Podcast: The Underdog Philosophy for Business Excellence - Atul Vir Ep 98 with Luke Peters - Retail Band
- “Empathy starts by showing concern for not yourself but your customers.”– Atul [24:41]
- “You have to continue to innovate to prove value to your customers.”– Atul [32:38]
- “Treat your customers or anyone the way you want to be treated.”– Atul [24:16]
How did your business navigate the Covid crisis? Did you learn new innovative ways that grew the business, or did you stagnate in the same old models? To navigate a huge crisis and still grow as a business calls for adopting new models or products that fit in that particular time and moment. In this episode of the Page 1 Podcast, Luke Peters speaks with Atul Vir on how his business navigated the 2020 pandemic through innovation after 30 years of operation. Atul Vir is a hands-on CEO, seasoned entrepreneur, inventor, and author. He started his business Equator Advanced Appliances in 1991 which he operates on the principles of strong ethics and superior customer service. Listen in to learn how Atul and his team were able to reimagine and reengineer his company to a favorable and growth position during the pandemic. You will also learn the importance of staying prepared and flexible as a business in any phase of the economy.
- How to focus your business specialization on what the customer needs and wants.
- The importance of having product inventory in advance to keep growing a business during a crisis.
- Why businesses should stay prepared and flexible even after the pandemic.
- How to use empathy to anticipate customer needs when developing products.
- [2:49] Atul describes the innovative products they sell at Equator Appliances and their focus.
- [5:00] How they reimagined and reengineered the company during the 2020 pandemic to make it their best year in 30 years.
- [8:20] The steps and risks they took to overcome the Covid challenges and stay in business.
- [11:51] How the pandemic taught them to plan for product inventory in advance to avoid delays.
- [14:48] How they navigated cost increases by introducing newer models that fit in a new selling price.
- [17:53] Why it’s uncertain whether the cost of production will continue being high or not after the pandemic.
- [21:02] The innovative outdoor refrigerator and air conditioner Atul came up with, in 2020.
- [23:11] How Atul has learned to understand the customer needs and wants to innovate products.
- [25:16] The different markets Equator Appliances has been able to support during the pandemic.
- [30:22] How some businesses failed during Covid plus how the appliance market will proceed post-pandemic.
- [33:54] The engagement and support Atul and his team are offering to Covid victims in India.
Luke Peters: Thanks for joining us on the page one podcast. I’m your host, Luke Peters, CEO of NewAir Appliances. And today I’m super excited to have Atul Vir back. He’s going to be talking about adapting to COVID and his philosophy of Underdog Thinking before we get to that, have a quick announcement here. Really need your help. If you’re a vacation homeowner, take a look at vacation.org. This is a site where basically what we’re doing is we’re connecting vacation homeowners to military folks and families who are really in need of a vacation. Okay, these families, oftentimes can’t afford it, they can’t travel. And oftentimes they haven’t even had a vacation in so many years.
Luke Peters: And what we’re doing it, vacation.org is we’re just connecting the two groups, but what we need, or we need more of a vacation homeowners to sign up. So if you’ve got a home, I’m sure you’ve got free time in your calendar. I know this because I have one as well, and this is a great way that we can help this underserved community of veterans. So again, check it out, vacation.org, or find me on LinkedIn. And I can share more about this cause with you. Okay. Awesome. Really excited again, to have Atul on the podcast, he’s really a hands-on entrepreneur and inventor and an author. He founded Equator Appliance in 1991. So
Atul, congratulations on 30 years, he’s grown into a leading innovative appliance company with global interest equators award-winning products are sold in the home recreational vehicle and Marine markets. He holds 18 patents for appliance technology and is the author of Underdog Thinking, which details his journey and lessons learned.
Atul it’s a pleasure again, to have you on The Page One Podcast.
Atul: Thank you, Luke. It’s my pleasure to be here.
Luke Peters: Well, listen, congrats. I know we were talking pre-show congrats on 30 years, you’ve got me by 10 years. It’s hard to get to that point. So you’ve done a job well done, I guess.
Atul: Yeah, thanks Luke. 30 years is a long time, so I remember starting of my business, April 1st, 1991. I never knew 30 years later I’d still be around and survive so many of these ups and downs and much larger competitors, but thank you for that. And congratulations to you for your 20 years. It’s a long road, 20 years is also really long. I’m sure you cant wait till you hit 30.
Luke Peters: Yeah, for sure. Yeah. We’re really excited about it this year and we have some fun things planned. Hey
Atul, refresh the audience’s memory on what you sell. Obviously you do the washer-dryer combos, but tell everybody a little bit about Equator Appliance.
Atul: Well Equator is mainly the major appliances segment, which means washing machines, refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, and so on. And recently the last few years we’ve come up with some innovative products into smaller wine refrigerators and microwaves and so on. Each of which has got some kind of innovation. And so we really specialized in innovative products and with the Equator Advanced Appliances. So we tried to put some more thought process into it and get some more bells and whistles trying to understand what customers want. Obviously they’re not the regular product. They’ve got some more features than we find that many customers are looking for something different. That’s our main thing, that’s our theme. And we actually started off in 1991, started with combination washer-dryer. We were the first in the country to market them. I lived in Europe before moving to the US and that’s where I got the idea from. And there was nothing like that. And I started marketing those, and we grew the business from there until we became a full fledged appliance company.
Luke Peters: Yeah. And I would urge listeners to check out the first recording.
Atul has been all over the world, grew up in India, went to school there, but then also through Europe. And I think you have some other travels as well. So a global citizen. Let’s call it that way. And right now we were talking earlier. He's really focused in his company and is really focused on technology. He has two different distribution centers, East and West Coast. So we’re going to get into the supply chain. We’re going to get into the crazy supply chain we have now. And also since Equator, most of their products are larger appliances. There’s different challenges. Those are going to be compared to other products. So we’ll get into that. We’ll get into what’s coming out of COVID as far as e-commerce and the gains that companies have made there. And how underdog thinking comes into that, which is kind of the theme in the title of his book. So
Atul why don’t we start out with sales, how are you guys doing? What have you seen? How did it start during the pandemic and how has it finishing up right now for you?
Atul: That’s a great question. And the last year or so has been almost like five years or 10 years in an entrepreneur’s life. We started off well, having supply chain issues. Most of our production comes from China. Some of it comes from Europe and everybody was impacted in both of those environments. Then the plant shut down, workers were ill. There were shutdowns everywhere. And so we had a big disruption in our supply chain, but sometime last April, one of our big customers, the big five you can say in the country called me up and said that they’re going to shut us down. And they’re discontinuing the business relationship with us that we had for the last 15 or 20 years. And that sort of shook me. And I said, wait a minute, we have a pandemic going on and you’re shutting us down.
He’s saying, yes, you don’t have products. And that was a wake up call for me. And I said, but all of these issues and supply chain and so on. And he says, that’s your problem, we are accountable to our customers and you don’t have products and what’s going to happen to us. And that’s sort of tripped the whole thing around. And I said, the action that we take and the decisions we make affect other companies too, and here will be penalized even though we know its a global problem. And maybe, so when I heard that I knew I didn’t want all the other customers to follow suit. And that made me very determined to not sort of reverse that situation and get into a strong supply position. So it was very hard with all our suppliers and we have over a hundred skus and 20 different product lines and to work with each of them in placing advance orders and advanced tooling costs and deposits could get them up and running. So we could have inventory for the simple reason that we wanted to have it in stock. So when our customers, these large retailers want it, they want it, then we can have it ready for them. And since that time, it’s a question of having it ready because we know since last March, April customers have been at home, the country's pandemic has been going on for longer and longer and getting extended. Yes. Now it’s coming out, but it’s been a very long year. And with everybody at home, we know people are at home and they were wanting to improve their lives, whether it’s through technology or home improvement, or all the things, for health and wellness and people looking into the outdoors, entertaining outdoors, because people aren’t entertaining indoors. So we sort of re imagined our company, what are we going to do? And we were able to get back in inventory and reimagined and re engineer the company to get into a positive position. I’m happy to report that the end of our 30 years, we had the highest business we ever had in history.
Luke Peters: Wow! That is awesome. So let’s back up. So when did you hear from that customer? What month was that and how long did it take you to get into a positive inventory position? Because the problem is, I mean, there's a 60 to 90 day delay at minimum, especially last year. So you have to place the orders, then you’re still having to handle the day to day. Then you have to kind of have the cashflow to get enough excess inventory in. So kind of walk us through the timeline if you do recall the months and when this all happened.
Atul: Well, the call came last April 2020. And that’s when I thought it was really unbelievable. And of course we werent in a position to change things then, because everything was on lockdown then and things were progressing. And we can just go back a year leading to the news every day of how many people falling in like what the global situation was. And so we had to, but this was almost a survival situation, so we had to get back on track and it became more urgent to discuss with them and set the things in place.
Yes, there are cash flow issues and logistics issues and all the other pandemic related issues that came in. But we knew, I think it was almost like a joke and a wake up call. The previous thinking was that we need to have inventory and we need to make sales for our own company. Like that’s the traditional thinking. We need to do it for our own good. But when this happened, it was not only for our own good, it was really affecting the lives of other people. In fact, the retailer called and he said, because of you not having inventory now, if it happens to all our vendors, what’s going to happen to us. If we are not responsible, we’re part of their supply chain. You see?
Luke Peters: Yeah,that is a totally different way.
Atul: Yeah. So we were not keeping to our responsibilities by having inventory and we were affecting somebody else. And that’s what was different, what sort of shook me and made me more determined. But yes, the year is a long time and it didn’t happen overnight. We had to place advance orders. We had to take risks. We had to put more deposits and encourage the people we work with. And it kept building up but every month and having meetings with them and we are not able to travel, everybody’s at home. So we had to find ways to communicate whether it’s through a Zoom or WeChat and video calls and audio calls. And it was a lot of work getting it done, but in retrospect, you don’t have that dealer back, but I’m thankful to them for awakening me to this crisis that was looming and alerting me to this point that I had to get things on track.
Luke Peters: Well, sometimes the most important thing of leading the business is listening and it’s really easy for us to cover our ears and just rush forward with our plan thinking we’re always going to be right. But in this case credit goes to you for listening, and congrats it sounds like you finished your 30th year is your best year ever. So you had to kind of took a shot early in the year, but then you’re able to kind of turn that into a positive experience in order enough products and serve enough customers.
Talk about the supply chain for you. Obviously very similar to what we’re dealing with at NewAir. You guys are ordering and making larger appliances. Most of it coming from China, some from Europe, you’re bringing into the East Coast and West Coast. So you got challenges on both sides, costs are going up on that, but not only costs. Earlier this year the product was just sitting off the Coast of Long Beach. And trust me, I was looking at those containers every day saying, there’s my product, just sitting there. How has that impacted, first of all, did you get out in front enough where that backup at the port didn’t hurt you? Or did that end up hurting your stocking positions?
Atul: Well, actually it did. We have all sorts of price increases happening. Youve got the raw material costs, you’ve got labor costs, you’ve got the cost of shipping containers. You have, you don’t even have the availability of shipping containers and you have the ship sitting out the Long Beach for 30 days or more and the shipping companies are passing on all those costs to the customers. The container used to cost maybe $3,000 for a 40 foot container about a year ago. And current rates are about, depending on the product between 9($9,000) and $12,000, depending on the day and how much you book in advance, all these things there. And then of course we had the port workers who are not showing up. Plus 50% of them in Long Beach were down with COVID or not showing up.
We have our own facility. There were restrictions that only 50% of the workers could come. So they were slower. You have the truck drivers who were not showing up and only half showing up. So there’s been increases along the way for the entire supply chain. But one thing we figured out was that we needed to double the inventory time. We used to do just-in-time and we pride ourselves on that, that we had an advanced system on how to forecast, what the future production would be that was a combination of what it was, say a year at the same time, and what are the last 3 months and what is the trend? And we crunched all those numbers, and that’s how we placed the orders. And we said, wow, we’re managing our cash flow well, but that works in a normal time.
But in a time like this, it’s not a normal time. And again, you have these additional logistic delays. And so on. We said, no, let’s just increase it. And nobody knows tomorrow. We take a chance. The worst thing that’ll happen if a product doesn’t sell is that its going to sit there, but it’s ready. Then you have to figure out how to sell it, but you can’t figure it out how to sell a product if you don’t even have the product. So all our energies went into trying to produce the product and make sure it was there and, and doubled, or even tripled the transit time. Like normally you’re right. It takes 60 or 90 days to plan in advance for production. We plan 120, 180 days in advance. Now it’s May. We’re already planning for Thanksgiving and Christmas. That’s the advance we need to do now in this day and age.
Luke Peters: Yeah, that makes sense. And all the extra costs that are put into it, let’s talk about that. How did you manage the huge margin hit for everybody, right? And then of course there’s various ways the cost can be passed on, some of them, we just have to become more efficient. Sometimes you have to pass it on. Sometimes you have to innovate and create new products. Talk about how you guys handled all of these cost increases and all the uncertainty it creates in business.
Atul: Well, last fall or so. So these are all the costs that I just mentioned, but last fall or so I called one of our, I was in a meeting with one of our main retailers. And one of the points I raised was about the cost increase. And the first response was, if you’re talking about a cost increase, don’t even talk to us because they’re not ready to go there. So we’re not, let’s say one of the major appliance split players. And we don’t have that kind of leverage to say it’s my way or the highway kind of thing. So it’s a very, it becomes very contentious because he’ll get trying to explain all these logistics issues. And believe me everybody knows these things. So there’s no secret, but instead what we did was let’s leave the existing prices alone and we focused on innovation. What are the products that need to come out in this time that we talked about health and wellness, we talked about more advanced products. We talked about outdoor products getting into new product categories. And when you have a new product or a new model, you can introduce whatever price you want because only you know what that price is. And you have one shot to get that price in. And then of course customers have to buy it. Otherwise you have some things to talk about.
And so we just left the previous models alone and we said, well, here’s the new model. Yes, it is more expensive. But if, and we have found that customers, most customers were 60 or 70% of them, if they see two models, they would prefer to buy the newer model. That’s got more bells and whistles, as long as it fits the themes to them and it’s relevant. So we went into a new washing machine that got sanitize feature and allergen feature. And it got a microbial drum baffle that can clean out viruses and so on all of these kinds of things. And that’s the best seller. Yes, it is 20% more expensive, but that creates some value in the customer’s mind and surprisingly they’re selling more of those in the previous less expensive model. Just as an example.
Luke Peters: Yeah. That’s a perfect example, actually. That’s a perfect way to overcome it. I think a good lesson for every business owner before we get past this though. The supply chain, the fed's favorite word right now is inflation is transitory. And I think all of us, at least on my end, I was thinking, okay, this supply chain disruption is going to be transitory. Like this is just going to happen. I think at the beginning of the year, I was like, okay, bye. The indicators work here by summer. It’s going to be done.
It doesn’t look that way. This is it. When I’m talking about disruption, I’m meaning increased container costs, increased domestic shipping costs, every front, small parcel, LTL truck, every truck load, everything. Do you have an opinion or a prediction on how long it’s going to go for? It can’t go forever, but the reason is because businesses need to plan around this. And at first it was like, okay, we’ll get past this. It’s going to be six months, but now maybe not, maybe a year, maybe year and a half. What are your thoughts on the timing?
Atul: I just don’t know. I don’t think that any rules of the past can really apply to the future. And I don’t think we can say it can not apply to the future. Firstly, starting with the government, we all know government said, this should be this, not a pandemic then it is a pandemic. So nobody really seems to have a clear idea because I think their role is sort of to calm the public and all of us and make sure that things are being managed. But I think from every business’ point of view, I just think we need to throw out all the rule books. And say there is nothing saying that anything has to happen or not, anything can happen. So when you look at it from that perspective, it can stay like this, containers can stay at $12,000. You can have raw material supplies because now all of a sudden people are buying things that they were not, people are using, they're driving in a different manner. People are going to offices and those things would change. So it’s going to be a different world. So I just think that the approach should be to be prepared and be fluid and flexible and give you another analogy. When I was younger, I used to, I played karate or did karate, and then you had your defensive and offensive move and the other moves and you have to always be ready for what your opponent will do to you. And you have to be ready for a dodger or attack depending on the opportunity in that split second. And I think an entrepreneur has to be almost like that now because you just don’t know what’s going to happen. You’re going to be looking at all the multiple variables that affecting you and make decisions based on that, but it can go up or down and that’s how flexible we must be.
Luke Peters: Yeah, it’s going to be interesting. I think if these costs continue, it’s going to make it a lot more, let’s call it reasonable to manufacture in places like Mexico. So we’ll see, if it continues long term, I think there would be a little bit of a drive to other countries that are closer, near shoring some of the supply chain, but it’s hard to say, this stuff doesn’t happen overnight. These are big investments. People have to make and a big supply chains and components and parts that have to be moved, but it is something that there is some chatter that within factories that we work for. So yeah, if it continues that’s something that I think is going to be for something for us all to look for, meaning, more manufacturing in Mexico for some categories.
But yeah, it’ll be interesting. Hopefully it doesn’t continue because nobody likes paying $10,000 for a container, that cost is just, it’s astronomical. And it just ends up going into the cost of the product for the end consumer,
Atul, you gave a really great example on innovation with products that are focused on sanitizing. Is there any key innovation you want to talk about from the last year? It could be a product innovation, a business process innovation, anything that you’re proud of during your 30th anniversary.
Atul: Well, apart from that, I would say the one that really I’m happy about is the outdoor innovation, where we said, okay, I mean in my own specific case. We have a single family home and we have a garden and we have a barbecue and we like to entertain and be entertained. And when we couldn’t do this over the last year, we said, how do we meet friends? And we had four or six people at a time. So we decided to barbecue, but I live in Houston, which is a very hot place and humid. And you’re doing a barbecue, and then you’re doing your marinating of food. And then when your folks are there, you’re running in and out.
And so I came up with this outdoor refrigerator and it’s right outside and it’s weatherized, and I was really happy with that then so that’s contributing to, I would say, everybody’s wellbeing. And then we came up with the next thing, which is an outdoor air conditioner that you can actually sit outside and you have this weatherized air conditioner that has a holes pointing to a small group of people and keeping them cool. So you can also be safe, but I think this is a completely new category that we have entered with our appliances within our bandwidth. And it’s what we do. And I’m happy we could contribute to that. And the family is entertained and be comfortable.
Luke Peters: Yeah, that is a cool story actually. And I’m sure that’s going to be super useful in the Houston summers when it’s muggy and hot and also pretty niche. I like those types of categories myself as well. You’re going into categories where larger players often are not dominant because it’s maybe too small for them and you have to innovate and you’re really even creating new categories. It sounds like, what can you say about anticipating customer needs? This is more important than ever. How did you kind of get this? Where’d you get this customer understanding? Did you survey customers, was this really a business insight you had? How do you come to these conclusions in decisions?
Atul: Well, you mentioned my book in the beginning, and in my book, it leads to a whole chapter on innovation. And basically I came to the conclusion, I didn’t start off this way, but I was just buying and selling products in the beginning. And I started innovating and coming up and so on, but at the end of the day, I think innovation is basically having empathy for the customer. And when I say empathy is not sympathy, it is not any other word its empathy, having a close understanding what the customer really needs, what do they want to make their life easier? And in my space, what does the customer need? And so in the example I gave earlier, there was health and wellness and the sanitize allergen on the outdoor product. I felt that was a need, customers needed that.
So it’s not that I want to make more money or to my company to earn more profits and or any other, it’s completely focused on your customer. Basically it's the golden rule, treat your customers or treat anyone that you wish to be treated. It’s an extension to that. And if this isn’t the case, if this is the need that I was facing in my life, of needing the refrigerator or needing an outdoor air conditioner, Basically as I’m saying that, yes, I need it. And if I need it, I’m going to develop it. And I’m sure it will be helpful to other people in helping improve their lives. So that is where it stops from this new thing of empathy. And I think empathy, I’m not sure if it’s a skill that can be learned or everybody has it, but I think that’s where it starts from, not concerned for yourself, but for others.
Luke Peters: Yeah, you and your team are serving the customer that, and that’s what the business has to be built around. What are you seeing as far as sales channels, obviously, Amazon had massive growth during COVID, I’m assuming that was a standout for you, but are you seeing anything else? Is anyone in particular growing really fast and surprising or were standing out during the past year.
Atul: But we supply products with different channels. We have the home channel, and of course you have Amazon, but the major players, everybody else, whether it’s home depot, lowes or Wayfare, and they all stepped up, Menards, everybody has gone into e-commerce and realizing in the pandemic that less people were going to stores, to kick the tires of product. And so we had to up our game, again, going back to having the inventory in stock, having our processes for logistics and on-time shipping all those things and the technology available to make those things happen. Because customers, I think in this pandemic had a reasonable tolerance for delay well you know theyre saying ok well due to COVID. they accept a week or 10 days, but over that, there’s no excuse.
And so we are facing that. The customer says, okay, it’s COVID, but you need to deliver, you need to have good products. You need to deliver on time. You need to install all of those things they expect. Those really haven’t changed and so if anything, people are more impatient, so everybody has to up their game at this time no exception. We just have to keep up with them.
The other thing I want to mention is we are in different markets, like the recreational vehicle market and we had acquired the company about 12 years ago and got into that space for supplier products. And that space has boomed in the last year because people have not been going on vacation, they’ve been buying or renting RVs. And when they do that, washing machine, nobody wants to use the common laundromat in the RV parks. So they’re buying washing machines. So they use, they’re buying wine refrigerators for the RV. They’re doing all the things to make their life more comfortable so they can spend time with their families in a safe environment. So in these sort of pockets that we’ve been sort of being able to support.
Luke Peters: Yeah the RV space is just, it’s gone crazy. It’s an incredible place to be. And you guys were already there, like you mentioned with that acquisition previously. And I remember talking about that actually in our initial podcast. And what else was interesting is. So I guess when you finished your book, that would have been on your 29, right? And then your 30 anniversary for your business ends up being COVID and you finish the book, I guess, right? At the beginning of the pandemic. Is that fair to say on the timing or early on in the pandemic?
Atul: It is. Absolutely. Yeah. Right in the beginning of the pandemic. Well the book was finished a few months earlier and then of course it takes time to publish and get it out there and so on. And so with the pandemic, frankly speaking, I think all the training and the difficulties and all the things, everything I learnt in the last, previous 29 years came in useful. And I think it prepared me for the pandemic.
And so I was ready, and the book also talks about the 101 lessons I learned in my career. Each one of those lessons came at a price and was a failure that made me learn, just like the large retailer last year, telling me he’s cutting us off. But that was an important lesson that I need to get my act together. So I’m writing now, I’m now writing the next chapter, which is what we did in the pandemic and how it prepared us and the actions we took. And I hope that readers will be able to learn something from that and whatever field they’re in about being prepared and apply those thought processes and whatever fields theyre in.
Luke Peters: Yeah. I think that’s important. I’m sure there’s a lot, your thinking has probably changed quite a bit, right? With COVID, you can add some new thoughts to that chapter of the book, but at the same time, like you said, all of those learnings and all that experience helps you kind of navigate this. And on top of it, it’s like one habit? You’re just in a fantastic category, right? You’re in a category that supports the home and supports the RV. Those are like two of the biggest growth categories.
And what is, really quickly looking forward. Obviously a lot of companies did receive a positive COVID bump, some really got hurt, unfortunately, but then some received a positive COVID bump. And now that might be returning to normal, but maybe the new normal is still increased sales because there’s been a big movement, a pull forward of people to online buying versus in a department store buying, where do you see this in the next couple of years? Obviously we want to be optimistic about businesses, but do you think there could be a pullback when things return to normal? Or do you just see that it’s not going to come down that far because you know, maybe more people have kind of transitioned to online purchasing. Where do you kind of see this playing out?
Atul: Well, two points, the first thing is that I don’t believe everybody has got a bump. In fact, just a few weeks ago, I got a call from an associate in our industry and he was asking me how I’m doing. And we had connected six or eight months ago, about a year ago. And we had exchanged notes and I said, we’re doing well. And I asked about him and he said, he’s not doing well at all. And then I said, what happened? That was a big surprise to hear that I must confess. And then he explained that he was having supply chain issues and because of semiconductors and various things, he wasn’t able to get a lot of new models in process. And he wasn’t able to regroup. And he’d been out of inventory for six or eight months. And so there are lot of folks who have not been able to, I don’t want to say take advantage, but have to step up into this new environment, and were not ready for these changes that came, which were very sudden changes.
That one had to be ready for the sudden change. So, but for the second part, that one made it through. It’s almost like creative destruction, like every stage, like in the last recession of 2007, 08, 09 those years, if you made it through there, a lot of people whittle down the field and if you make it through there, then you’re ready for the next round. You can say almost like a boxing match, you made it through that round. So a lot of people may not make it through this round, but if you made it through this round, as some of us have, then I think we are ready for the next one. The next phase. I do think that business is going to slow. There is more, the same amount of income going around and folks are going to say, well, I want to go for a vacation.
I want to go international. I want to go on a cruise. I don’t need to, I’m not staying at home so much anymore, so they’re going to spend it elsewhere. And I do think that there is going to be a reduction. But again, I think for those companies who are innovating and at the end of the day, you have to provide value, there’s a lot of competition in the field. Everybody has a choice, first of all what they want to spend their money on. And if they decide they want to spend on something, then there’s no product which doesn’t have a choice. And so you want to be there to stay up in front and continue to drive. You have to continue to innovate and do, or whether it’s product innovation, marketing innovation to prove value to your customer. It’s going to continue. And again, there’ll be a falling out over the next six months or a year. Some people will make it then some won’t.
Luke Peters: Yeah, it’s actually a really interesting way to think about it, especially the creative destruction part. And you’re absolutely right. Not everybody did make it and some did do better, but others did have negative impacts. I’m glad you answered that way because usually business is not as simple as A or B. There’s so much nuance in there and that’s what came out of that. Atul listen before I let you go here, I really urge everybody to check out your book, Underdog Thinking, you can find it on Amazon. We’ll have it in our show notes, but before I let you go, you have a team in India, you grew up there, went to school there, and then of course, have made your way around the world since, but in the news, India is really hurting with COVID. Is your local team safe? What is the word on the ground over there? And for those who are interested in wanting to help the situation in India, do you know if there’s any good causes that you can direct them to?
Atul: Yes, absolutely. The situation in India has been in the news and it’s pretty bad, it’s a lot of population and a lot of challenges. It’s very advanced with the Space Program, Nuclear Program, Super Advance Military, and Navy, and so on. But on the other side, you have a lot of population who cannot just make it, who just don’t have disposable resources for when things like this happen. So we’ve all been reading about it. Then it’s a pretty bad situation. We have a larger support team in India, and many of them have been affected. I think 30 or 40% of our team was down with COVID. So we’ve been supporting them as a company with full leave vacation time for if they can’t come to work and take time off and will be on full pay and additional funds also to support them in this difficult time to help with medicines and so on.
So that’s been a challenge, but of course, we always have that enough planning to have a plan B that if one person is down, sick or vacation, or ill whatever, then you have somebody else to take over that position, that particular task for the day. And so we’ve been working on that without any major disruption. And there are a number of ways to contribute to that. We ourselves are engaged with the local Chamber of Commerce, by the way, we did launch our products in India last year.
Luke Peters: Oh, wow.
Atul: So we have an Indian operations. So we are actually selling product under the equator brand there. Also in Canada, they’re about to launch in the Middle East as well, but going back to India, we are very engaged with the local community and if anybody’s interested. I’ll be happy to put you in touch with the local Chamber of Commerce with whom we are tied up, bringing in ventilators and so on and have their own support team on the ground. Let’s say for the managing these resources and how to distribute them.
Luke Peters: Yeah, well, thanks for that update. And glad to hear that your team is doing fine and you’re making it through and congrats on the international expansion. Wow. That’s pretty cool. I mean, especially for a company that’s been around 30 years, you guys are still learning new tricks, so good job, good job Atul on continuing to innovate and thanks again for coming on and being a guest on the podcast.
Atul: My pleasure. Congratulations on the great work you’re doing. And I enjoy listening to your programs and the great speakers and wish you all the best.
Luke Peters: Thanks, Atul. And I want to thank everybody for listening to this episode of The Page One Podcast, hope you enjoyed this interview. Truly appreciate your reviews on iTunes and hope you join us for the next interview.