When he joined the business, it was heavily in debt and today, Prestige is counted in a milestone among hundreds of brands present in the country. Here’s the turnaround man, T T Jagannathan, on what made him join the family business and why he doesn’t want his sons to carry forward the legacy.
If you don’t know how to cook then you are not in the cooking business,” says entrepreneur T T Jagannathan, who enjoys cooking Indian food. In most Indian household, cooking is considered a woman’s business. “But, I believe men should cook too,” he adds, for him innovation in business starts from his kitchen. At 68, T T Jagannathan is still running the ‘Prestige Empire’ successfully for last 44 years, and when asked about his retirement plans, he answered, he will never retire and will work till the last day.
Even today, he travels around the world to visit most of the trade fares, which inspires him and gives him new ideas. Projecting 1,800 crores turnover this year, T T Jagannathan revealed, that he had joined the business at a young age. Surprisingly, a gold medallist from IIT and post graduate from Operate and Research, in USA, TT Jagannathan never intended to join the family business.
He was 24, when his elder brother, who was looking after it, died in an accident, and he left his job in the US and took over the company, which was in huge loss at that time and he turned it into a profit making venture. TTK Prestige was established in 1928 by T.T. Krishnamachari as a trading company. However, he looked after the business for six years, soon to join politics. Later, he served the country, as the Finance Minister, for 17 years.
His son, T.T. Narasimhan, later started the pressure cooker business in 1955. He was only 19, at that time. Narasimhan collaborated with an UK-based company and they started importing pressure cooker and sold them in India. People were new to this concept, so it was difficult to sell those here. They went door to door and demonstrated it and slowly it started getting popular. Today, it’s one of the handiest items in every Indian kitchen.
They export their goods to 170 countries, which contributes 5 per cent of the total revenue. Motivated and inspired by his father for his entrepreneurial journey, TT Jagannathan says, “He taught me some fundamental rules like, whenever you start any business first ask yourself, why me? Why should we be in that business? And, what new we can bring to the table?”
Using his engineering skills in the business, he stopped the burst cases of pressure cookers. Initially, there were many burst cases because the safety plug device was not appropriate. He then came up with gaseous leak system in pressure cookers and from 1981, till today no burst cases were seen.
“Hard work is what helped me to bring this company here. There is no magic or bullet point to success, it’s just that you have to work hard every day, face your problems instead of running away from it and one day you will be successful,” he adds. It was a lean business approach he took when he joined the business. When TT Jagannathan joined business he kept the condom business, pressure cooker and the pharmaceutical business, whereas, he shut down the pen business, clock business and others.
Currently, he serves as the chairman of the Prestige business, while the other businesses are headed by his brother T T Raghunathan. Also, mentoring some of the start-ups like in has started a lab in IIT Madras, where start-ups make products which suit disabled people. Today, 5 per cent prestige products are sold online. The company plans to go to every possible place, where customers go to shop. There are about 500 stores which exclusively deal with Prestige products and it is present in about 60,000 outlets and they are also focusing on e-commerce for further expansion. Having seven manufacturing units with more than 6,000 employees, they are looking at opening more exclusive stores in the
Like his father, he does not want his sons to be dragged in the business, because they might not be as passionate as he was. He believes, doing business is a very professional and serious work and anything which is done forcefully might hamper that. Having three sons, out of whom two have already setup their own ventures, his other son is a professor. When asked about succession planning, he concludes, will be professionally run.”
(This article was first published in the December issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)