Today is Akshaya Tritiya, this is an important day for many reasons and its specially significant for the people of Bikaner . The foundation of this beautiful city was laid by its Rao Bikajee. The folk lore has it that Bikajee, being the second son of Rao Jodhaji had very little chance of becoming a king of Jodhpur. Elder brothers almost always usurp paternal inheritance ( example Mukesh Ambani ). He, however was an entrepreneur at heart and decided to chase latent opportunities elsewhere and carve a kingdom for himself. He was asked to fly a kite in barren area of Thar desert and the farthest point the kite reaches would determine the boundary of his state. With this humble beginning, the city today has become the 5th largest city of Rajasthan and is a dominant force in food map of world. The act by Rao Bikaji sparked this beautiful tradition of flying kites during Akshaya tritiya . All the people who have roots or association with Bikaner fly kite on this day and the kite festival at Bikaner is one of the world’s richest. The fervor for kites is at its highest on this day in Bikaner and also in Calcutta.
What is the significance of Bikaner on entrepreneurship ?
The biggest business brand which has come out of Bikaner is Haldiram, India’s largest snack company. Founded in 1937 by Ganga Bisenji Agrawal its site produdly depicts its growth .
This is the nearest any Indian has got close to being a global food brand.Bisenji was a small snack maker at Bikaner but with large business dreams . He moved out of the comfort of home in Bikaner and opened his first shop outside home in Delhi in 1982 and then in famed Burra Bajaar of Calcutta. He started selling flavor of Bikaner to urban Indians. Soon the business grew, the shops in Nagpur and other cities followed and the pangs of scaling up began. Soon the factory at Nagpur took roots and a global snack food joint was in the making. He thought of scale which was in stark contrast with other businessmen. Today Haldiram offically is a USD 4 Mn brand ( I think its worth much more ) which occupies significant shelf space in global retail giants like Carrefour, Sipneys, Sommerfield etc .Its said its plant in Bichhwal, Bikaner consumer 100K litres of diesel per day to product this snack.
Why Haldiram grew where others did not ?
I had once gone to Chittaranjan sweet shop in Baagbazaar of Calcutta. So amazing was the quality of sweets that I was very excited to have him open shop in Pune. Keen on even becoming a franchisee, I spoke to the owner. This Chitto Bhodro babu quickly blurted the stereotypical, “We have no branches and we are content with the business and dont want to open anymore “. His business value was in stark contrast to a Bikaneri food entrepreneur who was always hungry. He felt the branches were always less. He wanted his product to reach shelves of every superstore of the world. Is this not the spirit every business person should have ?
Whats interesting is that Bikaner and its people have tremendous spirit of adaptability. Not withstanding the domination it enjoyed in Namkeen market, it also became the biggest producer of Bengali sweets outside Bengal. The city is a major attraction if you are a foodie. Today Bikaneri Bhujia is exported to almost all countries of the world.
What distinguishes the spirit ?
An interesting conversation happened during my high school days. I was learning chemistry from Dr Manas Ganguli ( Then considered GOD of chemistry ). One day , he was pensive about the Marwari cultural imperialism. Famed Calcutta Electric Supply coporation(CESC) was taken over by a Marwari ( RPG Group which owns CEAT and HMV brands ). He was pained with imagination that one day Calcutta’s famed South Point school which holds Guiness world record as largest academic school in the world will have a marwari flag. Though founded by a Bengali, it will one day be hypothetically renamed Gauri Prasad Agarwal high school. The fears were not untrue and the school was soon taken over by M P Birla group( Though the name didnt change after acquisition).
Lesson : If you keep having fears and do nothing brave, crazy or enterprising, your fear will come true, and they will come true sooner than later.
On the foundation day of Bikaner, here is one Bikaneri entrepreneur saluting the spirit of Entrepreneurship of legendary Ganga Bishen ji. Lets get inspired by his zeal to create dominant global businesses.