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Red Life


When the brand BigC entered the market 15 years ago, there were hardly any places where one could buy a mobile phone. Owning a mobile phone was considered a luxury due to the high call charges and the expensive devices. People often used to go to the grey market to buy phones. That was the time when our brand offered genuine bills and warranty. It worked as a major game changer. Meet Mr.Balu Chowdary, Founder and CMD of BigC. The store has evolved as a one stop shop for mobile phones and its needs. The brand has made a name for itself because of its team work and consistency. In conversation with the man behind the gadgets, we found out more about his life, work and family.

Tell us about your journey...
I obtained an engineering degree in Bengaluru in 1989 and took up a job there. Working for the next three years made me realise that it was not my cup of tea. In 1992, I decided to start something of my own. As I was mulling over various options, a distribution company came up as a good choice. This I ran for a decade. The product range consisted of odds and ends like wall clocks, land phones, calculators and other electronic items. I was dealing with 400 retailers. That was a very enriching period and my interaction with them helped me broaden my knowledge about trade, which stands in good stead for me today. I could see many chinks in the service industry. The way they were serving customers had left a lot to be desired. There was a scope for improvement. I wanted to set things right and bring about a change.

Coincidentally, I came across this book named “Made in America” by Sam Walton. It greatly inspired me to take the plunge and further goaded me to do something big and significant. Fortunately, the telecom industry was in the nascent stage but was growing in leaps and bounds. I used it to my advantage and jumped at the first opportunity that came my way. BigC was born in Vijayawada on 23rd Dec, 2002. The two-years of successful run of the store made me think beyond Vijayawada. I shifted base to Hyderabad.

Was that the turning point?
Yes, most definitely. If I see the Vijayawada venture as the first ever turning point in my life, moving to Hyderabad was the second crucial turn in my life.

So, that was a part of the plan?
One cannot plan and move according to that in life, as destiny has its own set of plans for everyone of us. When I set out in my profession, I did not have a wee bit of inkling that I would be here. My intention was to start something that would reach a large number of people. I worked with utmost honesty and integrity. This reflected in my growth as a business man and the rest fell in place. Basically, I have a lot of theoretical knowledge and interest in this field. I wanted to adapt it to day-to-day operations and practice it.
I executed whatever I had learnt and used every opportunity that came my way to the fullest.

You don’t have a business background, was it easy?
I believe that life is the best teacher. Nothing teaches you better than time and circumstances. Hence, with every little step, I learnt whatever I could and grew. I have reached where I am only by trial and error and by learning from my mistakes.

What were the difficulties you faced?
No journey can be a smooth ride – there are always speed breakers and bumps. I too faced a lot of problems but each hurdle was a learning experience. Everything depends on how we look at it. I decided to learn from whatever obstacle I faced and that benefitted me. In my opinion, positive growth only comes when you are ready to learn. Your growth is bound to stop, when you stop absorbing and assimilating things. One must take every hurdle as a step that takes him/her up the ladder of success.

That one unforgettable incident?
All of us have some good and bad experiences. Life is a long journey where we need to remember our lessons. One should remember the good and try and ignore the rest. I choose not to remember anything that is unpleasant and that does not make me happy. They should be seen as insignificant episodes that have to be left behind.

What are the future plans?
We have about 240 flagship stores of BigC and LOT, as of now (the number 1 and number 2 brands together). By this year end, I intend to take the numbers higher by touching at least 300 in total-150 plus for BigC and around 140-150 for LOT.

Your secret to success?
As many people have already said, there is no secret to success. Everyone knows what to do and what not to do. Sticking to the basics, doing it well, taking the right decision at the right time, at the right place, with the right team - has brought me where I am.
We have completed 14 years and have entered our 15th year now. The major part of the credit goes to the entire team, as it would not have been possible without them. We have more than 2,000 people who are with us in our retail chain. They serve our customers – which is the most important part of the business. We have been on the top since day one and have maintained a brand which is more of a responsibility, than a legacy.
I am extremely proud of the fact that I own a brand that has only gotten better with each step. We have good products and services, but to be able to hold your customer’s trust for so many years is a challenge. That is what we have maintained.

How has the market changed over the past few years?
The telecom market is huge! I remember when I started off, the tele-density was about 3-4%. We, of course, expected it to grow but no one had ever thought that it would take such tremendous dimensions. Today the teledensity is about 80%. The industry has not only grown, but also changed completely. In my opinion, the telephone can be rated as one of the best and biggest inventions by mankind in the last 100 years. There are a lot of products and all of them get upgraded, but none of them have gotten upgraded and advanced like the mobile phone. Initially, it was only used for incoming and outgoing calls, now people cannot leave their phone for a minute. That is how much it has impacted us. From where I see it, it still has a long way to go. It will certainly influence us further as the entire world is going digital. We are becoming more and more dependent on this gadget.

What are your hobbies?
I enjoy reading. Nowadays, I also listen to audio books. Apart from that, I love watching movies; movies of all genres and in the five languages I know. Otherwise, you will find me watching and enjoying cricket.

And which authors do you enjoy?
It changes from time to time. I am reading the discourses of Sadhguru and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

How dependent are you on technology?
I do not think I am fully dependent on technology and gadgets, but yes, I use them quite often. Having said that, I am not addicted to them. I can cut off from them, whenever I need to.
One thing you would like to change about yourself?
Nothing that I can think of.
What makes you happy?
Happiness is defined as a state of mind. Hence, nothing can really make me happy, apart from my own thoughts.
What makes you sad?
I try not to allow my thoughts to go to that extent, where they upset me.
Which is your happiest moment?
Picking one would be tough. But if I had to think of one, I should say that recently I took about 105 of my top and mid management people for an international holiday meet and it was wonderful.
What do you do to relax?
My definition of relaxation is spending time with myself, either by reading or just being alone.
Is there any part of your life that you want to relive?
Nothing as such.
Your favourite phone...
Would it not be unfair for me to pick one brand? I change my phone every month, so picking one is quite difficult.

What relationship do you share with your father?
An absolutely wonderful one! We cannot actually put it in words. He is there for us whenever we need him and has been there like a pillar of strength and inspiration.

How involved is he in your lives?
Extremely! We have our sessions together, where he is updated with all that is happening in our day to day lives and we apprise him of every detail.

How much of a friend is he?
We are not scared to talk to him about anything. He has brought us up like that. We have our space, yet know our boundaries. He has given us the freedom to do what we want. He is a wonderful friend to have. Even when we need advice about things, he first asks us as to what we want and then suggests what he has in his mind. A particular special moment with him...
There have been many. It would not be fair to name one.

One thing you like about him the most?
He is extremely responsible and manages time very well. He knows how to maintain his relationships, whether it is with us, mum or his friends.

Colour: Red or blue
Clothes: Formal
Car Brand: BMW
Driving now: My son’s sport model - BMW Z4
Holiday: London
Resettle in: Hyderabad
Movie: The Godfather
Sport: Cricket
Food: Idli-sambar
Book: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I am now reading Bhagawat Gita

Your first impression about him... To be honest, it is very tough to tell. But the first thing, I noticed was that he is a very genuine person and that comes across easily. He is also very affectionate and lovable. I wanted to marry a man who had that extra touch of humanity. And when I met him for the first time, I knew he was the one because that was oozing off him.

Rate him as a father, son and husband... He is a perfect ten for me. I do not think he could have been a better son, father or husband.

What role do you play in his life?
I am his homemaker who has been the woman behind his success.
How is the journey with him?
It is beautiful. He balances everything so well, that there has never been a reason for me to complain about.
Describe him in a few words.
He is a very lovable person and extremely caring. He is my world.
I cannot think of more words.
Your favourite holiday together...
That would be when we had gone to New Zealand.

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