In the smartphone and smartwatches era, we still find a wall clock in most of the houses. We can also recall our memories of waking up to the chimes of an alarm clock. In these wall clocks and alarm clocks, one manufacturer name is very common- Ajanta-Orpat Group, the global leader of the wall clock manufacturing sector.
Odhavji Raghavji Patel, a science teacher from Morbi Gujarat, started his entrepreneur journey with three other partners in 1971 and established a firm with the name Ajanta with an investment of Rs 1 lakh.
This article will tell you the incredible journey of Odhavji who converted an initially failed firm to a global brand.
Beginning of Ajanta-Orpat Group
Odhavji Raghavji Patel was included in Ajanta Group due to his background in scientific study. He had no business experience. In the first three years, Ajanta faced big losses and three co-founders left the journey. Odhavji courageously continued the manufacturing in Ajanta.
In 1975, 19-year-old Pravin Patel, son of Odhavji, joined the business. This was the time when Ajanta Group was only manufacturing manual wall clocks.
Father-Son duo visited Japan and Taiwan to bring Quartz technology to India. And, the firm became popular with the Ajanta Quartz brand. In 1985, Ajanta started using its in-house quartz technology and expanded the business further.
Till 1996, the manufacturing firm was known as Ajanta Group. Later, the Orpat brand was introduced to manufacture calculators and telephones. And, the firm was renamed to Ajanta-Orpat Group. Very soon, the firm became the largest calculator manufacturer in India.
Later, the company started manufacturing other electronic consumer products and home appliances including heaters, mixer grinders, choppers, hand blenders, fans, and even switchboards.
In 2004, Nevil Patel took over the charge of Ajanta-Orpat Group from his father Pravin Patel. He credits his father the successful journey of Ajanta-Orpat.
Orpat Growth, Women Empowerment, and Employees Development
Talking about his father’s entrepreneurship skills, he said:
“Even today when you meet my father the first thing that will strike you is how non-entrepreneur like he is. His pride comes in making India proud, building something that will last the test of time. He is not one to care much for the numbers and impact that the company makes.”
Orpat is not just a business inspiration but is also a strong advocate of women’s empowerment. As per the company’s claim, 5000 out of 5600 employees are women that is a whopping 96% women employment.
Talking about women empowerment, Nevil said:
“My mother (Vanitaben) was the company’s first female employee. She decided to walk the talk and used to handle a lot of our operational work when she started out.”
But, it was not easy to convince women for the job in the 80s. Nevil’s parents did a door-to-door campaign in Morbi to convince women in 1985-86.
Other than their regular duties, Ajanta employees are provided health cover, personality development classes, and monthly home essential products. Nevil said that such practice is going on for the last four decades and the company continues to make things better for the employees.
Ajanta Distributors and Customers First Concept
Ajanta Distributors also have a legacy like Nevil. Rahul Sharma, one of the Ajanta distributors, is part of the Ajanta group for three generations. Talking about the brand and their association, Sharma said:
“When people walk into the store to buy a wall clock, they ask specifically for Ajanta Orpat and that speaks volumes for the brand. The quality and durability of the product are excellent and that is what keeps the brand going.”
Over 50,000 worldwide distributors are the backbone of the company. Ajanta takes its distributors’ comments very seriously. That is the reason why distributors are associated with the firm since its beginning.
Despite the largest wall clock and calculator manufacturing brand, Ajanta keeps improving based on customer reviews, complaints, and experiences.
Ajanta Group gives a day in a week to look at the customer complaints. Pravin said:
“He needs to be able to get a sense of what the customers are looking for. It is very important to him.”
Global Competition and Future Plans
Since affordability and best quality is the company’s motive since its inception, they are continuously working on that.
The company faces tough competition from imported home appliances due to the low custom duty on them. Nevil also pointed the low labor rate in China and the Philippines that give a big challenge to Ajanta in terms of affordability and quality of the products.
“The home appliances category in India is dominated by imported brands. That’s where, with the manufacturing capacity that we have, we’ve been able to come up with products at a price range and quality which others don’t offer.”
Talking about China and the Philippines, he said:
“It is very easy for companies to just import with their brand name and create a brand over here. Competition from manufacturing hubs like China or Philippines becomes very difficult to compete with.”
But, Ajanta is competing against all odds by 37 manufacturing factories in Morbi, Gujarat.
Not only the management and distributors but Ajanta employees are also associated with the firm for four decades. In the lockdown also, the company did not fire any employees. Employees are like a family for Ajanta.
Talking about the same, Nevil said:
“Our employees were scared as to what would happen to the company. They are like family to us. Just as I’m the third generation of management in the company, we have the third or even fourth generation people from the same families working for us. Right from taking care of their rations to providing medical help, then starting a yoga center inside the factory – we have been pushing our employees to a healthier lifestyle.”
Covid lockdowns and business restrictions did not stop Ajanta to grow further. During the covid-19 emergency, the firm added seven countries to its product export list. Currently, Ajanta operates in 45 countries.
Talking about it, Nevil said:
“During the lockdown, we added another seven countries. We are in talks with three more. That’s also because a lot of countries are ‘hesitant to work with certain countries, which you are aware of. So, they are looking at manufacturing support from countries like India.”
Overall, Ajanta records 16% of its revenue from global operations. It may go up to 20% after adding seven new global destinations. Currently, the company has a turnover of Rs 1200 crore and aims to double it to Rs 2400 crore by 2025.
What motivates Nevil to take the business to another height? Answering this question, Nevil said:
“From the business side, our ability to generate employment is what drives us as an organization. Coming from a small town like Morbi, it gives me immense pleasure to see women being so empowered. At our factories, women run the show, and that truly motivates them. Beyond a point, money does not give that sort of motivation. I keep traveling. That is what keeps me going.”
NBB wishes Ajanta a stroke of very good luck for the future. As an Indian, Ajanta-Orpat Group is a pride of India.