The business venture, Jaipur Rugs, tells us a story about an imaginative entrepreneur who belonged to a small village. The important thing is that the business (Jaipur Rugs) and him are one — intertwined — and so, we need to know both to savour this tale.
Nand Kishore Chaudhary grew up in a village without any formal education and training to prepare him to start and run a large venture Chaudhary says, “I did not know how to hire people and I had no clue about what traits to look for during interviews. Because of my lack of experience and vision, I suffered major setbacks in the first three years of starting the business.”
Chaudhary’s struggles were not limited to the hiring process but lack of experience in significant domains, such as finance and marketing. This lack of knowledge rocked the ship even before it sailed. Here, we must understand that there was this man who knew his product—rugs/carpets— rather passionately, but to run the business at a scale he lacked expertise in matters such as HR, finance and business development.
In those grim years Chaudhary did not allow himself to sink in failures but took steps to design his own destiny, and that was through introspection and changing himself. “Knowing that I had all the answers within me, I set myself on a mission of self-discovery. To do so, I had to change myself completely, drop all bad habits, inculcate a new routine and develop a new holistic perspective,” narrates Chaudhary.
Now, that was about forty years ago, when Chaudhary had to lose himself to find his new self, to trigger the dormant intelligence and deep-thinking capability. As a result, Jaipur Rugs has grown substantially over the years.
In the year 1970, he started with two looms that were set in his own home. In forty years, the company grew from two to 700 looms, spread across 700 locations, and the distribution network crosses 40 countries! We can say that the business spread like wild fire.
“I did not know how to hire people and I had no clue about what traits to look for during interviews. Because of my lack of experience and vision, I suffered major setbacks in the first three years of starting the business”
Apparently, it is his connection with the grass-root level that has helped him to snowball. Hailing from the village, he understood the artisans and has been able to touch their lives with humility and kindness like no one else. “When I started the business, weavers worked from my home. They were from the untouchable community, but I never saw them like that. I treated them with respect and dignity.” mentions Chaudhary
Even today, Chaudhary stays connected with his workers at the grassroot level (80 per cent of the total employees)
The women weavers who work in remote villages where transportation is also rare are brought to Jaipur. Here, they get a chance to see the finished product. They feel very proud when they see how their work has been further enhanced by providing finishing touches. They admire the displays.
This also acts as a performance appraisal because they get a chance to evaluate their own work and identify areas where errors can be reduced. “Before they leave, they revive the vow to work harder and not make mistakes. Moreover, while they are in Jaipur, we make sure they are pampered. They visit the office, are taken around and offered feasts,” says Chaudhary.
Informational village strategy
From then to now, there has been a consistent practice to train, upskill and change the mindset of the artisans. From basic education to preparing them for leadership, the grassroot workers are coached throughout the year.
At the corporate office, Jaipur Rugs has a family-like environment. They hire NIFT graduates in large numbers and have a designated HR department to handle all matters related to the employees there. Even here, Chaudhary is very clear that he wants only those people on board who can be one with the value of the brand.
“We don’t want clever people. We want people who are authentic, innocent and patient. Moreover, aligning with what we stand for is extremely important,” says Chaudhary.
On the topic of leadership, he says that ‘ego’ is the differentiator between
a visionary leader and an insecure leader. An imaginative leader himself, he concludes that Jaipur Rugs is not a business but a way of life.