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He is an out and out people's man and of course, self-made. People who know him dub him as a man with a golden heart. He personifies the popular quote - The key to success is persistence. Life kept throwing challenges at him and he kept proving that he was totally committed to make it big. In conversation with Ashok Reddy Vontary, the architect behind WindoorKrafts, an exclusive uPVC windows and doors manufacturer about his journey from rags to riches.

Formative years
I belong to a middle-class family. My father was into agriculture. I have three sisters and two brothers. Though my father had a very basic education, he was very ambitious and wanted all of us to have a proper education. He toiled day and night to ensure that we were educated in an English medium school. Our family went through a lot of hardships due to financial crisis. I couldn’t study in high-end educational institutions while some of my friends went to USA for higher studies in 80s. I also dreamt of doing my masters in the US. However, I had to drop the idea for two reasons. One is I felt my family needed me as my mother was ill. Secondly, financial constraints came in my way. The next best option that I found lucrative was law. So, I studied Law from Andhra University. Despite not having a godfather, I practised law for nearly seven years in various courts.

In search of success
I was married in 1992. My wife, who was working as an IT professional, got H-1B visa and we moved to the US for a better life and prospects. Initially, I did try my hand in the IT sector but realized that it was not my cup of tea. I started working in a grocery store and restaurant. Later, I started my own grocery store. Things were going fine, but doing everything on my own was taking a toll on my personal time. In the meantime, I started one more store which ran into losses. Seeing the pressure I was facing, my wife urged me to give it up. I decided to move back home as I wanted my kids to be raised here.

Right direction
While we were in the last leg of our stay in the US, I was mulling over various options that I could start after getting back to India. I decided to set up a furniture/interior design store. At that time, our country was witnessing winds of change in terms of how people perceived designing living spaces. I started my research by visiting various furniture stores. A friend who was dealing with furniture imported from China gave me some valuable lessons in this business. He educated me about the process of procuring, pricing and delivering furniture. I also studied the markets of California and New York. By the time we returned to India, I was ready with my plan of action.

In search of roots
I established a furniture show- room in Kukatpally, Hyderabad, where most of the residents belonged to low and middle income group. However, very soon I realized that it was a wrong decision. Setting up an exclusive high-end furniture store at a place like Kukatpally was like the right idea at the wrong time and at the wrong location. The business didn't pick up and I had to close it losing a lot of money. However, I decided not to give up and with determination, I bounced back. I learnt valuable lessons from the mistakes I made. That was when the idea to venture into uPVC windows and doors struck my mind.

Inception of WindoorKrafts
The furniture store was closed but thanks to my friends in the real estate, I got the confidence that I should venture into uPVC windows and doors. There was an architectural make-over happening resulting in great demand for uPVC. Once again, thanks to my quest for research, I realized that uPVC is the next big thing in the architectural space. My real estate friends said they would support me as they are my prospective clients. The business started off but it had its own starting issues. I was unaware of the legal procedures of incorporation, legal documentation and so found it difficult to set it up.

The next challenge was finding the right people for the technical and marketing team. In the initial stages, I provided huge orders on credit and lost money as I could not recover the dues. So, yes there have been problems but I moved on and here I am.

Many times, people ask me this. I retort, “Come over to my factory and learn for yourself. I have only good things to say about my business. So, why don't you figure it out yourself?” Customers, who come to my factory and see the way we function, place orders for uPVC windows instantly and write the cheques. Such is our confidence in providing an impeccable product.

Apart from the profile, the reinforcement steel, gasket, hardware and sealant are of standard quality and from reputed companies. So, the steel, cascade and for that matter, every nut and bolt that we use are of high quality. We have standard operations process flow in place. Every phase of manufacturing is meticulously monitored and no compromise is tolerated in the making. In a nutshell, from the first step of measuring to the final step of installation of the door or window- everything is done with the same precision.

Complementing our technical expertise is the experienced staff that makes our products durable and reliable. From our esteemed buyers’ perspective, we are preferred because we provide world-class products at competitive pricing and offer prompt post-sale service. I have always chosen quality over cost and have not minded foregoing some projects because of the low quotations which may force me to compromise on the quality.

Facing competition
Competition never dies. The run to be the best in the race can make you digress from your perception of your business. So, it is better we focus on ourselves. Set your own standards and keep redefining them. Ask yourself if you have improved or bettered from yesterday. Competing with self is the best and the healthiest way to improve. The notion ‘cheap and best’ cannot go hand in hand. It doesn’t matter even if your business takes time to be known for its standards and quality.

Words of wisdom
Research and adapting to change are the pillars of any business. When you plan to start any trade, it is imperative to conduct a thorough market research to know where you stand. Once the business is set up, every entrepreneur needs to develop his ability to constantly evolve. Evolve with the changing trends, markets, global dynamics and more. One must have the ability to let go of what doesn't work and shift focus to what works. Finally, every businessman must be a people's man because, despite all the technical support and market presence, it is all about how you interact with different people at different phases of business. Make mistakes but learn from them.

By 2019, I wish to spread my wings across the globe. In short, in addition to being leaders in B2B market, I wish to move to B2C sector as well. By 2020 I aspire to see my business in the list of top 10 names in the industry.

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