For Dilip Doshi, the professional and personal spheres are not two separate entities; He believes that both are an extension of one’s life that must be enjoyed
When Dilip Doshi debuted for India in Test cricket, he was into his 30s. But he wasn’t one to let go of the opportunity as he went on to claim 100 wickets in international cricket, bowling left arm spin. When Doshi turned entrepreneur in 1984, he did so with the same determination that saw him pick these 100 wickets. He saw an opportunity to bring luxury brand, Montblanc to London and seized it. A decade later, he saw that India was ready to up her lifestyle and brought the brand here. Today, he’s looking to tap the organic food market in India through his brand, Organic Haus, which has retail presence in Ahmedabad and Mumbai, and will soon have an online presence as well.
For someone who is entering a new venture, he sounds very relaxed as he answers my queries over his landline from London. “I am a landline person and believe mobile phones are only when one is away and ‘mobile’,” he points out. And he tells me that he’s in London for The Rolling Stones’ 50th anniversary and will also attend their show in New York. Having watched them perform 230 times, it’s safe to say Doshi is a fan. Little wonder then that he lists Mick Jagger as one of his close friends. When he isn’t listening to the Rolling Stones, Doshi likes watching cricket and reliving his playing days apart from taking a leisurely walk in the park.
As we chat on, I realise that Doshi’s USP is his easy blend of the formal and informal. It works for him as a person and in business. “I have no set routine. I could be attending a business call early in the morning, or completing personal work during the day,” he says. To him, family and work share equal billing. An early riser – a disciplined practice instilled in him from his childhood days by his father – he begins with pilates and yoga four to five days a week, has a light breakfast of oats porridge, does an hour of puja and then settles down to apportion the rest of the day between work and family, depending on which needs his attention first.
International trading was thriving in the ‘90s and I felt it was the right time to introduce India to a brand like Montblanc which has culture and heritage.
From an early age, Doshi helped his father in his business of importing ball bearings. But with high import duties, many importers resorted to unfair trade practices and his father had to shut down the business.
This was while Doshi was already a national level player and as he toured the international circuit, he found in London, a home away from home. After his cricketing days, he established Entrack Co. Inc in 1984 as an exclusive distributor for Montblanc products in London. Ten years later, he found India ready for these products and brought Entrack here. “International trading was thriving in the ‘90s and I felt it was the right time to introduce India to a brand like Montblanc which has culture and heritage,” he recalls. He made a presentation to the management and his transparency won him the deal in 1991 but it took him another three years to establish the first boutique in New Delhi. “At that time, Montblanc had just decided to install boutiques for their products across the globe and ours was amongst the first 40,” he says with pride.
“I think every kind of work needs a professional approach,” Doshi explains. “Even in cricket, it’s important to set a goal and work towards it.” It is an attitude he still carries with him, irrespective of the job at hand.
Developing the market
In the initial days, Doshi realised that five star hotels were the ideal location to display luxury brands as this enhanced their aspirational value. And Montblanc’s products were certainly befitting of that status. “If you take the pen, Meisterstuck 149 – its design has not changed since the 1920s and is the pride of possession of many, from heads of states to students,” he points out. Today, India has changed as has the people’s purchasing power and this has allowed Doshi to open 16 Entrack boutiques and also be present through wholesale dealers and multi-product luxury stores. Additionally, the emergence of several malls has led to Entrack pursuing a presence in these locations.
Despite the vast changes he sees in India, Doshi laments the lack of cleanliness and the shabby state of maintenance. “I really wish we had good streets that provide the right ambience in our cities,” he says with a sigh. Otherwise, a street with canopies and cafés meant for relaxing strolls would be ideal to showcase Entrack’s luxury products, he opines.
While Entrack continues to explore and expand the market for luxury brands, Doshi has turned to his other favourite – food. Being a Jain, he is a strict vegetarian and looks out for quality vegetarian restaurants wherever he is. In that quest for good food, he was introduced to organic food and he found that the highest quality came from Germany. Ironically, the Germans tell him that much of their learning comes from ancient Indian practices.
With a desire to introduce certified and authentic organic food to India, he established Organic Haus stores in Ahmedabad and Mumbai. “I don’t know anything about the food business and Indian policies are challenging. But I have done it before and I am determined to do it again,” he says with confidence. With increasing awareness about the need for organic food, he hopes to tap into the potential.
Doshi has signed up with several international brands to retail at Organic Haus. He believes that instead of protecting local business by keeping out international business, introducing high quality, standardised products from abroad will give the local industry an impetus to compete globally.
Bringing value to the table
At Entrack, the 160-strong workforce is encouraged to develop a sense of ownership. “I am hands on and I let go,” Doshi says. Regular one-on-one meetings give team members an opportunity to air their views. They have the freedom to disagree with Doshi, who is fair to accept a better idea even if it is not his own. He believes that a team shouldn’t have people who come to work, but who bring value.
And in the luxury goods range, it is important that every employee is convinced about the products being sold. And so, his team relies more on instincts, intuition and relationships. Doshi himself is big on believing in people – be it family, friends or employees. Clearly to Doshi, one day flows into the next as he does not try to compartmentalise one from the other.
What is your unresolved dream?
One has many dreams, which change as one faces reality. Dreams are constantly evolving.
What keeps you up at night?
Nothing, unless it is someone I really like being with.
Pet peeve: When people I trust and believe in let me down, that upsets me. I think they are in fact letting themselves down by being untrustworthy.
Your biggest critic: I believe in transparency and encourage people around me to speak their minds.