Ahead of the release of his book by Vidya Balan, Indian Kitchen King, TT Jagannathan talks about how, as an engineering student he accidentally came into the profession and used his common sense to run the business
BENGALURU:If your pressure cooker bursts, would you buy one? asks TT Jagannathan, the chairman of the Prestige group, also known as India's kitchen king. This is the question that moved him to work towards an invention that saved Prestige pressure cookers - the Gasket Release System (GRS). This is a safety plug that acts as a backup safety mechanism that regulates the pressure built up in the cooker if the weight valve falls. It was a series of bursting pressure cookers and a fall in the business that gave rise to the invention.
This, and other life lessons are part of Disrupt and Conquer, authored by TT Jagannathan and Sandhya Mendonca which will be formally launched by actor Vidya Balan on Friday. The book chronicles the journey of the business tycoon - of fighting bankruptcy and rising like a phoenix to become a billion-dollar conglomerate.
"I was sitting in Lucknow with my dealers, and they all said we will not touch prestige pressure cookers because it's bursting. So I said, no show me, they took me to the warehouse and showed me lines of burst pressure cookers. We make very good pressure cookers, so it took me a while to figure out about the safety plug. You get a lot of spurious substances, you get spurious food, spurious drugs. But if you put a safety device that's spurious, the cooker will burst. So I had to come up with a solution, which is the Gasket release system (GRS). Which actually came to me on the toilet, that's where I think the best."
‘Sometimes qualifications override common sense'
Jagannathan accidentally came into the profession. Being an engineering student, he did not really plan on taking up the business. However after the death of his elder brother he was forced to take up the business. And it was under his leadership that the company turned its fortunes around. It is of his opinion that qualifications are not a determining factor when it comes to running a business. He says that using one's common sense is the most important thing in businesses.
As an advice to budding entrepreneurs, he says, "I believe you should never give up. There are cycles, if you're going through a bad patch, you have to be at it and the good times will come, they always do. I'm not qualified, I'm an engineer, it's a disaster for engineers to run a business. They look at everything from a product point of view - not finance, not marketing, not HR - everything from a product point of view. It's a disaster, it's like a doctor running a hospital. That's an absolute disaster. Use your common sense, the uncommonest of all senses. I'm not an expert at all subjects, I can't be. But I do have a lot of common sense."
Even Sandhya, the co-author of the book, who doesn't have an official qualification in business says that writing this book with him was equal to doing an MBA course.
'South Indian businessmen never take loans'
According to the industrialist, south Indians businessmen are not in the habit of taking loans. They work solely on hard work and perseverance. " You take for instance the Ruias, they borrowed a hundred and eighty thousand crores, if you show me a south Indian person who has borrowed 18 thousand crores I'll be surprised. You take big groups, like the TVS or the Hindu group, none of them borrow. They believe in working hard, saving money and doing something with the money." "I don't count Mallya as a south Indian businessman, he grew up in Kolkata."
He says that the borrowing power also depends on the influence a group has in Delhi. "In fact in the 50s, 60s and 70s, the Birlas had a huge influence. And then even the Ambanis, they did the same thing. The Prime Minister visits Ambani's house. It's not just Modi, Manmohan Singh and even Rajiv Gandhi did. You find the south Indian businessman like that. It's probably unfortunate or fortunate, it depends on the way you look at it."