I recently caught up with Mr. R Srinivasa Reddy, a leading industrialist and serial entrepreneur from Bangalore, India. Mr. Reddy has an incredible story. He went from waiting outside the gates of Zihwa Foods Pvt. Ltd a food product manufacturing firm for about 4 hours just to get their business to buying the firm, with other partners, in 2007.
Along with Zihwa Foods Mr Reddy also runs Associated Asphalt and Stalks ‘n’ spice. It was truly a pleasure interacting with a man who has not only built multiple successful ventures but also acquired the love and respect of his colleagues and community.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to Stannals, Mr Reddy. What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
The driving force behind my quest for entrepreneurship was to sustain myself financially by creating a source of income for myself. Another motivating factor for me was to create employment opportunities to the talented jobs seeking youth and also to upturn an outdated business model followed by government organizations and few influential individuals.
Tell us more about Associated Asphalt.
Associated Asphalt is primarily an infrastructure company with a strong presence in South India focussing on development of private industries. Our portfolio of services which include earthwork, road works, external developments, land reclamation, renewable energy projects, etc. are primed to handle the development of private industries right from breaking ground to setting up their factory floor.
Associated Asphalt is continuously trying to be on the forefront of innovation in the industry. By testing and adopting new and innovative project management methodologies like Design Build (DB), Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), etc, and ingraining data analytics into our day to day decision making processes we seek to be ahead of the curve.
Our ability to deliver completed projects on schedule and within budget with strict adherence to safety and quality in an industry where delays and cost overruns are the norm is the key to our continued success and the reason for our clientele being loyal to us.
How did you overcome the initial capital/seed funding challenges?
When I started, the public sector banks were reluctant to fund companies/projects without any initial collateral. And coming from a modest background I had none to give. We handled this situation by seeking help from our clients in the form of quick release of bills and collecting mobilisation advance before the start of the work. We continued this method until we were able to open up an OverDraft (OD)/Revolver Loan account in 2000 which eased our working capital requirements.
Can you talk about some of the setbacks you might have faced while managing your businesses in the initial stages?
There were plenty of setbacks faced along the way. In all the three companies, my initial partners/investors withdrew from the business in the nascent stages due to personal reasons thus leaving me with the herculean task of managing the businesses. Also, external developments for private industries was an entirely new concept back then and wasn’t the norm. Thus shifting their mindsets from focusing only on the shop floor to developing and creating a neat and workable workplace environment in and outside the industry premises proved to be challenging.
Through persistence, persuasion, and with a keen eye on the future, we are able to convince the top management of the benefits of developing their industries externally.
Other than your current venture, what are some of the other entrepreneurial challenges you would want to tackle in future, if any?
My parents being farmers, I have been associated with agriculture my whole life. Once, I pass on AACP to my children and get some time on my hands I would love to go back to my roots to take up exotic vegetables and organic farming. The agriculture industry in India is somewhat similar to the construction industry in the sense that it has witnessed very little ground breaking innovation.
I would love to have the opportunity to bring in science and modern agricultural practices such as optimized usage of water, satellite imagery, improved logistics, hedging prices of fruits and vegetables through futures contracts, etc. to leave my mark in this space.
What is the long-term vision with Associated Asphalt?
On the innovation side of things we are continuously on the lookout for technology and practices that will improve our project management practices. Some of the techniques we currently use such as data analytics, Building Information Modelling (BIM), etc. are already helping us stay a step ahead and we are looking to capitalize on that in the long run.
That being said, the vision is for AACP be able to take up turnkey solutions to complex infrastructural problems around the world. With our own in house design team and consulting team, I would love to see AACP solving complex traffic flow, bridges, convoluted building designs, etc.
Do you have a message for your fellow entrepreneurs from around the world who might be reading this?
Yes, I do. I believe that, ethics, perseverance and emotional empathy are the key characteristics that define an entrepreneur. By staying true to yourself and your dreams you started out with, not letting success get to your head, weathering through tough times and enjoying the good times and having the emotional empathy to understand what the people you’re with are going through, you not only can achieve big things, but remain happy while doing so, which is what it’s all about at the end.
That being said, I’d like to finish off with one of my favourite quotes:
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.