SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAThe Vendor I am talking about is Weigh Control Systems Pvt. Ltd., in particular Mr. Samarjit Biswas. Weighmatics based in Bangalore are manufacturers of Filling Machines, Weigh Bridges and other weight based control systems. Mr. Biswas is the director of the company.

On the first day after I started my life as a Coconut Oil businessman at Puttur, I went with my father to our coconut oil retail outlet. A customer visited the shop and asked for 2 litres of coconut oil. Father asked me to give it in loose by filling his long bottle. Oil was filled in a 50 litre steel drum. It had to be measured in measuring container and filled carefully into the bottle through a narrow mouth. As a first timer I struggled and spilled the oil all over the place mostly on the outer surface of the bottle. The customer and my father were both getting frustrated at what was happening, but they didn’t show any of it towards me. Now that partial quantity was poured, it was difficult to find out the balance portion to be filled. Then our helper came out and helped service the customer. Father said, “Don’t worry, it comes out of practice”. I thought, it was not my cup of tea to dispense oil like that.

I had seen every consumer product dispensed through a Vending Machine in Japan and there was absolutely no human being from the Vendor side. Item and Quantity are to be selected, cash to be inserted, exact change will be dispensed, bill automatically printed and items are rendered. How simple, fast and perfect. When they can dispense difficult to dispense items like Rice and Juice bottles, I thought dispensing a liquid like Coconut Oil should be easy. Though I was not looking for the machine to collect cash, dispense change and print bills, I was at least looking for a oil dispenser given the quantity.

Oil Vending Machine

Oil Vending Machine

I searched the internet for filling machines with various keywords. I got many results for bottle filling machine that one can use inside the factory for filling bottles in large scale. But couldn’t find one that can be used at a retail counter.

Finally I came across “Flowmatics” which is now rebranded as “Weighmatics”. They said they have already supplying to many edible oil brands in India and overseas. I requested for quote and got a quote in a beautifully written document. I asked for a few customizations, the Sales executive could only deliver lip service but couldn’t come back to me with revised offer and concrete actions. I called him up on his mobile, after a few calls he stopped picking them. I got desperate and called up the landline. This time it was a holiday and instead of receptionist picking up, somebody else picked up and said, “Hello Mr. Keshava Ram, I am Biswas, the director, how may I help you?”. I explained my requirements, he listened carefully and said what can be done and what cannot be done. He understood that I was a first timer and offered to educate me through a live demo at his factory in Bangalore. I promptly made a visit there and learnt about the systems. He took a lot of patience in educating a novice to the field. At that time i felt it was just a marketing pitch, but reflecting back I realise it was a genuine attempt at educating a prospect.

He also told me about his filling machines that I could use inside the factory for filling bottles, cans and tins. I discussed with my father and placed order for 3 machines – Oil Vending Machine, Bottle Filling Machine and Tin Filling Machine. Before coming for erection, they gave me a list of things to get done at site. I promised they will be done by a certain date and they will do their work from that date. Due to inconsistency from our Vendors for Plumbing, Electricals, Fabrication and Civil works, they couldn’t be done. Still, their Service Engineer came, completed his erection works in one day but had to wait for 6 days to do a trial run. Despite that their service fees didn’t increase.

We were happily using their machines to get our work done. After about 4 months, Vending Machine stopped working. We immediately called them for service and next day their Engineer was here. He immediately found that the cables were cut and how? by rats running around. Even if it was our problem, he didn’t charge any service fees as it was within the warranty period.

I started working on setting up the new company and factory. I managed by hiring a fresh graduate as Accounts Executive, after some time the extent of compliance required mounted high and we were not in good position to deal with them ourselves and with the local auditor. I tried through various references and on internet, the options I got were either not good enough or were too expensive. I rang up Mr. Biswas and requested for help, he said, “Don’t worry, I will request my company’s auditor and see if he can help you.” These auditors are always short of time and don’t want to take up any new accounts. The auditor sort of agreed and setup a meeting with me and Biswas. Auditor said, “Normally we don’t take any new accounts, even if they are multinational software companies, we only took yours because you have come through Biswas’s reference”. And the Auditor is serving us well over the last 2.5 years.

For filtering systems, we need to pump oil at a pressure and flow has to be adjusted based on filtering speed that varies with the cycle. One solution is to have by-pass valves that releases excess flow. Better solution is to have a Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) when speed of motor can be adjusted at run-time. When I tried looking for vendors, they quotes were very high and many times higher than the cost of pump itself. Again, Biswas gave me a reference of a Vendor in Chennai who offered at a reasonable rate. In between, I had asked for several other references also. But many of them didn’t work too. For Pouch Packing Machine, Air Heater and Centrifugal Blower, Screw Conveyor and Fabrication services. He even shared references of couple of distributors who may be interested in selling our coconut oil. He has also shared with me many industry insights that helped me know more about the industry that I operate in.

We have later purchased Volumetric Bottle Filling Machine, Load Cells for Copra Tank Weighing systems. He has set sight of selling me a Weigh Bridge one day. I have recommended his products to other oil millers and industries. He has got a few orders from them.

In our very fist meeting, he used to call up people and refer to me as his friend. I used to think it was just lame marketing tactic. But over the years I have realised he really meant it. Most vendors talk rubbish that they give good customer service and cater to their needs. Again his company has gone extra mile to meet our needs. He has a team of service engineers to service his machines all over. He isn’t motivated towards service because it is his business or it is good for business, but because he believes his customers needs the service. While in distress or good times, he calls me or I call him. We share jokes, to be specific he cracks jokes and I just laugh, both Veg and Non-Veg, tells me various stories/incidences from his vast experience. He looks young for a man in early 50s, more importantly he thinks like he is young.

When one customer was bargaining over phone for a machine in front of me, he said, “I have already given you the best price. Please understand, if you are to grow, you need suppliers also. They are the pillars of support for any business”. Good suppliers can indeed be strong pillars on which business builds.