Narrowing the Niche to Dominate the Niche
Felix John Dias, founder of David and Co. was born in Goa. His father was a farmer. To supplement the income, the father acted in Konkani dramas and stitched wedding gowns. These occupations did not give him upliftment and he died young, rues Felix. Felix was the eldest child and the youngest son was 16 years younger to him (who now runs independently runs his own David and Co. (Goa) – a separate proprietor company. The family was not well-to-do and found it difficult to raise the large family of 2 boys and 2 girls.
Felix was brought up Mrs Roza Sebastiana Lobo and her husband David Caetan from infancy. She was more than a mother to me he says, gratefully pointing to her framed photograph next to the Cash Counter where the interview is taking place. It was in gratitude and acknowledgement that he named his company David and Co. and his eldest son David. She didn’t want him to work, just study; however, he began working at a very early age. At the age of 21, he came to Bombay and moved into a Goan Club at Dhobi Talao – so that he could use most of his time.
Mr. Felix Dias, now 77, began his career working for Manuel & Co. for one year. The company no longer exists. Here he began getting knowledge. A number of Jesuit priests mentored him. He began supplying books to colleges; but had to give up. He next joined M/s J N Marshal. He later enrolled in night-school studying Textile Engineering at VJTI. He began supplying books to schools, published by foreign companies. The 25% discount he got converted to a profit of Rs.250/- versus a salary of Rs.200/-. It was experientially evident to him that this was well-paying business.
Earlier, he was staying in a club. He would finish work by 4.30 pm. He used the time thereafter to sell books to schools. Whoever he approached, never said No enabling him to progressively increase his sales. Being young he used his energy and enthusiasm to contact as many schools and colleges as possible. He soon took up a shop to handle the growing volume of business. Even though the business was largely seasonal with the peak period being in Apr-Jun; he was able to sustain himself; on the basis of his salary, keeping his life-style simple and saving a lot.
In view of his growing business he decided to quit and told his boss of his decision to resign. However, his bosses did not allow him to resign and were willing to accommodate him with further flexibility and reduction in his working hours. Being the holder of a First-Class Boiler Certificate and being excellent in his work, they suggested he come and work for just 2-3 hours. Felix carried on in this mode until he could sustain no more and finally quit his job after another 2 years. He also gave up his studies on growing business work pressures. His side business had now become a full-time business and was paying him good dividends.
He took a small shop at the entrance to his current set-up. At that time there was no pagdi system. He opened a shop selling religious articles and imported books to offset the seasonal nature of selling text-books to schools and colleges. In the 1970’s Government entered into the printing and selling of school and college text books. Felix read the writing and on the wall and swiftly exited the business; selling his existing inventory at scrap rates.
1965 was a landmark year for Felix. He had set up a printing press, got married and also took up a house and began staying in a home. For almost 6-7 years he had staying in the Goan Club to save costs and time. He cut down on all his extra-curricular activities focusing on his twin priorities now of business and family.
He began stocking and selling books and cards. However, he began printing wedding cards at his printing press and found he could barely keep up with the huge and growing demand. He kept designing and selling more cards. This entrenched his company into a household brand in the wedding industry in the Christian Community. To protect his business he focuses primarily in physical sales rather than on online sales through the internet and websites. He uses the internet to communicate with outstation clients. Even before the dawn of the internet, a significant proportion of sales was made to outstation and foreign clients through physical correspondence. With counter sales going strong, he has reduced his exports.
Everybody who came in touch with me encouraged me, he smiles. Now, he goes out of his way to help others in need through methodical guidance and advice. Having benefited greatly from the Goan Club he initiated a move along with Mr. Thomas Sequeira and others to get such clubs under an umbrella federation and register them under the charity Commissioner – to prevent their misuse and loss of facilities and ensure they continue contributing to those who benefit from their services. They succeeded in creating and registering the Federation of Goan Clubs. He is the Chairman of the Federation and prepared to yield office to younger dynamic and responsible persons.
Many people and organizations lose out because of lack of proper knowledge. The office-bearers of the FGC use their accumulated expertise to guide others in securing their community interests through similar legal structures and procedures.
His message to the community is be vigilant and tuned to the times. Be helpful to others in need. Share your knowledge so that others can be better off.
(As narrated to Raymond D’$ouza, Business Coach, Turning Passion into Prosperity)
(Published in The Secular Citizen, Jan 9, 2012)