Interview Times had a great opportunity to have a conversation with one of the few self-made billionaires of Odisha, Mr. Shyam Sundar Poddar, and talk about his company, his achievements, and his future plans. This is how the interview went-
Can you brief about yourself to our readers?
I am Shyam Sundar Poddar, the director of Orissa Plasto Pipes Private Limited. I was born on 7th August 1952 in Kolkata. My ancestors moved from Rajasthan to Kolkata in the late 1800s, and since then, my family has been traditionally into the stock market business.
As a child, I was very good at studies as well as sports. I led my school and college teams in sports like Basketball, Volleyball, and Football. Moreover, I loved playing Badminton, Tennis, and Cricket as well.
After completing my primary education in school and college, I pursued Engineering and later did an MBA course. After completing my education, I ventured into the world of business, starting with Orissa Plasto Pipes.
What made you enter into the business field and not stick to a safe and sound job?
Firstly, you see the Government spends Rupees Five to Six lakhs on average to make a sound engineer. Therefore, I felt it is my responsibility to boost the country’s economy by employing 50 to 60 those engineers.
Even though my family was already into stock marketing, I felt my engineering degree would be worthless if I stick to my family business. Therefore, I created my industrial world after the completion of my education.
What made you decide to shift your base to Odisha from Kolkata for your business?
Before entering into the business world, I visited Odisha twice. The first visit was on behalf of my college as a captain of the Hockey team. The second visit was as a team member in a UPSC team meeting conference. In both the occasion, I loved the state for its kind-hearted people. However, I found that the majority of the state lives a life of misery and poverty. Therefore, I decided to start my venture in Odisha to help its people to grow financially.
What is the difference between the engineers and MBAs of today and the yesteryears?
There are a few differences. Firstly, fetching marks in our times was not that easy. Today, we see the trend of 98 and 99 as the top score. However, during our days, nobody was allowed to get more than 80 marks. Moreover, our generation had to toil hard to study. We did not have the luxury of modern technologies like computers, smartphones, or even Xerox machines. Therefore, we had to work hard, which helped us retain more information than the current generation.
However, the current generation is more innovative than us as they can fully utilize the technology they have in their hands, thereby helping them become multi-talented.
What are the challenges you faced in the initial days of the establishment of your business?
There were some tremendous challenges in the initial days. Firstly, I was not granted any loan from the Odisha Government as it was not in their policy. Therefore, I had to buy an old company and their machine. However, I was given the assurance of getting a rebate in purchase tax, electricity bills, etc. Moreover, I was also given the confidence to get a rebate in IPR.
However, as soon as I bought the old company, there was a 360-degree turn, and the officials said that we hadn’t given you anything in writing. After adding all the charges, the amount raised from 29 to 65 lakhs. Therefore, within few days, I had to pay extra 31 lakhs for the one-time settlements. In those days, I guess it was one of the biggest challenges faced by any industrialist.
How did you overcome the after-effects of Super-Cyclone in 1999?
By God’s grace, by the time the super cyclone occurred, I already had good continuous profits from my industry. Therefore, I paid all the losses from my pocket. There was no doubt that the government offered help, but I refused. It is because help will be more sort of a loan, which I did not want.
Any specific lows that your company went through?
Yes, a few years back, suddenly, a few competitors came into the market. They provided a price which was significantly less in comparison to what we offered for our products. Therefore, our sales became drastically down from 1 Crore 20 Lakhs to 30 Lakhs. However, I assured my child that everything would be back to normal. I was confident of our superior quality products and the low-quality goods that our competitors sold. Within a couple of years, people understood that fault and came back to us.
What are the measures you take to keep your employees happy?
We give complete freedom to your employees to work as long as they can to take extra rewards. Moreover, we do not remove our employees (not even in the most challenging pandemic and lockdown phase). Also, we provide free quarters and gas supply along with other essential services like PF and ESI to our employees. Moreover, if our employees or their members meet with an accident, we take care of them financially.
Any future plans?
Yes, I want to share and security market. It is the traditional business of our ancestors. Therefore, I would like to make it big. I can proudly say, today I stand in the top five of the most influential small-to-medium scale businessman in Odisha.
Image Source- Orissa Plasto Pipes
Interview By- Sayak Karmakar, Resident Editor, Interview Times
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