Originally from Mumbai, India, Subodh Shah, the founder of Marmo Classic, a leading supplier of marble in the region, hails from a family of successful businessmen. In fact, as mentioned by Subodh, his father was one of the early influencers in India’s cotton and construction industries.
With a degree in computer science from St. John’s University in New York, Subodh felt a strong pull towards IT – however, he was soon lured towards his father’s granite business. This week, in conversation with Masala!, the businessman sheds light on the importance of dynamism, his greatest inspiration and combatting failure in a world of cut-throat competition.
What led you to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
I have a passion for marble and granite that goes back to the beginning of my career, and I continue to learn all that I can about varieties, applications, and new sources. Working with experts, I soon realized that I wanted to elevate the position of natural and engineered stone and bring it back to the fore of building materials. By specializing in this area, I now know what it takes to grow, and to lead. It has been the most rewarding part of growing my business.
What was it like initially?
As with anything that's worth doing well, I put a lot of time into learning about the industry. It was hard work, creating the relationships with suppliers from around the world, building their trust, all the while building a business to lead in the industry. It has been worth it though, I have partnerships with suppliers in forty countries.
Did you face any challenges?
It's not a modern industry, with new exciting technology that the public gets excited about, it's very traditional, and methods for cutting, polishing and installing stone is still very similar. Educating an industry about new styles or applications can be incredibly tough, as they are resistant to new ideas. To be honest, it's the end customer who has driven the innovation in the business, by always seeking new ways to use stone, so they have something bespoke.
What is your definition of a dynamic leader?
Someone who's not afraid to get their hands dirty, someone who leads from the front and sets an example, and someone who is always on the lookout for the next big thing. Even in traditional industries, such as mine, you have to innovate. Dynamism comes from believing and having a passion in what you're doing - if you truly love what you do, that will come across naturally.
Who has inspired you in your own personal journey?
K.M. Swamy has been my role model for the past two decades. He was the person who inspired me to start the marble business; since then his presence has been crucial on every step I take as a businessman. He’s an incredibly wise and intelligent man who is well-known in most of the quarries around the world.
As the founder of Marmo Classic, how important is diversity and innovation to sustain a business, given industry competition?
Diversity is key, having more variety, better quality and access to more suppliers than your competition is imperative to having a business edge. If the competition isn't innovating along with you, then I don't really see it as competition.
As an entrepreneur, how can one combat failure and challenges in the world of business?
Failure should always be looked at as an opportunity for change or growth; it's a lesson that you learn. If you're wise you'll never make the same mistakes you made the first time around. We all face challenges, and it's great to take a step back occasionally and look at what may impact your business, and how you're going to mitigate that. Make friends with your competition, and share information, that way you can always plan for the future.
What do you enjoy doing on your free days?
Before my journey at Marmo Classic, I used to read many books on philosophy and management. However, given that my free time has been considerably reduced over the last year by the increasing responsibilities in running my new company, I dedicate my free time to the pillar of my life: my family.
The best advice you ever received, till date?
The best advice was given to me by my father. He taught me that the earliest hours of the day are the most important ones for business to organize one’s agenda and schedules, as well as for delegating activities to the team. However, he also said that the early hours of the morning are also the best time to exercise and meditate to keep the body and mind strong and healthy.
If you weren't an entrepreneur, which field would you be ideally working in?
Probably IT, while I qualified in this area, I never pursued it, but it's still a passion of mine.