Building a business is like taking care of a child. It requires patience, involvement, and constant attention. Even if it fails to perform you cannot give up on it and have to keep trying different ways to revive it. Today’s story is about a man who braved half-a-dozen failures but did not lose faith in him. He kept trying until he found success and later have a legacy of crores of rupees.
Prakash Agarwal has seen most of his life in Indore, Madhya Pradesh. He grew up seeing his father struggle paying for his family’s expenses. With meager means he traveled to Delhi to buy some wax and candle moulds. It was necessary that he started making money with or without labor force so his father started making candles himself and later sold them in the markets.
Once the situation got comfortable, he hired a handful of labors to increase his production. Prakash and his two brothers remember helping their father with candle-making everyday after school. A sense of responsibility was impossible to miss and Prakash began to think of ways to add to his family income.
Falling, getting hurt
It was decided that he took up a job at a clothe store. Although this ensured a steady income reaching his family every month, it was not satisfying for Prakash. He was constantly thinking about business ideas and wanted to start something of his own soon. After a couple of years, he quit to make detergent powder which was a lucrative idea at that time.
Prakash did his research and began making detergent powder but one problem blocked him one after another and it flopped. This was only one of the many failures he was to see in the coming days. Around seven to eight businesses that he tried fail in quick succession and people around him began questioning his abilities.
In 1991, an acquaintance suggested him to get a franchisee of any Bangalore-based incense stick company. Prakash was clear that this was not something he wanted, and replied, “Just wait for sometime and you will see a queue of people waiting to get franchisee of my company.”
“Just wait for sometime and you will see a queue of people waiting to get franchisee of my company.”
Never give up
Holding on to hope and keep trying was the only way for Prakash and he gave one more shot, this time at the agarbatti (incense sticks) making business. With a modest capital and his garage as the workspace, he started rolling aggarbattis with his wife in 1992. While everyone in the incense business was using a brand name that can be associated with religion or spirituality, Prakash named his brand Zedblack. Instead of flower-print wrapping, Zedblack came in a pitch black packet which made it stand out in the shelves.
“My brother and I used to help my parents in the business by packaging the aggarbatis,” recalls Prakash’s son Ankit Agrawal, who is now the director of Mysore Deep Perfumery House, parent company of Zedblack. From cutthroat competition to losing most of the infrastructure in fire, Zedblack has not only survived adversities but also flourished against the odds.
Today, it has become the second largest agarbatti brand in India and produces over two crore agarbatti sticks everyday. The have also started exporting their product in 15 countries spread over four continents. Their revenue makes them the owner of 10-15 percent market share of the Rs 3,000 crore industry.
They have expanded the business into more products from the FMCG sector like edible oil, mosquito coils, soya chunks, mehendi etc. With the strength of more than 1,000 employees, consisting of almost 70 percent female workers, they are present with 2,700 distributors stretching to 7.5 lakh retail outlets. After doing campaigns with several famous faces, Zedblack has now chosen youth icon Mahendra Singh Dhoni as their national brand ambassador.
Despite stumbling at numerous failures, Prakash Agrawal rose again and kept tilling the land till it yielded. He stayed in Indore and built possibilities not just for himself but for hundreds of more like him. His story is an example of patience, perseverance, and hardwork. In a young nation like India we need more people like him who can create jobs and not seek one.