The idea of selling consumer products in sachets in the 1970s and 80s revolutionised the way FMCG companies catered to customers in rural India. Through CavinKare, CK Ranganthan took this concept to new heights, and in the process, built an FMCG company that is resilient, and in many ways, iconic. On the show Leadership Mantras with Forbes India, he talks about starting the company with Rs15,000, overcoming an inferiority complex, how local FMCG pioneers have made a difference, and what it takes to lead and diversify a consumer brand in a competitive market. Edited excerpts: Q. Can you take us through the early days of setting up CavinKare? After graduating, I joined my family business, where my brothers gave me the responsibility of manufacturing. I didn’t know anything about it... it was just a small outfit of about seven to eight people working in the factory, that’s all. I grew [up] with a lot of inferiority complex because of my lack of English knowledge and poor academic track record. My brothers used to do very well. All these things had given me the [impression] that I’m academically weak and inferior [to them]. But after getting into business, within three to four months, I realised, ‘Hey, business is common sense! I can do it!’ So I started discussing with my older brothers, ‘Why not this way? Why are you doing it like that? We’re making a mistake’, all these things. That didn’t go well at all. Somewhere, I think, I also pushed too much from my side at that age. It came to a stage where we could not have lunch or dinner across the table together, but still we’re in the same business. I thought and said, ‘Okay, there’s no point hanging on in here, let me move out of my home and start something on my own’. We used to take Rs2,000 salary per month from the business. [With] those seven to eight months’ salary savings, in all, I had some Rs15,000 in hand. I walked out of my home with that Rs15,000. Just 200 m from home, I took a small room and my journey started like that. Initially, it was a struggle. But I learnt in my own hard way. Seriously, my education and learning started after I moved out of my home and started on my own, because of the fire in my belly. I burnt the midnight oil, slept very little, put in a lot of effort to learn English, and a lot of subjects [like] marketing and sales. It’s not a shame… it took me 10 years to understand the difference between sales and marketing, after starting a business. My father was an innovator, but I started my business as a copycat. No shame. But I learnt it. Every mistake I made, I corrected it quickly and went on to the next step. Q. What has innovation meant to you, and has the definition changed today? Innovation is the only way to grow. In our R&D centres, it’s a not spelt out that the product either has to be differentiated or significantly better than the competition. Most of the time, it’s a differentiated product that gets into the market and wins the game. If you want to be a ‘me too’ player or a fifth or sixth player, you can be. But if you want to be one of the top two or three players, innovation is the only way out. That we have experienced.