This story is of a man who believed in the culture of ‘Swadesh’, a strong belief that it was okay to earn less but not leave motherland. Though he had dreams, dreams to go out, explore, and be a pilot; he gave up on the idea because of the traditional mindset he inherited from his family.
The two most powerful warriors are patience and time. – Leo Tolstoy
The quote suites Odhavji Raghavji Patel to the extreme; you will realize it soon. At the age of 19, after his graduation, he worked as a science and math teacher in a high school in Morbi, a small place in Gujarat. And back then, like everyone else, he was married at a young age and the responsibility of taking care of his family fell on his shoulders.
As time passed, he became a father, and it was difficult for him to manage the expenses of his four sons and two daughters with his small salary of INR 55 per month. His wife soon realized that he had to do something on the extra to earn more.
One day, she said, “Why don’t you start some business in your spare time? If I were a man, I would have started on my own with my brother and would have earned fame all over the city.”
Patel was encouraged. The need to survive cultivated a strong passion in him and prompted him to launch his garments store in Morbi. He also began supplying diesel engines to farmers on loan. However, these businesses did not have a high-profit margin and he was soon forced to shut shops.
Though he failed, he did not quit. At the age of 45, he formed a proprietorship firm and invested his savings of INR 1 lakh. He named it Ajanta Transistor Clock Manufacturing. I bet now you got an idea about him and why the quote fitted him so much. If not, just find a wall clock at your home and you will realize.
At the time when he started up, the North India clock market was ruled by Scientific, the most famous clock brand till then. He played it smart and choose not to waste time focusing on the North but supply clocks to South India. He also preferred road transportation over railways to avoid unexpected delays in shipments and removed the middlemen by supplying clocks directly to the retailers.
It was in 1974 when the clock industry began to change as a new technology ‘quartz’ was introduced. Odhavji acted progressive and traveled to Taiwan and Japan to learn about the new mechanical clock technology.
After he returned, he introduced India to a new age of wall clocks. In 1980, Ajanta launched an affordable series of clocks under brand names Ajanta, Orpat, and Oreva where they would manufacture a clock for INR 45 and sell it for INR 105. He started making huge profits and invested it back into the company. The company would make pendulum, wooden, ceramic, glass, and metal wall clocks which are to date the most sold wall clock brand in India.
In 1985, much before the discussion on women empowerment began, Patel started hiring women employees. He convinced the rigid and conservative parents to send their daughters and wives to work. He believed that women are much more efficient and productive than men as they are disciplined, dedicated, and focused. On the other hand, women’s fingers are ideal for the precision required for clockmaking.
As of today, the company employs more than 10,000 employees out of which more than 8,000 are females from around 200 villages near Morbi.
Mr. Patel died in 2012. The world remembers him as the ‘father of wall clocks in India’. The brand now exports its products to 45 countries and is valued at INR 1,000 crores. It produced more than 50,000 units of clocks every month and supplies to more than 50,000 retailers around the world. The clock price starts as low as INR 85 and goes as high as INR 18,000.
Odhavji also established a charitable trust for poverty-stricken women. The trust operates schools in rural Gujarat and works to prevent water wastage and promote conservation habits. His life inspires us to not shy from starting small even if you are 40, 50, or 60. He led a simple life. If anyone asked him to improve his dressing sense, he would say that he survives on a pension of INR 1,200 and will always be a humble teacher by nature.