Transcript: Life for the young Tarun Mullick, now managing director of Clubb International, wasn’t cricket. Fate had dealt him an unfair deal. His father died when he was six and he had to start fending for him-self pretty early. “I turned entrepreneur at 16 when most people don’t think beyond studies,” he says.
But life for Mullick was a game of different sort – table tennis. Says he: “My first love was table tennis and I was deep into the game as a student. Every morning, I would get up at five, take a bus to the club and practice for several hours without any breakfast; my family couldn’t afford anything more than two square meals a day. I went on to become the junior national champion.”
The difficulties he overcame and the discipline that he imbibed while becoming a national champ held him in good stead later. In fact, at a certain point, his table-tennis experience and contacts made a direct contribution to his sucess. But, to start with, it wasn’t easy going.
“A few job offer came my way but they didn’t interest me.” reminisces Mullick. “I was keen on doing something on my own and started weighing my options. I consulted the elders in the family and decided to buy a PVC welding machine to stitch files and folders. Somehow, I managed to produce the machine on a part payment of Rs. 2000. This machine got me started though I didn’t strike gold immediately. In fact, it took me a number of years to establish myself. My only capital was hard work.
“Every day, I would walk all the way to my supplier’s office at BBD Bag, collect the material and trudge back with the goods on my shoulder. A technician helped me operate the machine and complete the work by evening when I had to send the finished product back to the supplier. Often, I would sell the goods myself. I remember selling raincoats on the road for Rs. 5 during the monsoon.”
It rained,sure. But it never poured. “All was going fine except that my turnover remained static at Rs. 500 per month.” says Mullick. “I had no clue how to procure more lucrative orders. At this point, I decideds to use my table tennis contacts. former player Gopinath Ghosh, who knew me, got me a remuneraive contract with Bata.
“Bata was then planning to launch its Power brand of sports kits and looking for suppliers. Ghosh introduced me to a senior executive, Deepak Deshpande, who said they were looking at a simple 20×10 inches nylon bag to begin with. Could I do the job? I promptly said yes but knew it would be a Herculean task for nylon cloth was not available in Calcutta or anywhere in eastern India.
Ghosh asked me to try my luck in Mumbai and I set off immediately. With just Rs. 3,000 in my pocket, I landed in Mumbai fearing it would be a wild goose chase. I went around looking for nylon cloth and found it at a place near Nariman Point.
“I came back triumphantly with a grey and white piece and produced a sample bag. Deshpande was extremely happy with it and I walked away with an order worth Rs. 60,000. I didn’t look back after that.
“I worked with Bata for quite some time after which their management changed. I was now confident of working independently and decided to launch my own brand Clubb in 1991. By then, I had a technical base, managerial support and a factory set-up. All that we needed was a marketing team and that was soon added. I started off my manufacturing unit for soft luggage, which is my forte, and then diversified into jute products. First, we penetrated Bengal, Maharashtra and Haryana.
“The market situation, however, became a little tricky with the entry of the foreign player. I am now focusing more on rural market, which is huge but remains un-tapped. Very soon we shall have our first exclusive Clubb showroom at a centre which is coming up at Salt lake. I would like to set up two or three more in Calcutta and at least one in Mumbai and in Europe. You need a lot of money for that but I have never been in a hurry. I am willing to go slow to realise my dreams.”
At his favorite game, Tarun Mullick was a defensive player: It shows.
Based on a conversation with Prithvijit Mitra of The Telegraph in Kolkata.