Entrepreneurial leap

Lead Review

Entrepreneurial leap

Success Story : An enterprise worth a fortune

It needs rare guts for an Indian manager to give up a well-paid, globe-trotting corporate job to venture out on his own. The world of business is an uncertain one with all the pitfalls associated with it. Even after liberalisation, the path before a start-up is paved with thorns. While most fall by the wayside, a few come out with flying colours.

Guardian Pharmacy is one such recent success story. Ashutosh Garg who had a meteoric rise in the corporate world always dreamt of being his own boss. After 25 years of corporate life, including 17 years in ITC, he turned an entrepreneur. In 2003, he started the single-store Guardian Pharmacy which has grown into a chain of health and beauty retail outlets with over 250 shops.

The buck stops here tells the story of this intrepid entrepreneur who doggedly pursued his dream. It epitomises the evolution of post-liberalisation professional who has gained confidence to break free from the corporate world. Ashutosh Garg’s entrepreneurial journey was not a smooth one. He stumbled several times but had the resilience to move forward by learning from mistakes. He says the hardest part is not coming out with a new idea but to stay committed to the dream.

He says most entrepreneurs are not driven by the need to make money but by the need to make their dreams a reality. It was difficult to convince his skeptical friends and family members when he took the plunge into the highly fragmented market of retailing drugs.
As a first generation entrepreneur Garg had no guide to turn to. But the wealth of professional experience came in handy to wriggle out of difficult situations.

The unorganised sector presented a huge opportunity as well as a challenge. After observing many chemists’ shops operating in unhygienic conditions he was convinced that even a marginal improvement in the experience of consumers could make a difference. At Guardian store he wanted to ensure that customers found the right ambience and cleanliness and were sure of the availability and reliability of all medicines.

As retailing is people-intensive, store-staff can make or mar a retail firm’s future. So, he took extra care to train his staff. Effective store locations were crucial and store design and customer satisfaction got priority. Guardian introduced professional management based on meritocracy.

Garg couldn’t afford to remain an observer. He was passionately involved in day-to-day operations, setting right lacunae. He resorted to innovative ways to enhance the brand value. Using information technology in a big way to improve productivity has paid handsome dividends. Guardian tried to have a strong presence in wellness and beauty segments. Partnerships with global firms and franchising gave ample scope for expansion. Addition of body care and nutritional supplements for children came next. As part of the marketing strategy, Guardian Health Chronicle was launched.

As one who has built up from scratch the second largest pharmacy chain in India, the author’s words have a ring of authority. While the chapters on his life as a professional manager in ITC and aerospace business offer insight into the corporate world, some of the personal details on his family members do not add to readability. The book offers a lot on the nitty-gritty of doing business, the teething troubles of a start-up, the most difficult part of funding, the failure to attract talented staff initially and problems with inspector raj.

Garg’s matter-of-fact narration of his success story, joys, sorrow, frustration and failures, laced with plenty of anecdotes makes the volume appealing. No prospective entrepreneur or management student can afford to miss this book. It can inspire budding entrepreneurs to dream big.

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