Every entrepreneur across the board faces one common challenge; “scaling-up”. Sohan Lal was no different.
A massive surge in the number of MSMEs in recent years has meant intense competition. Business owners are always trying to figure out newer and up-to-date methods to ensure growth. Needless to say, internet and scalability have started to go hand-in-hand. For small businesses in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities in India, this has translated to an extremely steep learning curve.
At Aye, we’ve always worked with our customers beyond just sanctioning loans. For holistic growth at all levels, we ensure support is available in various forms to our customers. We then identify growth seekers like Sohan Lal who despite initial inhibitions are willing to walk up the metaphorical mountain with us.
Aye Finance’s not-for-profit company Foundation for Advancement of Micro Enterprises FAME’s program “Main Fame-ous Hoon” is one such means of support. It works exclusively with the sports goods cluster and provides them with the necessary guidance on making their business processes more efficient.
Sohan Lal – All Set to Be Fame-ous
The “Main Fame-ous Hoon” initiative began in Meerut with cricket ball manufacturers and the story of Sohan Lal stood out as an example for us all. He had two simple dreams; to lock in a better future for his family and to amplify the reach of his business. He had always been a man of ambition but lacked the guidance to reach his potential.
From Employee to Employer – Howzzat?
Back in the day before his entrepreneurial journey, Sohan Lal worked for SG Manufacturers in the late ’90s, producing quality cricket balls. SG Manufacturers is one of India’s leading sports good manufacturing companies and has a large customer base that includes many national and international players, the Indian Premier League, and even the Indian Cricket Team.
At SG, Sohan Lal studied intricate details of the leather sphere and the composition that comprises a high-quality end-product.
Soon enough, Sohan Lal realized his own potential and decided to independently start something of his own. Thus, with a team of 10 people, he donned the role of a cricket manufacturer/ entrepreneur in Meerut around the mid-2000s.
Dealing with the Googlies
Like any new enterprise, Sohan Lal faced quite a few challenges to keep his business going and growing. There are two primary challenges most manufacturing enterprises face: one when there isn’t much demand and second when there is too much work. Sohan Lal not only recognised this but also resolved the challenges early on.
Now that he was receiving a steady stream of orders, Sohan Lal had to grow his team and for that, he needed funds for resources and manufacturing units. Due to lack of proper documentation, many NBFCs and banks denied him the capital he needed to grow his business.
Aye Finance saw the remarkable work he was doing, got in touch with him and provided him with the required funds. Today, he’s gone through three loan cycles with us.
Hitting the Ball Out of the Park
Sohan Lal quickly gained prominence as a successful manufacturer but he wasn’t going to sit back and relax. He now wanted to go a step further. This meant venturing towards a new dream of creating an identity for his own product by becoming a supplier for local vendors. He wanted to become a brand that people could recognize and depend upon. He went around the market, personally showcasing his product to several sports goods stores in his area and eventually built a loyal local customer base.
This business savviness led him to become a partner for companies like SS manufacturers and his previous company, SG Manufacturers.
Expanding the Dream Team
Over 15 years went by since Sohan Lal first started his own business. Although he was delivering quality products to his partners, he was still struggling to make his product an easily recognizable brand.
He needed to widen his network.
This is where FAME stepped in. FAME worked with Sohan Lal to go digital and got him registered as an Amazon Seller. Before FAME came along, he was very sceptical about listing his products online. After FAME came along…well, he was still sceptical but reassurances, constant support and guidance from the FAME team have helped him understand this unfamiliar territory better. Not to mention the profits.
FAME volunteers dedicated their efforts into turning Sohan Lal’s business into a brand. On Day 1, Sohan Lal made history by selling 35 cricket balls as an Amazon Seller that too at a higher profit margin than before.
Compared to other manufacturers and local vendors, he increased his profit margin by 200% by directly selling to the end customers. Things started looking up from there. From 50 local vendors, he now has access to 197 million monthly active buyers.
What’s Next for Captain Sohan Lal?
From a worker to a manufacturer, to a supplier to a sports brand, Sohan Lal has been taking the right steps in the right direction with little guidance and help from FAME but his aspirations hold no bars. He now dreams that one day his products will be used in international matches. This is the legacy he wants to leave behind for his children.
Meanwhile, he continues to learn the ropes of e-commerce. FAME’s director’s number is on his speed dial. There are still days he panics and doesn’t trust this faceless machine asking him for sensitive information. On those days he simply calls FAME volunteers who guide him through the processes as always.
Keep calm and carry on (apart from the occasional panic) has been Sohan Lal’s mantra throughout. One day, in the very near future, when his products are making their way across the globe we’ll be right there by him as he says “Main FAME-ous Hoon”.