We talked to Hardik Shah of Sundaram Groups about paper stationery products, and he had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Hardik Shah: Thank you for asking; it surely has been a very interesting year for everyone around the globe. We are thankful we are all safe and healthy. Wearing a mask and cutting down on unnecessary travel has helped us stay safe in these tough times.
Tell us about you, your career, how you joined Sundaram Groups.
Hardik Shah: So the company (Sundaram Multi Pap Ltd) was founded by Mr. Amrut shah (my father) 38 years ago. What started from a 300 sq. ft. loft is now a factory spread across 4 acres with over 500+ employees and catering to 120+ cr turnover in the field of paper stationery. I joined this company 10 years back, and I manage our EdTech arm of the company (Eclass). Our typical business is into paper stationery products. We are one of the largest manufacturers in Maharashtra, covering 200+ products and catering to over 15000+ dealer networks.
How does Sundaram Groups innovate?
Hardik Shah: We have been constantly innovating by introducing better logistical practices and new machinery for quality production. We have entered the e-learning segment considering the changes in the education field and are now catering to the entire EdTech market with our online learning apps and offline digital classroom solutions.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Hardik Shah: Due to Covid 19, the schools and colleges are shut, which has surely hit our sales and business of books. However, we have kept our patience and sailed through the rough patch. Now with schools opening up in parts, the market looks good. Also, because of our online segment, we were happy to provide our digital educational products to over 1,00,000+ students and schools in Maharashtra. So the pandemic surely got a lot of attention to e-learning which has helped our eLearning brand Eclass.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Hardik Shah: Yes, we had to make some choices in terms of extra office space, rentals and staff. However, we have managed to be on top without having to reduce staff to a great extent. We have surely learned the importance of human health and also diversification. Due to Eclass, we were able to stay in the game, and it’s always important to have a backup plan/business in place as one of the offerings.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Hardik Shah: We have used technology to the maximum levels during the pandemic. From zoom calls to online management, a lot of things have changed. We have learnt that post-Covid 19, there will be a new customer/world which will come into play, and the idea is to focus more on quality products. We have constantly been aiming to motivate our employees and conducting zoom classes to ensure good productivity.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Hardik Shah: The notebook industry is highly unorganized, and we have very few players in the organized segment. ITC is our biggest competitor in the paper stationery market. For eLearning, as we cater to English and Marathi content for Maharashtra, the competition is significantly less, and the possibilities are endless.
Your final thoughts?
Hardik Shah: The Covid 19 pandemic has surely broken the world, but it also taught everyone a very important lesson. We at Sundaram are confident of a more active crowd emerging with a key focus on education. People have realized education is the key goal, and being in the industry will surely help boost our sales for both businesses.
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