It’s around 6:30 p.m. and there is a crowd gathering in the Karnataka State Small Scale Industries Association (KASSIA ) HQ in Bangalore, India. Unlike any other meeting, this June event is to recognize the woman entrepreneur of the year for the state. The winner is announced and in walks an elegant lady clad in ablue saree. Soon the dignitaries on the stage gather around her and present her the award. It’s a great evening where a few other women are recognized for their contributions.
The elegant lady we are talking about is Mamata Vishwanath Ladwa, the winner of the 2015 Women Entrepreneur Award. Twenty-two years ago entrepreneurism wasn’t even a word in India when she started her company and proved to the world that with a strong will, everything is possible.
Ladwa started a business producing distilled water for batteries. She went on to be one of the largest suppliers of distilled water for the Karnataka telecom department. She diversified into mineral oxides. The color oxide flooring products are sold all over south India today. She also gives back to the community through Ladwa Foundation initiatives.
Here are five lessons from her achievements for every entrepreneur:
1. Start Now
Everyone is an armchair entrepreneur, everyone has an idea. Most of the ideas never see the day of light because the ideator never works on his/her idea. Ladwa did not wait for the right circumstances or the right financial conditions. “There is never a right time,” she said. “The right time is now.” With two young children, less than a few hundred dollars in her pocket and support from her husband Vishwanath, Ladwa started S&S distilled water.
The saying goes, an overnight success took 10 years to make. Ladwa said, “Dogged persistence is the key to success.” There was fierce competition in her marketplace. The market was a bargain hunting market and too many fly by night operators emerged once the business model was established. “Produce the highest quality of product, offer it at a modest price, and establish a strong follow up and feedback mechanism with customers and channel partners,” she said.
3. Financial Acumen
4. Learn from Failures
“I treat failures as a lesson with a key learning. My knowledge is a sum of all the lessons from failures over the years,” she said. Ladwa started producing distilled water for truck batteries, slowly grew the business to become the largest supplier of distilled water to state telecom (telecom exchanges run on batteries). She sold the business and diversified into mineral oxides for flooring and for use in primers. “There were setbacks every where,” Ladwa said. “In the truck batteries distilled water business, the invoice payments were delayed all the time. There were times when we could not make ends meet, it forced us to look for new markets and we found telecom.” Most of the time a new opportunity comes in the form of a failure. Learn from it and it can open new doors.
5. Give Back
“The real power of wealth is in giving back,” she said. Ladwa and her husband started a free yoga center, making yoga and wellness available to anyone that desired to learn about it. They also started Ladwa Foundation. Through the foundation they offer books and slates to underprivileged schools and work closely with the Rotary Club on conducting eye camps for the elderly.
Twenty-two years ago India was a very different place. There was very little place for an entrepreneur. Ladwa showed us that if 22 years ago she and her husband could start on an entrepreneurial journey, wrestle with limited resources, finances, and opportunities and still build a long-term sustained value company, there is nothing preventing someone with an idea to succeed today.
“I thank KASSIA for recognizing me with the Women Entrepreneur Award. I hope it serves as motivation to all the women and men out there to start something, be successful and give back to the community,” she added.