I have remained an innocent and naive person throughout my childhood and teens. My father and my business were the true teachers who removed that naivety from me. When I stepped into business my father first assigned me the responsibility of purchasing certain spices for our shop. I thought it would be very easy and enthusiastically went to Deira, Dubai which was a wholesale market. There I furnished the list of required items to the suppliers, collected the items, paid the bills and returned. My father carefully checked the bills and the quality of spices. He didn’t say anything and continued sending me to the market.
After three weeks, he called me and asked: “Son! Don’t you make any bargain while purchasing the commodities or at least ask for a discount?” I said no. Then he taught me an important lesson. He said: “Look, purchasing is an art or rather a skill. When you buy something, you should not blindly accept the price charged by the seller. There are three different prices. First the market price, second the competitive price and the third is the bargain price. You paid the market price but you could have enquired the competitive price i.e. the price charged by other suppliers. Then you should have pushed the supplier to negotiate at a lower price. Besides you haven’t inspected the quality of the spices. Next time I will accompany you and teach you how to purchase wisely. Remember- naivety has no place in business.” Truly my father taught me everything. Even today I follow his tutelage.
I gave the same advice to one of our managers though the context was a little different. I had appointed a manager for one of our newly opened super stores. He was kind hearted and enthusiastic but credulous. When he took the job, he established friendly relations with everyone. His intention was good but he couldn’t understand the various shades of human behaviour. Soon the workers started making a mockery of him and took undue advantage of his friendly behaviour and soft personality. They began ignoring his orders. One day he complained about it to me.
I told him a moral story. A tiger was living near a village and everyone was scared of it. One day the tiger thought of befriending the villagers. He asked a saint for advice. The saint told him not to attack anyone. After a year when the saint was passing by again he saw a strange view. The villagers were pelting stones at the tiger and even the children were kicking him fearlessly. The saint felt pity and advised the tiger, “I only told you not to attack and hurt anyone but you are so naive that you forgot to roar. You forgot that you are a tiger.” My manager understood the message and since then everything went smooth.
I like an apt quote by D’Angelo Smith — Don’t become so naive, that you lose a sense of self.
Dr Dhananjay (Jay) Datar is the chairman and managing director of Al Adil Trading