India is known for its unity in diversity. We have different people, with different customs and belief systems. India has an undying relationship with religion. It is a land of mystics, wonder, and rich folklore. Every region has its own unique beliefs and customs. But the one common thread that ties the temples, the public ones as well as the private ones we have in our homes, is the distinct gold adorning and our love for it!
That is what Mantra Gold Coatings caters to - The beautiful artefacts and adorning of temples and pooja items. Founded in the year 2014 by Pankkaj Bhaandari, they have made their mark on a global audience by focusing on exceptional product quality and excellent customer service. They work closely with artisans to create really well-crafted idols and other home decor items to help them revive their business and pass on their skill and traditions to the next generation.
Mantra Gold Coating is also one of our clients at FlexiBees, having hired part-time and remote-working inside Sales Team Manager to help them increase their revenue by being more proactive towards new clients.
So we recently caught up with Pankkaj Bhaandari, CEO and Co-founder of Mantra Gold Coating to understand their business and to know what worked well for them and why they choose to hire flexible talent. What ensued was an engaging and rather interesting conversation about various topics ranging from the belief systems of India, customer relationship management, and the growing need for flexible talent.
Some excerpts from our conversation:
How did it all start? Where did the idea take shape?
When talking about the inception of a company and the vision behind it - people usually say that it is well thought out. But I don’t think that is how it happens. It may not always be well thought out and well-informed. I think these things happen over a period of time - with revelations from your customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders. In 1998, we were into gold plating - and happened to get into the temple business. In 2010, I had reached a personal milestone and wanted to gift myself something to commemorate it and I signed up for a course in ISB.
The accounts professor there had said something profound that stayed with me, ‘Cash flow needs to be consistent’. And it made me think about the business we were in. We had high, busy, and cash-rich months followed by lean months. Though we were able to make all our payments, sometimes we had to borrow money from the market. That meant expansion would be hard. More people, more paychecks, and the same issue with the cash flow.
This made me think. I wanted to avoid the cash trap.
By that time, we were already gold plating some idols and pooja items for individuals but never saw it as a mainstream business. We never even took pictures of the work we would do or make similar items.
That is how the idea was born.
We decided to create our product line so that customers who were coming in for gold plating might be offered a range of products. By this time, I had already fallen in love with handicrafts, so it was a no-brainer!
Who is behind Mantra Gold Coating?
It is my precious brainchild. But my wife joined the business shortly after and is an active part of it today. My father also is an integral part of it.
What makes Mantra different from others?
I honestly don't like to compare myself with others. But when we started our product line, we did a bit of research to see why the artefacts got by our customers for gold plating were more beautiful and different from what was available in the market. We realised that there is a difference between the mass moulding and carefully handcrafted idols and products.
So this led us to different parts of the country - to meet legacy artisans known for their skills. I always like to say, ‘People pay me to look at beautiful things!’
We also wanted to support and revive some of the crafts as the artisans were really not good at selling their products and as a result, did not manage to economically flourish. They make such beautiful products but their lives are a mess. Don’t earn that kind of money they deserve. They do not manage volume sales as sales is not their forte. Time is lost in trying to make sales instead of making handicrafts. Looking at this, their next generations do not want to get into this line of work. By working closely with artisans, we are able to provide them with regular income and an opportunity for growth.
How did the market receive your products?
Initially, we were cautious and decided to start a store in the most conservative city we could think of. We opened a store in Madurai. Though conservative, it is a religious town with people who respect handicrafts - and within two months we were already making profits!
This boosted our confidence and in 2012, we opened a showroom in Chennai. Within 6 months - the retail business was doing more than the coating business! This was a revelation for us! What were some of the challenges you faced so far?
In 2014, we had a setback and had to restart. We shut shop and I was looking for a job. But my staff, suppliers, and other stakeholders stood strong with me. They said, ‘Revive the business, we will be with you.’ The support was immense. This was the turning point in my life.
We were able to bounce back and grow exponentially. What made you opt for remote talent and FlexiBees and how has been your experience?
I realised that my team was a reactive sales team. When customers approach us, then we react. We wanted to increase our revenue. We wanted to sell more. We needed more people to know about us. But my team is not proactive.
I came across the FlexiBees website two years ago. I felt manpower is available at a lower cost and decided against it.
But we soon noticed that hiring a full-time resource with lesser experience and at lower costs meant more time spent in training and hand-holding. And when I finally spoke to one of the business development managers at FlexiBees, she said, ‘ Even with a full-time resource, you might not get 8 hours of productivity. So why not take a chance on highly motivated and experienced part-time talent?’
We accepted one person for the role of an Inside Sales Manager. I personally trained her. The resource is fantastic. She is extremely motivated and experienced. Flexible talent helped us tremendously.
I am so thrilled now that I have become an advocate! I have been referring FlexiBees to many others. I tell them, ‘why hire a fresher when you can hire professionals!’
I see a long relationship with FlexiBees and hope to hire more talent soon!
If you are looking for gold plated religious artefacts or home decor products, do check out their website: https://www.mantragoldcoatings.com/