I am the son of immigrant parents. I was born in Neemuch, a small town about 60 km from Chittorgarh. My grandfather was running an oil mill as peanuts were in abundance in Neemuch. I still remember the large compound where we as kids used to play and Baba would go about his work. He was never afraid to get his hands dirty, sometimes carrying large oil tins all by himself on his shoulders. He was always in his dhoti, kurta and cap. The oil stains didn’t bother him. Even as a kid running around in the compound, I knew buying the peanuts at the right price was the most important thing for Baba. Not that he ever sat down and taught the business to us but we pre-internet kids had few distractions, so we paid attention.
In small towns, your role models were always closer to home. Baba was one of my strongest influences growing up. I would notice there was a constant stream of employees leaving and new ones joining. That didn’t faze him and his unique interview process left a mark on me. Whatever was the problem, he would ask the guy who turned up for the interview to solve it and then judge him on how he fared. I was all of 10 when this happened. Three guys had turned up for an interview. Baba sent them to the mandi to find out the prevailing price of peanuts. The first guy came back and told him that on an average, one kilo was being sold for Rs.20. The second guy told him while prices ranged from Rs.18-21 per kilo, he was informed by tea suppliers that prices fall to Rs.18 per kilo towards the evening, which was the best time to buy. The third guy, who was the most enterprising, asked Baba, “Why don’t you make them your partners? You don’t know the oil content and if their peanuts have good oil content, we can share a percentage of the profits with them.” Baba patiently listened to all of them and in the end he hired the first guy. He was clearly impressed with the third guy so I asked him why he didn’t pick him. He told me, “When you are hiring