The Indian consumer has always been sold on value. Mahendra Vinayak Vichare, the managing director of Vichare Courier, realised this very early in his career. He founded Vichare with just Rs 50,000. Today, 10 years later, Vichare Courier has grown to become a Rs 30-crore company and is the courier company of choice in Mumbai. A commerce graduate from Siddharth College of Commerce, Mumbai, Mr Vichare ventured into the courier business without any experience whatsoever. "At that time, nobody in the family had even heard of a courier but there was no resistance. My parents had faith in me and there was constant support," says Mr Vichare. When Vidhare started operations the service of delivering letters, in Mumbai, was majorly dominated by angadias or by India Post. While the angadias were hugely disorganised, India Post took pride in being an organisation with a bad delivery record. "The postal department's service was the cheapest, Rs 3 per letter but it also the most inefficient, taking at times, three to five days to deliver a letter within the city," he says. Vichare exploited exactly that gap in the market.
He set shop and introduced the concept of "next-day delivery" service at rates equivalent to India Post's Rs 3. But why would anyone believe him? Technically, very few should have but charity organisations who are typically frugal in their spends decided to bet on him, especially Rotary Club. Mahendra managed to cultivate good relations with the members of the club, who later on became his corporate clients. Later, a contract system was also started for corporate clients at cheaper rates. "Initially, the customers thought we were fools, offering same day deliveries at such cheap rates but then we capitalised on that and soon our name had spread across all business houses who were keen to sign us up for their postal deliveries," says Mr Vichare.
He recalls a customer from central Mumbai who thought that a move for cheap rates was foolish business sense, and hence he used to send hundreds of parcels through Vichare, but Mr Vichare says that it was through him that "we could reach hundred more customers and get their business as well." Once the business gained momentum, Vichare even started contract system for his corporate clients at cheaper rates.
A company that started with seven people and a single office in Masjid Bunder, Vichare, today, boasts of 3,800 employees on its payrolls and offices at more than 85 locations. All these locations are owned and Vichare has leased 10 trucks. Mr Vichare believes that his people are his assets, but cannot hide his emotions when they leave, especially if they compete with him. "There have been instances where my own people have left and started their own courier operations," he adds. Manpower, is a tricky thing to handle, says Mr Vichare.
He has had to contend with high attrition, 15% annually, at lower job levels. "Our notice of 'people wanted' has never been at rest," he beams. Mr Vichare comes across as a low-profile, contented man, quite happy to be doing what does. "It is better to stay low-profile as being big known also has its disadvantages," he says. Some people say it is his political contacts that have given him a boost in his business. "Personal relations should not be mixed with business. Yes, we have contracts of all political parties, be it Congress, BJP or even a Republican party," adds Mr Vichare.
Dreams apart, Mr Vichare doesn't want any funds or private equity, doesn't have expansion plans to come across as a national operator, worse, he doesn't believe in tie-ups or a franchisee network. "I am a Maharashtrian and being one, whatever I earn, I invest in the business. So, whatever is in my pocket goes to my business and I don't want any funding," says Mr Vichare. He adds almost sounding pessimistic, "We have no tie-ups with anybody as one never knows how the other person is running his business." But, if that be the case, then, this could also be...
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