Sulekha Works was established in 1934, in pre-independence India. It was born out of the nationalist vision to manufacture stationaries in India so as to reduce dependence on the British Empire. Unfortunately, the company closed its operations in 1988.
In 2006, this heritage company was restarted by Kaushik Maitra who is presently its Managing Director (MD). Maitra is a trained mechanical engineer from Jadavpur University and has taught in the Department of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineering of the University of Alberta, Canada. BE’s Ellora De spoke to him regarding his vision and explored his entrepreneurial spirit.
Q. Tell us a bit about you and Sulekha. How does it go with the entrepreneurial ecosystem of present-day India?
A. Coming back to India, I worked as design engineering consultant and was involved with many national and multinational companies. We were trying to revive Sulekha since 1994. It took 12 years of intense struggle. I could revive the company in 2006. Sensing the changes that had occurred in the last two decades since the company had closed, we diversified into different verticals based on our strengths. One segment was carrying the original baton of stationary products. We have also diversified into homecare and solar power products and projects. We have recently launched our own retail outlets, having full-fledged convenience stores and cafeterias.
From the perspective of the global entrepreneurial ecosystem, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have more strength to reach the grass-root level of the meta-economic structure. Economic enhancement of SMEs directly helps to create employment, generate and distribute wealth among the masses. If the nation does not take along small and medium scale industries in its developmental journey, there is an economic disaster that is waiting for us.
Q) What are the biggest challenges that you faced while restarting this company and what are the present challenges that you are facing as an entrepreneur?
A) We really did not face big challenges while restarting the company. Sulekha restarted with its old staff. But yes, a good and efficient labour force at an affordable cost is a challenge. Additionally, limited source of funding is another important constraint.
Q) Are you getting proper governmental support and funding for running the business?
A) We do not depend much on governmental support, especially financial support. We get cooperation from the government when we need it. I think the biggest support from the government would be their non-intervention.
Q) How is the new taxation procedure affecting your business?
A) The newly implemented GST is basically a good taxation system. But since these are early days, there are several teething problems in terms of lack of adequate infrastructure and other resources like necessary hardware, connectivity, knowledge of the new system and trained manpower. Presently, it is truly problematic for many SMEs like us. But I strongly believe we will be benefitted from this system in future. The entire process is expected to be simpler and more efficient, and I think the government is moving towards that direction with amendments in taxation slabs and easier compliance procedures.
Q) Is it hard to be an honest entrepreneur in India?
A) It is totally dependent on yourself. At least, Sulekha Works Limited is not in any way affected by corruption. An honest entrepreneur can go a long way.
Q) If you were to advise an upcoming entrepreneur, what would it be?
A) First, you have to know your field of work intensely. Identify your passion and follow your heart. Finally, hard work and perseverance hold the key to success in entrepreneurship. If you want to be an entrepreneur, start today and don’t wait for tomorrow as ‘tomorrow never comes.’