I have a doctorate in business administration from a reputed overseas university. But I candidly admit, that I have acquired the knowledge of business not just from academic books, but through practical experiences as well. And it was none other than my father who imparted those business skills to me. He was taciturn by nature and believed in direct action, rather than voluble discourses.
Only once, that too after his retirement from business, he explained to me the reason why he remained a tongue-tied person forever. He said: “Son, I don’t like to waste my precious time, words and money unnecessarily. If you want to learn swimming, don’t read books on it or discuss it with anyone. You must jump into the water and learn by yourself.” He then told me a story. There lived a rich merchant in Mumbai who had two little sons. The merchant was in the business of cotton trading. Once, he suffered a huge loss that made him penniless. He couldn’t sustain the shock and fell ill. He realised that his last moment had arrived. He called his close friend and requested him to look after his children. The friend kept his promise and brought up the children very well. When the children grew up, they sought help from their uncle, to start a new business. The uncle asked them how they were prepared for the business and the elder son shown him his plans and strategies that were written down in a diary. But the younger son told his uncle that he had started selling some products on the street and he required just some amount to start a shop. The uncle thought for a while and offered to assist the elder son in his business, but gave the capital to the younger son and asked him to start a shop. This surprised elder son who asked for the reason. The uncle calmly answered, saying: “You need practical experience, but your brother needs seed capital. I gave you both the right thing.” My father advised me rightly — action is better than mere discussions.
I followed my father’s words when we started our first import-export company. When a professional challenged me by saying that it was not our cup of tea, I took up that challenge seriously. I called some of our employees and started the company. I told them to learn the process through observations and experience. They proved my decision right. Within a year, our new company started running well, and since then, we have never looked back. I conducted the same experiment with my elder son, Hrishikesh. When he completed his graduation and wished to enter our family business, I didn’t discuss too much with him. Instead, I told him to go to one of our stores directly and work there on the counter as a salesman. He listened to me and acquired the necessary skills by experience only. It is true that actions speak louder than words.
Dr Dhananjay (Jay) Datar is the chairman and managing director of Al Adil Trading