Shri Rakesh Agarwal, MD of Purbanchal Laminates Group of company was born and brought up in Tinsukia, Assam. The family of Shri Agarwal originally hails from Rajasthan, and it was his father Shri Om Prakash Agarwal had migrated to Tinsukia for a career opportunity. Rakeshji was desirous of becoming Chartered Accountant and for this reason he completed his graduation in Commerce from Northeastern Hill University (NEHU), Assam. However, fate seems to have different plans for him.
During Diwali of 1991 he received a gift of ₹. 50,000/- which was a considerable sum from his father Shri O P Agarwal. Rakeshji was overwhelmed by this gesture of his father, and he decided to invest the hard-earned savings of his father to some good use. Rakeshji exploring the options for investment looked for guidance to a senior and highly respectable family member Shri Banwarilal Agarwal, and under tutelage of his father’s younger brother, Shri Kapoor Chand Agarwal from Dimapur, Nagaland, he learnt the business. It was Kapoor Chachaji who trained him in every aspect about the business, including the manufacturing of product.
Banwaribabu has been the founder chairman of Century Ply Board, known for his foresight and knowledge about business guided young Rakesh to set up a sawmill, which was quite a promising business then in the Northeastern Region. For this, Rakeshji organized and managed to collect an additional sum of ₹. Six Lakhs from friends and families. From this point a CA in making ended up becoming an entrepreneur.
Initial Years: An uphill task
The first business Rakeshji setup was in 1991, for which he hireda sawmillat Dimpaur, Nagaland and later under the guidance of Banwaribabu, he expanded his businessto set up a veneer manufacturing unit called Purbanchal Veneers in 1993 at Langting, Assam. The unit was set up in a picturesque but backward tribal area of North Cachar Hills, which is now part of Dima Hasao District. The geography and the approach were quite challenging and additionally the area was facing political turbulence. Inspite of the difficulties in operations, Rakeshji managed to do a business of ₹. Two Crore within three years of entering business. Rakeshji reminisces that those days of hardship has helped in transforming a young man into a determined entrepreneur.
Plans to expand was short-lived and the additional unit under the name of PurbanchalUdyog which was a face veneer manufacturing unit setup at Chotanapjan, Assamwhich began operations in 1995 was closedby December of 96 due to changes of Government policy in terms of ban on forest products. The sudden shut-down and set-back for a new business would have shaken weak hearted person, but Rakeshji was probably made of a different mettle. The set-back in business became a motivator for the young man and the desire to succeed as an entrepreneurwas strengthened.
The indomitable spirit of never say die attitude and under the guidance of Banwaribabu, Rakeshji setup a new plant in the baren land of Kutch alongwith Alok Agarwal and guidance of Hari Chachaji. Within 36 days, Rakeshji moved lock, stock and barrel from extreme East and re-setup the business at extremely West coast of the country. In the new location, Veneer manufacturing business under the name of Landmark Veneers was set up. A fresh start of importing lumber and peeling was started at the present-day location. Many of his old team followed Rakeshji to the new plant, which was an added advantage to the new business, and it helped to become productive faster.
Testing of an Entrepreneur Continues!
When Banwaribabu directed Rakeshji to setup the plant at Kutch, he knew that the Gujarat Government’s policy favoring and encouraging new businesses in the arid land of Kutch shall benefit the new company by way of tax holidays and support. The new site being closer to the ports was an added advantage for the business which had high dependency on imported raw material that was bulky in nature.
Having ironed out the initial hiccups, Rakeshji expanded into plywood manufacturing in 1998 and Amul Boards Pvt. Ltd., was setup at the same location.
It’s said that God tests those individuals who have the resilience and strength to fight. Kutch having many advantages has one major disadvantage that the area tends to face storms and high-speed winds during monsoon. Within a year of having setup Amul Boards, a devastating cyclone led to sever disaster of property and human lives and even Amul Boards was badly hit. In 2001 January the region witnessed an 8 point on Richter scale earthquake with the epicenter being 30 kms from Amul plant. 14 employees in the plant lost their lives and the entire region was raised to rubbles. Rakeshji alongwith his family and the entire staff stayed in temporary accommodations for almost two months.
It was the determination and desire to succeed which led to rebuilding of the plant and with special Government support the business was reset up and production began.
Never Looking Back:
Post the teething trouble of setting business at new location, having faced with two major natural and life-threatening disasters, Rakeshji decided to expand further.
In 2004, in the adjacent plot, a Laminate unit was set-up. Purbanchal Laminates gave the organization the impetus it needed, and it helped establish Amulyamica brand in the market. Amulyamica soon spread over across the country and even export started. The USP offered by Amulyamica was widest range of designs and thickness besides the quality.
Rakeshji believed in offering his consumers the best product and within a matter of five years, Amulyamica got established amongst the top 10 brands amongst the 4500-crore laminate industry. Rakeshji vision, desire to succeed and his hands on style of operation helped to establish a network of distribution partners and even after almost one decade almost all the channel partners continue to be part of Amulyamica associates.
Rakeshji’s personal touch and being supportive of any individual in their crisis has helped him to create life-long bonds. The entrepreneurial streak in Rakeshji has been the reason for him to explore uncharted waters and today Amulyamica products are being exported to almost24countries. In one of the countries the company’s products are being sold under companies’ own brand name, which is a rarity in export business. Today, Purbanchal Laminates has received a Star Export House status from Government of India.
On Personal Front:
Rakeshji is a family man, he could be considered an ideal son which parents wish for in present days, a loving husband, and a doting father, who inspite of professional commitments never neglected his family and always gave his attention to them whenever required.
He started to work a tender age of 20 years, established the business, and faced many adversaries yet he succeeded. He attributes his success to his parents’blessings. He strongly confirms to the Indian beliefs and value system and even today stays in a joint family alongwith his parents. There have been occassions where he has stayed along with his parents for longer periods during their medical treatment giving priority to them instead of his business and his family.
Rakeshji’s support is in terms of his wife Mamta who also hails from Northeast. All through ups and downs Mamta has stood with Rakeshji as rock of Gibraltar and has managed single handedly the entire family during long periods when Rakeshji was out of Gandhidham developing and expanding his business. Mamta Bhabhi as she is fondly called by friends and families has focused on bringing up her two children – Shailja and Abhishek. Mamta Bhabhihas created her own identity and today she runs a successful upmarket boutique, “Attire” at Gandhidham.
Rakeshji’s father Shri Omprakashji Agarwalis leading a semi-retired and contended life and visits office almost daily for at least an hour. He is the Chairman of Purbanchal Group of Companies. In later years, Rakeshji’s younger brother, Mukesh Agarwal has joined the Group and has expanded the timber business to newer heights.Rakeshji opines that without the support of Mukesh, who is dedicated and hardworking, the Group could have never reached the levels, which it has.
Rakeshji belief in Indian values are very strong. His love for Northeast and his parental state Rajasthan is so strong that he has recreated and maintained the culture of both states. Rakeshji celebrates Bihu with same fervor as Holi, and he invites artists from their respective states. Socially active amongst the Agarwal Samaj, Rakeshji ismember of Core ExecutiveCommitteeof the Samaj association at Gandhidham. He has soft corner for individuals hailing from either state and has always tried his best to help any individual seeking his help. This trait shows he has never forgotten his difficult days, and he has never disconnected with his roots. He mentions that howsoever high you fly you should always remain grounded.
A firm believer in Shri Salasar Balaji, Rakeshji begins his every new venture only after seeking his blessings.
Rakeshji lifestyle is quite simple and is an early riser. He is a tea-totaller and is vegetarian in his food habits. The glamour has not changed his habits and his lifestyle and even today he starts his day with Yoga and prayers. Meditation is part of his routine, and he states that Yoga and meditation gives him the energy for the entire day. Even today, he puts in on an average 10 hours in his business. Rakeshji has a regret that he never completed his CA but his interest in educating self is always there. Inspite of his busy schedule he has completed couple of short-term courses in management, leadership etc., from IIM. An avid reader has a small library on diverse topics and subjects including autobiographies of great individuals, which he says is good motivator. He opines that Bhagwat Gita offers answers to all his problems in business and time permitting he ensures reading it.
Rakesh Agarwal thoughts are we are a product of society and the environment. He believes that we should have symbiotic relationship with the environment as well as the society we live in.
We should give back to the environment for whatever we draw from it. He feels this relationship is a must for making the world a better place for our future generations. Rakeshji hailing from the green rich state of Assam has recreated greenery in the arid region of Kutch and all around his house, office, and plant it’s unimaginable that this is the same place which has just few mm of rain in a year.
Rakeshji also firmly believes that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is not only a compulsion of any business, but it should be integrated within the working values of any company. As part of CSR activity, the company has undertaken“Tree Plantation” drive, since the company’s philosophy is togive back to the environment that we have taken from it to maintain balance in nature. The company’s aim is to “plantONE Tree for every 36 pieces of Plywood which we manufacture.”Rakeshji as part of CSR has initiated a drive of tree plantation and has involved his entire organization, his business associates as well as his family and friends. In a joint participation with an NGO – Give India, Mumbai and Grow Trees Foundation, Mumbai,and Seva Nidhi Trust, Anjarand collectively till January ’22 he has planted one lakh trees at different locations in the country.
Rakeshji opines that nation shall progress if all members of the society grow. He organizes both in the individual capacity as well as part of the organization activities which helps in improving sanitation facilities, supports education for children from marginalized section of the society, provides aids to physically challenged individuals, etc. During Covid, his organization supported migrant workers and villagers in the vicinity of the plant by providing food and water.
A few of the activities undertaken by Rakeshji are:
- The company has provided funding of a substantial amount to build Cancer Hospital at Sterling Ram Krishna Specialty Hospital, Gandhidham (Gujarat) which is first of its kind in the Kutch district of Gujarat.
- Every year on the foundation Day, the company organizes Blood Donation Camp, where all staff, workers & executives from all levels of management voluntarily donate Blood to serve the society in a better way.
- Under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the company has constructed toilet Blocks in Vedi Village, Bhimasar Village, Sinay Village & Padana Villages of Kutch District of Gujarat and stopped the open defecation. It will continue in future to build the toilet Blocks.
- Believing on principle of Yoga for healthy living and happy working, the company celebrates International Yoga Day on 21 June every year by distributing 5000 Yoga Mats, Water Bottles & Yoga Brochures Pan India.
- He is an Advisor Director at DAV School, Gandhidham run and managed by Arya Samaj. DAV School is expanding its branch at Anjar, for which the foundation stone has already been laid and Rakeshji is part of the initiative.
Rakeshji supports various causes and undertake philanthropic activities even in his personal capacity such as providing support in education and marriage of girl child, financial support to children of his employees for their higher education. He is modest about these activities and considers that God has made him capable so he should help, and he never seeks any gratitude from individuals whom he has supported in the past.
Associations and Accolades:
Beside active in social life, Rakeshji is equally active in many professional association and bodies.
His list of association with such professional bodies is quite vast; yet to list a few, he is the Committee member, Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), Gujarat chapter; he is also a Member of All India Management Association (AIMA), Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industries (FICCI), Federation of Indian Ply and Panel Industries (FIPPI), Indian Plywood Industries Research & Training Institute (IPIRTI). He is also a Panel Member, Federation of Kutch Industrial Association (FOKIA); and he is in their committee of “Land Revenue and Legal”. Mr Agarwal had also served as a member in the Board of Governing Body of Indian Plywood Industries Research & Training Institute (IPIRTI)
In his individual capacity, Rakeshji has received many accolades, rewards, and recognition, prominent amongst those are: the Distinguished Entrepreneurship Award in MSME sector received from PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the year 2017. He has been appointed as Brand Ambassador of Corporation Bank, Gandhidham, Gujarat, which is a rare gestureby any public sector bankand Brand Ambassador of Fab India, Gandhidham, Gujarat. Rakeshji has also been recognized as one of the Most Promising Entrepreneur 2021 by The Economic Times Edge, which is an initiative by The Economic Times, a leading financial daily in India.
For CSR activities, Amulya Mica is received the award from Assocham CSR Excellence Award-2017 from Assocham, Delhi, Greentech CSR Award-2018 from Greentech Foundation, New Delhi.
Rakeshji while summing up turned philosophical and quoted William Woodsworth famous poem, “Daffodils” to sum up his life, his desires. He said the main theme off the poem which I like is that Nature’s Beauty is a mix of happiness and loneliness. Wordsworth is shown to be lonely, but when he thinks back to the Daffodils ‘dancing'(Nature’s beauty) he is happy and content.
He said “I’m quite contended, but I have miles to go before I rest.” He said with a smile and determination, my next aim to cross ₹. 500 Crore as the Group turnover which is around 350 crore in march 2021. He plans to get into IPO within next two years and he is already building up the organisation and his team for the new challenges he has set for self.
One thing is for sure, for Rakeshji nothing is impossible….his life is an evidence to this saying.