This month, Exhibit got into an insightful conversation with Mr. John Baby, CEO of Funskool, the leading toy manufacturing company in India that completes 30 years in 2017. We discussed challenges, the future of technology, entrepreneurship and took a peek into his life.
Exhibit: Funskool completes 30 years in 2017. What are your thoughts on that?
John Baby: If you take the first 10 years, it was about struggle, the second 10 years were about putting a foundation and then the last 10 years then showed results. So, it’s a great occasion for us all here at Funskool!
Exhibit: Considering how massive Funskool is, does it get stressful for you?
JB: Of course! By nature, we all look upwards for motivation and inspiration. Whether it is a small or a large firm, the CEO’s position is supposed to take some stress because at the end of the day, right from the very senior manager to the office boy, all take the CEO to be a role model. The CEO’s position is a little complex and not as easy to handle as it seems. So, with the CEO being at the top, everybody will look at him/her as the role model to follow. You have to be that inspiring and motivating all the time. It’s definitely a tough job.
Exhibit: How do you try to keep your employees motivated to get the best out of the company?
JB: Most importantly, give them the respect, recognise their efforts and make them feel like they are an important contributor to the organisation. You have to directly or indirectly give the message to the employees that they are important to the organisation’s growth. That motivates them. At Funskool, you’ll see a lot of employees who have completed 25 years and taken a silver medallion for the 25 years long service whereas you don’t see employees last even 5 years in many organisations. That shows that people love to be at Funskool even though the salaries may not be the highest paid in the industries.
Exhibit: Tell us about some of your business tricks.
JB: I personally believe that if you take any organisation, the most important thing the people at the senior level have is something known as the “Founder’s mentality.” A founder will have a mentality of an insurgency. He has an aim, a target and something he has to achieve. Then he will have a proprietorship which means that something totally belongs to him; he has an ownership on it. He looks into the marketplace, looks at who is the ultimate customer and whether they are happy. A Founder’s mentality is something that people in the senior level must have and that is what helps the organisation to grow.
Exhibit: How reliant are you on Technology on a personal level? Where do you see the Tech scene heading in the next 5 years?
JB: You have to be ready to catch up with Technology to stand where you are. For any organisation to survive and grow, you really have to go head on with your take on technology as there is no second choice. Since the last 3-4 years, we have been continuously upgrading our technology with regards to the manufacturing space. Our quality, our equipments, our machines are continuously upgraded because technology is moving so fast. What was excellent yesterday is just acceptable today and tomorrow it will be obsolete. So people in manufacturing are really running to stay where they are because technology is changing so fast.
‘‘ You have to be ready to catch up with Technology to stand where you are.
People also predict that in 20 years time, there will be no workers on the work floor but only robots. But the end game is that any company that wants to grow and survive has to embrace technology and there is no choice. We are also following the same thing.
If you ask me, I am not someone who is high on technology. I use my phone, my laptop and that’s it. Another way to say would be that I like to read my books in hard copy than a soft copy. In addition to that, am also not a very big fan of social media. I don’t think I get that much time to give.
Exhibit: If you ever had the choice to come up with your own gadget, what would it be like and what features would it have?
JB: I would develop something that keeps reminding people that time is precious and they must use it in the best way. Also, nowadays, I see that youngsters find it very difficult to focus on what they’re doing. They keep jumping from one to another, X to Y and so on. So, the gadget would remind people of the work they have to do and tell them not to get diverted and maintain focus.
Exhibit: Which are your most inspirational books?
JB: If you ask me what inspired me personally, it was “Beyond the last blue mountain”, the biography of JRD Tata, by RM Lala. That was an excellent book which talks about JRD Tata, his industrial empire, how he’s taken the right people under his firm and grown it. I love how he believes in simple living. The last book I read, which was “NR Narayana Murthy” by Ritu Singh, was also an excellent book. These two people really inspired me.
Exhibit: Describe one day in the life of John Baby.
JB: On a regular day, I wake up at 4-4:30 and go for a morning walk till 6. Then I have a cup of tea, help my wife in the kitchen, get ready, get some breakfast and then leave for office. I prefer reaching early so I reach by 8.15 even if the office timings are 9 onwards. I continue with office till 5:30 and by 6 I am out. Back home, I spend some good moments with my wife, followed by dinner and then I read a magazine or watch TV for an hour.
Exhibit: Tell us about your mantra in life.
JB: I have always believed that there is no substitute for hardwork. Also, honesty and integrity are of prime importance.
Exhibit: What do you like to indulge in when not working?
JB: I would either read books or go on a long walk.
Exhibit: How would you like to trace the journey of Funskool for the next 5 years considering the rapid changes and improvements in Technology?
JB: On the manufacturing front, we are working to change to automatic machines which is a real challenge and a lot of hard work is going into it. On the marketing side, a lot of hard work is being put into developing and growing our own brand name for Funskool. We are really working hard to grow our brands.
- Most favourite vacation spot: Copenhagen in Denmark, is an absolutely beautiful city.
- Business Gurus: Narayan Murthy
- Best piece of advice given to you: There is no substitute to hardwork
- Favourite movie: One movie I saw that I really enjoyed was Barfi
- Watch you’re wearing: No particular brand, but I have been wearing Titan for the past many years.