Ashok Kularia

Managing Director – ANJ Group (Interview PART-1)

Saying no to shortcuts and believing that hard work always pays, Ashok Kularia on diversifying Family business and following to values passed

Ashok Kularia has taken his family business ahead and diversified it but follows the values passed by his father and made them the strongest foundation for his organisation. He believes that there are no shortcuts to success even if it is a family business and hard work always pays.

Ashok is an experienced Managing Director of ANJ Group with a demonstrated history of working in the architecture and planning industry. He is a strong business development professional skilled in negotiation, construction, management, business development and contract negotiation. Though Ashok pursued an engineering degree in electronics, he was never inclined towards it to continue his career in it. He was more inclined towards his family business and always curious to know what his father was doing. He used to visit his office, observe him. His father has been into the business since late 70s, so this was a big platform for Ashok. He rightly puts it that, the station was ready, the tracks were laid, he had to drive the train on it! Driving the train is not easy too and he has put a lot of efforts into it ever since he joined the family business. He explored the area of design and build which their business was not into earlier, few clients also gave opportunity and the diversification was successful and their business grew well. He also took their business overseas and established a design studio in Hong Kong. They have set up a huge factory for the furniture work which is the largest in the country. They are into design, build, design and build projects in the commercial, hospitality and residential sector.

Trust and Commitment go Hand in Hand

Ashok proudly follows the values taught by his father. The values learnt are the foundation for the organisation. He says that his father always taught him to be committed to his work and if we decide on a timeline, we have to adhere to it, we cannot give reasons or delay it unless there is a natural calamity and it becomes unavoidable. We should work on building trust with the client. if the client trusts, only then they will continue with work, trust should also be built with other support groups. He says that trust and commitment always go hand in hand. These are the strongest philosophies. We may have projects in hand and make money from it too but we should never stop being honest to our work, always adhere to our commitments so that the client can trust us. It is not easy, but he has kept these values as a strong foundation which is good for his organisation too.

Things That Gave Them That Extra Edge

His father implemented the use of factories for making furniture which was not done earlier. Many people don’t use factories presently too. A lot of work done by the group is done off shore which improves the quality of work done by them especially the manual work. The output of work done this way has proved beneficial to their clients. Another implementation done by them which has proved useful is introduction of technology based applications. The clients can order material online, the clients can use the application to see what is happening onsite, check the status of delivery of material, execution status, get safety report etc. They have implemented new technology in their factories as well. Use of factories and implementation of new technology are the two big things that changed the way they work and gave them that extra edge. Ashok has also been trying his best to bridge the gap with the international market.

Do Not Panic, Stay Calm

When recession hit India a decade or so ago, everyone was in panic, they took decisions in panic like taking up projects at lesser rates. This made them learn a lesson, not to panic when such situations arise which was useful to them during pandemic. They did not panic or agree for low cost projects which would have affected their balance sheet in the long run, they did not cut on employment too. He suggests that situations will not remain the same, we should not panic.

All Challenges have a Solution

Ashok feels that the client’s mindset is the biggest challenge. One cannot design until we know the client’s mind. We should know their mindset, tell them what is right or wrong. We tend to agree on everything the client says as we cannot say no with the fear of losing them, instead we should explain to them what is right and wrong. Retaining the right talent is also a challenge. Hiring people, training them to work in a system, after investing in them, if they move to other jobs then it becomes challenging for the organisation. To resolve this issue, we should frame good policies, make the employees feel that they are a part of the organisation’s future, talking to them, having good communication, keeping them engaged also helps in retaining them. ANJ Group has won many awards too for being one of the best workplaces to work with, they are one amongst the top 100 places to work, especially for women in India. He says that we should make employees feel like they are a part of the family, do work as a passion, have fun and enjoy work so that there is no boredom for better results. In this way, talent is retained, ANJ group indeed has a good record in talent retention. To be continued>>