When Hard Times Pay Soft Dividends


Transcript: Had he not been selling soft luggage, Tarun Mullick could well have playing table tennis. In the fiercely competitive Rs. 150 crore soft luggage market, Tarun Mullick, the owner of Clubb International has carved a niche for himself. Mullick lost his father when he was barely seven years old.

“Life was very difficult,” he says. He remembers walking all the way back to his residence at Armenian Street after practicing a game of table tennis as he would have no money to avail of a bus. He has lost count of days he went without breakfast.

Mullick was a natural athlete. He was a state level swimmer in the under-12 category. Later, in 1975, he went on to become the Bengal Junior table tennis champion. He says, “I have always had the knack to identify my strength and act upon it.”

Mullick started his business in an 8 feet by 4 feet room when he was a teenager. Initially, he invested Rs. 2500. “I believed in myself and the work I intended to do and got going. I began by buying a welding machine along with other necessary equipment. “ The few days were very tough. But he held his ground and deep inside, knew would get a break someday.

Says Mullick, “ I realized since the days I was playing table tennis that landing a job wouldn’t be a problem. But I also knew of the meager wages it would fetch me. So, I decided to start my own business.”

Mullick recalls being astonished having heard that an acquaintance had a turnover of Rs. 1 lakh per annum. “I, on the other hand, just couldn’t manage a turnover of more than Rs. 15,000. Having a turnover of a lakh seemed a distant dream.”

However, things changed in 1984 when Mullick learnt from table tennis expert Gopinath Ghose that some big companies were looking for manufacturers of sports bags. HE seized the opportunity and landed contracts to manufacture sports bags for big brand names like Power, Adidas and North Star.” “In those days, no one made such bags. So, they were in great demand,” he says. So, they were in great demand,” he says. But by 1992-93, I realised I have to work on my own.

Today Clubb International Private Limited has made a name for itself in the soft luggage and rainwear industry. The soft luggage is made from nylon and polyester fabrics.

Says Mullick, “Our top priority is and always will be careful quality control measures and innovating new designs on a regular basis.”

However, his exports comprise only jute bags. “Many export leather which is why we avoid doing the same,” he says. The jute products consisist of pure jute with natural coating as a water proof measure. “Since there is no synthetic touch, the products are 100 percent environment friendly. We design our own products. My wife assists me. She updates the design and ensures the end results are perfect,” says Mullick.

A perfectionist, Mullick rejected six designs following his return from the Hongkong fair early this year. “These designs did not go down well with the customers so I decided to drop them. The customers are aware of the best that is available and enable us to learn a little more with each passing fair,” says Mullick.

Today, Mullick has 200 dealers all over India and is comfortably placed. However, he laments, “Although running business cautiously is best policy, not very many people adhere to it.” He sincerely believes if illegal players are prevented from operating in the market, hard work and expertise can place the fair players on a higher alter of success.