..The 'PLUS' factor

Prosperity is a very relative term. Affluence is a perception. Richness isn't a matter of bank balance and assets. He who has reached the point where money has ceased to be his prime motivation, but become a wonderful by product, IS along truly rich.

He says, "Having started with a salary of Rs. 75/- per month and to have built a business group with a turnover of over 150 crores, today money has ceased to be my motivation. It's my commitment towards my organisation and the opportunity to create people that keeps me going. Then, more than money, it was the lifestyle money could give me that was a great inspiration. There was a time when money was my primary motivation; but today, developing people is my primary motivation. Every time someone crosses my cabin, I wonder how I can use him for the development of my organisation and how my organisation can in turn develop him. Today, nothing gives me more happiness than empowering people, talking to a gathering and using the wealth of my experience to counsel people. I want to help more and more people become successful. People development-that's where I see my future."

This giant of a personality is Manmohan Singh Jain. The governing Principle of hisM.S.Jain life is very simple - nothing but the very best will do. He is a living endorsement to the words of Somerset Maugham - "It is a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it." He uses the best of technology, stays in the swankiest of five-star hotels, travels business class, and is a specialist in high-end dressing ... he carries himself in a class of his own. What is it take to reach there? After all, nothing was given to him on a platter. It has been a journey of sweat, intelligence and timing.

M.S. Jain was born in Ludhiana in 1949. His father spotted in little Manmohan the inclination for academics, and hence encouraged him to pursue his studies. In a family that had no graduates. M.S. Jain completed his agricultural engineering. M.S. Jain explains, "Dad's business suffered a major setback during the 1965 Indo-Pak War. Those were difficult times. We were deep in debt and our family was going through great emotional turmoil. Thinking of that phase of my life and looking at the current times, I am tempted to believe that troubles, more than prosperity, bring a family together. Those difficult times brought us brothers and sisters close to each other. To Dad, nothing mattered; he kept encouraging me to focus on my studies. Initially, I wasn't a very responsible boy. However, my association with the senior most teacher of a Jain night patshala (school) changed my personality. He never spoke about my mistakes or negatives, but all the time spoke about what was positive in me. This approach of his, of speaking only the good all the time, drew me towards him and his teachings. He had a great impact on my management style is to correct people. I can never punish people. I was so enamored by him that I started studying the Jain religion; subsequently, I also taught in the same, patshala for a year. Afraid that I would become" a monk, my dad forcefully pulled me out of the patshala."

M.S. Jain continued. "I used to take tuitions to support my family financially and also to earn my fees. A four-hour part-time job at the university earned me Rs. 75/- per month. After completing my engineering, I started my life as a 'Class 4' employee in the Tubewells department with a salary of Rs. 208/- I then worked for a year with the Ford Foundation, which was followed by a three-year stint as the Haryana Agricultural University. During this period (in 1972), I got married to Kiran, a very talented woman. She was then the HOD of the Music department in Punjabi University. I then joined the Oswals, and in many ways it became a turning point in my life."

Speaking about his shift to Chennai (from Punjab), M.S. Jain said, "The Oswals had bought a sick unit in Chennai. To receive the unit, they sent me to Chennai as their commercial manager. I took over a unit that was producing 90 tonnes per month and transformed it into a 4000-tonne (per month) unit. In this period, I made a profit of seven and a half lakhs in a single oil import deal and invested the entire money to improve the infrastructure of the factory. Though I acted in the best interest of the company, the Oswals were very upset with me and withdrew my singing powers. A question came up in my mind - 'How long can I tolerate all this?' In 1978, material worth over one crore rupees was stuck in Calcutta due to floods. I had to go to Calcutta to sort it out. Pooja holidays were on, and nothing moves in Calcutta during Pooja. As I never had more then an hour of work everyday, I bought two books from a platform shop- 'Think and grow rich' and 'Be you own boss'. Needless to say, I came back to Chennai and resigned my job. I decided to work for myself."

M.S. Jain added, "With a spark given by a Central Excise Inspector, funding from the State Bank of Patiala and a personal capital of Rs. 15,000/- I ventured into the manufacturing of sodium silicate. It was a big shift in lifestyle. From a chauffeur driven car and business class air travel, I had to shift to using state transport buses and a cycle. From luxurious five-star hotel suites, I had to shift to lodges which offered a bed at Rs. 5/- per night. I kept telling myself that was someone else's life; this is my life. By October 1979, I had commenced production. I created a 60-month chart - a plan of action, and to the last rupee we achieved our projections in five years. The business grew from a profit of one lakh to 32 lakhs in 5 years' time. By 1995, we had set up 21 plants allover the South. By 2002, we had established 46 plans. Of course, this is the era of consolidation. So we have merged many small plants, and now 17 plants are operational. Now, with a producing capacity of over 10,000 tonnes per month, we are the largest producers of sodium silicate in India."

Speaking about the factors that have contributed to his success, M.S. Jain said, "My brothers, Rufus - my second-in-command and a pillar of strength to the organisation, and my sons '" they have always come together and produced excellent team work. My process reengineering capability has also contributed greatly to our success. While the whole industry was running on furnace oil, I designed and erected furnaces that run on coal - this gave us a huge pricing advantage. I have always outperformed my industry in the economics of production through innovative engineering in the manufacturing process. The logistics of having plants across South India and now in the U.A.E. give us an enormous cost advantage. My organisation is highly system driven. We have a system of preparing balance sheets every month. I am also a big believer in technology - whether it is telex, fax, copiers, computers or mobiles, I am always among the first to grab them. Today, my entire organisation is online and integrated. I have always made best use of the benefits offered by the government. My plants are always set up in the most backward areas where the government offers various concessions and incentives. Thereby, I save anywhere between 8-10% on my production cost."

Speaking about another major strength of his, M.S. Jain said, "I am a big 'people' man. I am highly accessible to people. In fact, all my staff have been told that I am available to them 24 x 7 ... they have been instructed to call me any time of the day or night, in times of difficulty. I pay my people well, and derive great satisfaction from it. Today, I have over 450 people on my rolls and 350 people working on a contract basis. I find greater joy in creating successful people than becoming successful myself. When someone approaches me for help, irrespective of whether they are my employees or not, I take it as an opportunity and offer help. I feel grateful to them. I have experientially learnt that how much ever I give, nothing of mine diminishes. In fact, more is given to me."

To conclude, M.S. Jain said, "To me, a good organisation is one that keeps growing in spite of all the odds it faces and all the challenges it encounters. I am glad that I have built the number one organisation in India in my industry. What makes me happier, though, is that we cannot be stopped from retaining this number one status."

Manmohan Singh ... there's something so special about people with this name. M.S......
there's something so special about these initials..... they always draw success and celebrity status. M.S. Jain ..... a very special person.