“Success and profitability are outcomes of focusing on customers and employees, not objectives.” ― Jack Ma
Shri Rakesh Agarwal, MD of Purbanchal Laminates Group of the 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 the tutelage of his father’s younger brother, Shri Kapoor Chand Agarwal from Dimapur, Nagaland, he learned the business. It was Kapoor Chachaji who trained him in every aspect of the business, including the manufacturing of the products.
Banwaribabu has been the founder and 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 hired a sawmill at Dimpaur, Nagaland, and later under the guidance of Banwaribabu, he expanded his business to set up a veneer manufacturing unit called Purbanchal Veneers in 1993 at Langtang, Assam. The unit was set up in a picturesque but backward tribal area of North Cachar Hills, which is now part of the Dima Hasao District. The geography and the approach were quite challenging and additionally, the area was facing political turbulence despite of the difficulties in operations, Rakeshji managed to do a business of ₹. Two Crore within three years of entering the business. Rakeshji reminisces that those days of hardship have helped in transforming a young man into a determined entrepreneur.
Plans to expand were 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 closed by December of 96 due to changes in Government policy in terms of a ban on forest products. The sudden shut-down and setback for a new business would have shaken weak-hearted person, but Rakeshji was probably made of different mettle. The setback in business became a motivator for the young man and the desire to succeed as an entrepreneur was strengthened.
With the indomitable spirit of never say die attitude and under the guidance of Banwaribabu, Rakeshji set up a new plant in the barren land of Kutch alongwith Alok Agarwal and the guidance of Hari Chachaji. Within 36 days, Rakeshji moved lock, stock, and barrel from extreme East and re-setup the business on the extremely West coast of the country. In the new location, the 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 a high dependency on the imported raw material that was bulky.
Having ironed out the initial hiccups, Rakeshji expanded into plywood manufacturing in 1998, and Amul Boards Pvt. Ltd., was set up 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 the area tends to face storms and high-speed winds during monsoon. Within a year of having set up Amul Boards, a devastating cyclone led to severe disasters to 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 km from the Amul plant. 14 employees in the plant lost their lives and the entire region was raised to rubbles. Rakeshji along with 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 the 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 up business at the new location, having faced 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 the Amulya mica brand in the market. Amulya mica soon spread over across the country and even export started. The USP offered by Amulya mica was the widest range of designs and thicknesses besides the quality.
Rakeshji believed in offering his consumers the best product and within a matter of five years, Amulya mica got established among the top 10 brands in the 4500-crore laminate industry. Rakeshji vision, desire to succeed, and 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 Amulya mica associates.
Rakeshji’s personal touch and being supportive of any individual in a crisis have helped him to create lifelong bonds. The entrepreneurial streak in Rakeshji has been the reason for him to explore uncharted waters and today Amulya mica products are being exported to almost24countries. In one of the countries, the company’s products are being sold under companies’ brand name, which is a rarity in the export business. Today, Purbanchal Laminates has received a Star Export House status from the Government of India.
On Personal Front
Rakeshji is a family man, he could be considered an ideal son which parents wish for in the present day, a loving husband, and a doting father who, despite professional commitments never neglected his family and always gave his attention to them whenever required.
He started to work at the tender age of 20 years, established the business, and faced many adversaries yet he succeeded. He attributes his success to his parent’s blessings. He strongly confirms the Indian beliefs and value system and even today stays in a joint family along with his parents. There have been occasions 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 the Northeast. All through ups and downs Mamta has stood with Rakeshji as the 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 Agarwal is leads a semi-retired and contended life and visits the 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 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, that it has.
Rakeshji belief in Indian values is very strong. His love for the Northeast and his parental state Rajasthan is so strong that he has recreated and maintained the culture of both states. Rakeshji celebrates Bihu with the same fervor as Holi, and he invites artists from their respective states. Socially active amongst the Agarwal Samaj, Rakeshji member of the Core Executive Committee of the Samaj association at Gandhidham. He has a 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 from 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-totally 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 give him the energy for the entire day. Even today, he puts in an average of 10 hours in his business. Rakeshji has a regret that he never completed his CA but his interest in educating himself is always there. Despite his busy schedule, he has completed a 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 a good motivator. He opines that Bhagwat Gita offers answers to all his problems in business and time permitting he ensures reading it.
Rakesh Agarwal’s thoughts are we are a product of society and the environment. He believes that we should have a 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 that has just a few mm of rain in a year.
Rakeshji also firmly believes that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is not the only compulsion of any business but it should be integrated wit into the working values of any company. As part of CSR activity, the company has undertaken a “Tree Plantation” drive, since the company’s philosophy is to give back to the environment that we have taken from it to maintain balance in nature. The company aims to “plant one 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 joint participation with an NGO – Give India, Mumbai and Grow Trees Foundation, Mumbai, and Seva Nidhi Trust, Anjar and collectively till January ’22 he has planted one lakh trees at different locations in the country.
Rakeshji opines that a 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 sections of the society, provides aid 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 a Cancer Hospital at Sterling Ram Krishna Specialty Hospital, Gandhidham (Gujarat) which is the first of its kind in the Kutch district of Gujarat.
Every year on Foundation Day, the company organizes Blood Donation Camp, where all staff, workers & executives from all levels of management voluntarily donate Blood to serve 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 the future to build the toilet Blocks.
Believing in the 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 in 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 undertakes philanthropic activities even in his capacity such as providing support for education and marriage of girl child, and 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
Besides being active in social life, Rakeshji is equally active in many professional associations and bodies.
His list of associations with such professional bodies is quite vast; yet to list a few, he is a committee member, of the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), Gujarat chapter; he is also a Member of the 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 (SPIRIT). He is also a Panel Member, of the Federation of Kutch Industrial Association (FOKIA); and he is on their committee of “Land Revenue and Legal”. Mr. Agarwal had also served as a member of the Board of Governing Body of Indian Plywood Industries Research & Training Institute (IPIRTI)
In his capacity, Rakeshji has received many accolades, rewards, and recognition, prominent amongst those is: the Distinguished Entrepreneurship Award in the MSME sector received from Ph.D. 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 gesture by any public sector bank, and Brand Ambassador of Fab India, Gandhidham, Gujarat. Rakeshji has also been recognized as one of the Most Promising Entrepreneurs 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 received the award from Assocham CSR Excellence Award-2017 from Assocham, Delhi, and Greentech CSR Award-2018 from Greentech Foundation, New Delhi.
Rakeshji while summing up turned philosophical and quoted William Wordsworth’s famous poem, “Daffodils” to sum up his life and his desires. He said the main theme of 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 contented, but I have miles to go before I rest.” He said with a smile and determination, my next aim was to cross Rs. 500 Crore as the Group turnover which is around 350 crores in march 2021. He plans to get into IPO within the next two years and he is already building up the organization and his team for the new challenges he has set for himself.
One thing is for sure, for Rakeshji nothing is impossible…. his life is evidence of this saying.