Having completed my MBA in International business, from Griffith University, Australia, I always thought that I would work for a few years and get some experience under my belt. However, due to certain unforeseen circumstances I was forced to return back to India and join my family business.
During my time in Australia I managed to learn a lot not only through my course but also from fellow students from different countries and cultures. The university fascinated me as it was spread over acres of land and the library functionality caught my attention – they had this method of tracking and storing of books in different levels and shelves. They had a chute outside where the books could be dropped off and a system where their books could be checked whether they have a copy of it in the library or when is it due.
I started my research and went on to stumble across this entire industry called Records Management. There were companies in Australia which provided such services and it made sense as the labour was expensive and storage cost was high. I thought to myself that such an industry would be so much useful to companies in India where most of the work still happens on paper and the volumes of paper records must be huge! I visited a company locally which provided this service and they were kind enough to assist me with the details of the service and the process. I ended up spending an entire day in awe of the records facility and the systems they had in place to manage thousands of records they had stored.
I came back to a fully established family business but wanted to do something on my own, I shared the idea with my father, Rajesh Ohri who was very supportive of the idea and thought that this service had huge potential in India. My family has been in the logistics business since the past 40 years and this would be a good extension to our existing line of business. I started research on building customized software to ensure that I could add features to the software and improve it according to the need of the business and not be dependent on the readily available software. My father knew the investment and the business will be high with slow returns at the beginning but with his faith in the business plan he invested in the software, barcoding, specialized boxes and the records facility. We built the records facility as per international standards – Heavy duty racking system, CCTV, fire alarm systems, access control, which also helped us become members of an esteemed organization- PRISM, which only gives their certification to members who meet all international safety and security standards.
Getting the right boxes was another major challenge – with the international industry size varied it was difficult choice to make whether to keep 1 box size or 2 box size and also ensuring that the cost of the box does not increase the cost and yet maintain the quality as per international standards so that it is sturdy for the handling during the storage period.
There was a lot of scepticism and a lot of people told me that India is not ready for a service like this where they would be willing to hand over their records to a third party and records are the least priority of any business in India. People have their own storage system and they would prefer having their records under their nose than outsource it to another company.
Listening to every person’s comments on the business started to build doubt in my mind and I was unsure whether this business would work, but nevertheless we completed the software and the records facility in less than a year and started our operations in April 2011 under the company name Packways Logistics. With the major budget spent on software and our records facility we were left with a marginal amount to market our service in the market. Using orthodox methods of marketing for 3 months along with social media we ran out of luck, all the prospects we contacted either did not understand the service or were too surprised to hand over their records to a stranger.
The initial marketing method gave a huge dent on my hopes and the enthusiasm as everyone was sceptical about the idea of storing records with another company even when they were being offered storage in a highly secure heavy duty racking systems with high security records facility giving them a plan for disaster recovery along with the concept of digitizing their records. First I thought the cost was too high which is why the client was hesitant but then after working on the cost I realized that in a day where people spend Rs. 200 on a cup of coffee, which was also the cost of storing 30-40 files for an entire year. The cost in comparison to the benefits clients were getting was literally negligible. The main problem was people failed to associate the indirect costs associated with improper storage of records. Most companies in India are comfortable with their traditional record storage methods. They do not account the cost of space being wasted; manpower hours spent looking for records or the delays caused by not finding documents on time.
After 3 months of struggle of securing a single client and with people beginning to tell me to let go of the idea as India is not the market for such a service, I gave myself another month to work even harder to get a client with a small team of 5 including me and the support staff we worked harder to get our very first client. Research showed that even in technologically advanced countries like USA and UK, there was huge demand for Records Management and there were large corporation in the business providing such services to various corporations. This was huge confidence booster and my conviction that a business like this would succeed was reinstated.
Not long after, we secured an account of a manufacturing company which was keen on having our service and were themselves in a need of finding a better solution of handling their records. I did not believe in luck before I started my business but this was mere co-incidence where we met a company who were looking for such a service. We started with digitizing their records and then moved on to creating a records management system in their warehouse premises. This led us to work on a turnkey project where we become their records department and all request come to us through an authorized person. Digitization was a boon in disguise for them as they reduced paper handling and duplicate copies and Xeroxes in their office reducing administrative costs by 50%. They could directly email the record which was required to the concerned person than look for it physically and then have it couriered or scanned themselves.
Soon after we got another major turnkey project for a bank. We really had to stretch all our resources in order to fulfill this project and were a great morale booster. Through mere cold calling and distribution of pamphlets, we were able to add on a couple of more customers. The main challenge I face is making people aware of a service like this. Once people know about it, automatically a need arises, as every organization no matter how big or small requires this service for smooth functioning. Moreover, in a metropolitan like Mumbai, with sky-rocketing real estate prices, this service becomes all the more important.
Till date people doubt the success of a business like this. However, I feel that’s human nature to question anything that’s new and innovative. Records Management is a need for every business and sooner or later every organization will recognize this need. It’s difficult to make them understand the concept. But then again like they say nothing comes easy in life!