IN 1973, when Mohan boarded a second class compartment of the Jayanti Janata Express to Mumbai (Bombay) from Thrissur in Kerala in South India in search of a job, little did he realize that he would be known as ‘Good Knight Mohan in a few years’ time. Jobs came easy to this young new Electrical Engineer, but he was not satisfied. After switching jobs twice, Mohan started a trading firm to deal in ceramic insulators. While this paid for his livelihood, he experimented with the design and production of indigenous diapers from his flat in Kalina. Sales were limited and market never picked up for want of perfection. Also many people did not know then what a diaper was all about. In 1981-82, when electrical equipment industry went through a bad patch Mohan had to sell his insulator business.
It was at that time that he was looking for a safe anti-mosquito repeller to protect his little daughter from mosquito bites and sleepless nights. He finally located an effective repeller in the form of a paper mat under the brand name Vape in one of the shops in Mumbai. Although the shop-keeper did not show much interest in selling it apparently to avoid any risk of non-performance of an unknown product, Mohan bought it as he wanted to try it out. The next day itself Mohan felt that it would be a high successful product if it were marketed well and he soon took over the distributorship of the little known Vape. Although Mohan was convinced about the future prospects of Vape, the managing director of the company did not give him any support in terms of advertisement and reliable distribution. It was when Vape started fading away that he decided to explore possibilities of starting a firm of his own to manufacture mosquito mats in collaboration with Sumitomo of Japan.
Technology and financing
His attempts to collaborate with the Sumitomo group of Japan which had a monopoly of the technical materials, was faced with obstacles. He met their liaison officers in Mumbai several time. They were polite but asked him to wait for some more time before they could make up their mind. After several futile attempts Mohan felt it was becoming an unending waiting. There was still no firm response from Japan although he knew that they were keen on an Indian collaboration. Finally he flew down to Osaka in 1983 on a courtesy ticket obtained through his wife who was working for the Air India then. He phoned up the corporate office of Sumitomo from his hotel room and sought an appointment. The very next day he met senior officials of Sumitomo who, to much a surprise, had preserved all the correspondence he had made for the purpose of collaboration. Soon Mohan returned to Mumbai with an agreement for the supply of the technical ingredient called allerthin for the manufacturer of mosquito repeller mats, and the single equipment for dipping allethrin. They did not give him any credit. Further, Sumitomo was free to supply the material to anyone else in India.
Another, major hurdle was yet to be crossed. It was finance, and he did not have any money with him. His friends and family members who had supported him in experimental diaper business could not help him. His banker with whom he had long years of association dilly-dallied for eight months with his loan application before finally rejecting it. In the mean time the Sumitomo machine had arrived in Mumbai airport and was lying idle there. His loan application was rejected by almost 30 banks and financial institution on grounds of non viability.
Finally, in 1984 one private financier offered to lend Rs.0.20 million @ 5 % interest PM, taking Mohan’s flat as collateral. Since he had no other option open he took it and got the machinery released from the airport. The financier’s son offered funds for purchase of raw material on a condition that he be given sole Distributorship of Good knight. In mid 85 the father-son franchisers came with a proposal of 50% stake in the company, lest they would pull out...
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