Wordsmith Casebook : Family Business Nightmare – Jewellery Store in North Calcutta

Background

I purchased a jewellery for gift sometime during 2010 from this family owned jewellery store and was very impressed by the service. Revisited this sometime in 2018. It was appalling experience. I eventually wrote a letter addressed to the owner, telling my experience and providing feedback which was constructive criticism. I received a call from an elderly gentleman who wanted to meet me and told me that he would send his car and I obliged. I met the owner and an elderly Bengali gentleman in those red coloured old mansions of North Calcutta that tells the glory days of city architecture of Calcutta.  It was a forty year old business, tracing back to a much older business as its parent and the owner received the business as an inheritance and developed it some thousand times. He was a widower, two daughters, both married happily, the business was a proprietary business in  structure, three stores in the city and more than a million dollar business. His problem was a combination of – his age, no clear succession of business, time warped and lazy and aram se staff. It was a pro bono work for me – the owner gets an un-biased opinion and I get an insight into business and human nature. This way, I fulfill one of the commands of one of my Masters, Socrates –  “the greatest study is the Study of Man.”

First Investigative Measures

  • Checked with the daughters and their husbands, all well-off professional and were not interested in the business. Lack of interest was to the extent that if the business is sold off tomorrow, they would not lift a finger. Conclusion : the owner never involved them in the business or they did not have the temperament to be involved. Son-in-laws were all established professionals and were not interested.
  • The business was operationally run by two old time managers, 50+ and they both worked in the firm for around 20 years. They were more like a family than staff.
  • The business was not able to catapult itself into 21st century using the reputation and cash reserve as a spring board and was whining that new challengers were adopting new measures, for example, online marketing and they found this utterly incompatible with their nature of business – the gold business. They did not move with time and thus were denying the pressure of time.

De-Briefing 

Over a nice Bengali lunch in the North Calcutta mansion, attended by the owner, 2 managers, his daughters and son-in-laws and two professionals taken by me – a lawyer and a chartered accountant. I had asked the owner to come clear – Either / Or . Does he want to see his business / brand continue under a structure built by him OR sell it lock, stock and barrel and be off with it. He told that his heart’s wish is to continue this even after him – a business for which he and his devoted wife, now departed, worked so hard. I had told all of them, endorsed by the professionals :

  • Change the structure of the company from proprietary to a private limited with owners having share and two managers elevated to shareholders.
  • The company would provide the owner a fixed allowance per month as Founder Royalty over and above his shareholding. This must be iron-clad even under bankruptcy consideration. These professionals – of law and finance would help them, if they wish.
  • Since his daughters and their families are not interested to manage, a clear line will be drawn – Management and Owners. A professional CEO be brought with freedom to lead the company. The Founder holds no executive position. He should retire, rest and relax and only provide his advice, if consulted.

Latest Report

I did not keep in touch later. However, I came to know that the owner was too weak to oversee daily operation. The stores were there and sometime in early this year, I was passing through Calcutta 700 009 on my way to 91/A Baithkhana Road and I saw that the sign board is new and there is a smaller type PVT. LTD written below the name of the brand.

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