both, so I merged both of them together. So I have the technology, I have the expertise, I have the market everything right in place all we had to do was connect the dots. By God’s grace, our survival stage is gone and now we are in the growth stage. We’re thriving now.
KYE: What was your motivation behind being an entrepreneur?
Eric: I like to be my own boss. I do not want to be answerable to anyone. I set my goals, I set my deadlines. It is my passion that I work on. So if it is my failure it is my own. Likewise, if it is my success it is my own. It is me and my team who believes in the idea we work on. There are many people who want to take leadership but don’t have the risk-taking factor. The biggest factor to be an entrepreneur is to actually take the risk. The risk of failure to be exact. Everyone longs to be successful but no one wants to risk being a failure. Once you get over that fear of failure is when you think okay now I can try, this is my failure this is where I lost a lot of time, money and effort and everything and then so on and so forth you can build yourself up. As for choosing to be an entrepreneur, I’d like to leave a legacy behind for my children. My grandfather created a company, my father created another set of companies now I have created my companies, whether my children want to maintain them or create new themselves it will be up to them.
KYE: What gives you a sense of accomplishment?
Eric: Customer satisfaction and recognition. I know for a fact that even if I spend lacs and crores in advertising, but if the customers are not satisfied with my product then I’m just in a short-term game. That way, the speed at which I grow I will also come down with the same speed. Whereas if I’m giving a reliable, a solid and a committed product to my client may it be a product or a service I strive to make sure my customer is satisfied. I won’t say every customer can be satisfied but 90-95% of my customers should be satisfied.
KYE: What were the barriers/challenges you faced?
Eric: First barrier was whatever theory I learned from abroad was nothing as to what comes to practicality, I had to throw the entire theory out of my mind. You have to literally learn everything practically. Theoretically, we can paint a very rosy picture that every entrepreneur or every company is so easy to start off. But when it actually comes to being practical each and every decision you make, whether good or bad it has its effects on the company. What others say or portray that I have money so I will spend lavishly is where the issue arises. Until n unless your company is stable you cannot be stable. You can reek in the profits and have a lavish life, leaving the company in ditches and thereby leading the company into short-life. Whereas you invest, re-invest you ensure the company is more and more stable day by day. You need to have a very long-term goal as to where you wanna take this company, you don’t need to impress anybody other than yourself.
KYE: At this point, what are the factors required for you to achieve your business aspirations?
Eric: Currently with the market scenario all the aspirations need to be shelved because right now every company has to attain survivability. They have to go into the survivability mode. I would say right now is the best time actually to invest in the company and ensure there is good brand recognition. If you can sustain your company at its lowest when it grows you will grow with it.
KYE: How has been an entrepreneur changed you as a person?
Eric: The change I could find in myself is I have started seeing people for what their worth is all about. There are a lot of people who can Talk the Walk but there are very few who can actually Walk the Talk. I am now in a capable position to identify who can actually walk the talk. Too many people sit and discuss ideas but when it actually comes to executing these ideas they are very afraid to go ahead with it. There are a lot of people who can talk but there are very rare few people who can actually take the risk and make things happen. Identification of such people along with identification of their passions and thorough legal requirements taken care of, so that every party is successful and every party is safeguarded. A win-win for everyone. A lot of people who join me for the trust factor and I put my trust in a lot of people but trust alone does not make any successful business, you have to stabilize it legally.
KYE: What are your words of wisdom or your message for the budding entrepreneurs out there?
Eric: My sincere advice to everyone out there is to make your legal base strong, so tomorrow nothing can come and shake you up very badly. That will make sure you are never caught with surprise that, “Oh, I wasn’t aware of this”. Do not leave any legal loopholes.
Also, I’d like to say to the budding entrepreneurs out there that not every idea will be fruitful, not every idea you have should be pursued, not every idea is definitely needed in the market. Identify what is the demand, identify what is the problem, and does your idea give a solution to such a problem, or does it help with the demand. If it does, take the risk you will earn your rewards. But if there is an excessive supply of a particular thing and you’re just going to end up being a part of it, I’d say don’t do it. You need to have certain unique characteristics when you’re starting something, whether services or goods. Wherein which, you will identify a problem, your product will be a solution it and the customers will be attracted to your product.