This is a story that will tell you why it is important to get out of your comfort zone and strive to make it big – like Sanjeev Bhatia, Founder & CEO of Bhatia Mobile & HSL Mobile did. His struggle in life started early on when his millionaire dad met with an accident and came back crippled and bankrupt.
His father Mr Harbans Lal Bhatia was a celebrated businessman in the city of Surat. With a successfully running textile manufacturing looms and wholesale business, Sanjeev was from a very well-to-do family. However, in 1986, his father met with an accident that made him bed-ridden for almost three years. He was hospitalised in Delhi for treatment and there was nobody capable enough to take care of running the business back home. When he returned after three years, he was handicapped. He realised that his business was bankrupt with a mammoth loss of Rs 80 lakhs in 1989. “We had to sell off our personal properties to repay the debts,” he recalls.
Being handicapped, Sanjeev’s father was eligible for a PCO/STD booth allocated by the Government. He started a PCO/STD booth when he was just seven-year-old. They rented a small shop where his father used to run his PCO/STD booth and his mother started a juice centre. That’s where Sanjeev’s journey as an entrepreneur started.
“I used to manage the juice center along with my mother. We used to sleep at 2:00 AM, wake up at 4:00 AM to visit the fruit market and leave for school at 7:00 AM after setting things up at the centre. It was the survival struggle that made us work so hard and tirelessly for five years like this,” he says.
They started selling watches and also invested in a photocopy machine to add some extra income. With the evolution of urban culture in Surat, there was increasing demand in gift items. Which led Sanjeev and family to start a gift articles business. He and younger brother Nikhil used to travel to Delhi to purchase the stock. He was merely 12-year-old then.
As mobile phones became a famous phenomenon amidst the rich, demand for mobile accessories also increased and they realised that it was time to take another leap. “In 1996-97, we started a mobile accessories business which was the turning point in my journey. Tremendous response in the accessories business inspired us to start selling handsets and we started up our first mobile store in 1998 named ‘Bhatia’s Mobile’. I made my first visit to Hong Kong in 2002 at the age of 20 and bought a stock worth Rs 1.5 lakhs, on which, I made 100% margin,” he beams.
This inspired Sanjeev to take even a bigger plunge. He borrowed Rs 14 lakhs from the market and visited Singapore at the age of 21 and bought a bigger consignment. “Unaware of the customs laws, never had I imagined that the entire stock could be seized at the Mumbai airport on my way back to India. Also, a case was filed against me. Immediately my face was there on all the newspapers terming me as a young smuggler of the town,” he says.
This made him famous and sales increased by seven-folds from that day onwards. Very soon ‘Bhatia’s Mobile’ became famous as one of the biggest independent mobile phone retail stores in Surat.
By the year of 2003, they had three stores in Surat – all running successfully. Interestingly in 2007, they came up with a franchisee model. Within two years, the number of stores increased from 6 to 25.
“My ultimate vision is to be able to provide smartphone technology to as many consumers as possible and hence we began with our own brand “HSL Mobile” in 2014. We are also getting into eCommerce very soon with an entirely different model,” he says.
Sanjeev’s father was recently awarded by the Hon’ble President of India Shri Pranab Mukherjee for being actively involved in the business for more than 25 years despite his disabilities.
Sheer hard-work and 1000% dedication is no less an enabler than a funding. Keep your eyes wide open for opportunities around, you might just click a million dollar idea out of random. Don’t lose faith, everything happens for a reason and you will definitely be able connect the dots in future. Kudos, Sanjeev!
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