Pointing at a large black and white family photograph, Bisleri's chairman Ramesh Chauhan asked journalists to identify him in the 21-member group. This comprised Chauhan's grandfather Mohanlal Chauhan, his parents, siblings, uncles, aunts and cousins taken at the Chauhan clan's Shanti Kunj bungalow at Vile Parle. After many wrong guesses, Chauhan identified himself as the child wearing a bow tie holding a toy in the middle of the photograph.
Even at that age, Chauhan stood out from the crowd. The former owner of brands such as Thums Up, Goldspot and Limca, unveiled his biography on Monday evening in Mumbai. 'Thunder Unbottled, From Thums Up to Bisleri' in Mumbai. The 236-page coffee table book like publication has been written by Patricia J Sethi, former UN bureau chief for Newsweek magazine and a close friend of Chauhan, and published in-house by Bisleri International. The book is priced at Rs 795 and available in leading book stores as well as online.
According to Sethi, the book is a celebration of Chauhan's life and achievements, "pulsating with positive energy which it exudes". It also coincides with Chauhan completing five decades at Parle. In fact, the title of the book is inspired by Thums Up's old but memorable punch line - Taste the thunder.
The biography, which was a three-year project, is filled with several old photos of Chauhan and his family and gives a peek into Chauhan's handling of Parle, which introduced the country to the flavour of cola-based (Thums Up), lemon-based (Limca) and orange-based (Goldspot) drinks in the 1970s and made Bisleri the widely recognised packaged mineral water brand.
The book also gives some advice to entrepreneurs and marketers, with one of the shiniest gems being his belief that our biggest competitor is our incompetence. Chauhan said that marketers and entrepreneurs need to be sensitive to the market and customers as they give a lot of information about your products. "You need to be passionate in what you are doing. Today, the feel for business or the feel for anything is missing. It's all very mechanical," he lamented. He added that one should never be worried about competitors or the competitor's market share. "If you find your market share is going down, what will you do? You pull up your socks! If you know what you have to do and go ahead and do it, there is no way you will lose your market share," he asserted.
During the deal, when Parle sold its aerated business to Coca-Cola in 1993, Chauhan says in the book that he cried while the deal was being signed as he felt he was giving up his baby.
As for Bisleri, Chauhan has grand plans for the brand, which was taken over by Parle in 1969. The company intends to open one manufacturing and bottling plant every month. The company currently has 68 plants, out of which it owns 12.
On the issue of instinct vs. market research, Chauhan believes that market information is essential for gut feel, as it cannot come from vacuum. "If you are attentive to the market's need then you will know what is to be done," he says. However, there are also instances of market research going haywire. His final word on the subject - it is good to have market research but you should not blindly follow it.