No Degree, Harwinder Singh Learnt Business On-The-Job

The fact that all of Harwinder Singh Dhiman’s notebooks in school were speckled with oil stains and grease from his father’s workshop would tell one a lot about his education and steep growth in entrepreneurship. Dhiman is a son of the soil. In his casual manner, he proclaims that the world is his oyster, but by the way he tells this, we know that it’s also his classroom.

How did the son of an agricultural machinery repair workshop owner venture into the field of solar panels? “We had a very small business and belonged to a small town. While studying, I developed an interest in things, like computers and all.” Pursuing that interest, Dhiman reached Ludhiana, a city that broadened his horizons. In his own words, it felt like “a frog who’d lived in a well all his life had finally climbed out, and I wanted to do so much.”

However, his entrepreneurial journey didn’t begin at that point. Short of money and resources, Dhiman was compelled to take up a job. “The job was great. The pay was more than sufficient, and I held a high post in the hierarchy. But the pressure got to me.” The turning point was an evening when he broke down emotionally because of the pressure.

That’s when Dhiman joined his father’s business and began developing it further. He worked there for some time, but Dhiman wasn’t satisfied. He wanted more. His discerning eye noticed an opportunity for business during a workshop project. “The project involved oxygen gas, and I found it really hard to procure from the nearby suppliers. That’s when it hit me that there might be others who’re looking for easy oxygen supply as well.” So, Dhiman became a supplier of oxygen cylinders to nearby factories and hospitals.

When the oxygen supply business took off, Dhiman began exploring areas to diversify. That’s when he thought of a renewable energy system. He got a system fitted for himself, at his own house, but that gave in after 4 days. Google and online courses came to the rescue and he fixed the system himself. Soon, word spread around family and friends, and Dhiman was asked to set up systems for them too. Soon, family and friends turned into more and more clients, and his business began. Since 2014, Dhiman’s business has grown tremendously, and his prospects seem bright, since electricity is something no one can do without nowadays.

But the journey has been far from comfortable. “My business has been riddled with impediments. On some days I’ve pawned my wife’s jewellery for money. Cash flow has been a main difficulty, but I think I’ve managed.”

Dhiman is a person who takes things in his stride. “My mantra is not to worry too much. I take it easy and look at things with equanimity. It doesn’t pay to lose your sleep over things and investments unnecessarily.” But that doesn’t mean that he takes things lying down. He has an eye out for opportunities for growth and improvement, and he seizes them as soon as he notices them.

Dhiman’s operations are predicated on the ethos of quality product and labour. He has consistently delivered work that has been commended by almost all of his customers. “My pet peeve is seeing entrepreneurs cut corners on quality to reduce their prices. They sell to an unaware customer, and when their system fails, the whole industry suffers a crisis of trust from customers. No one would buy from us. I want this country to have stringent quality checks and standards.”

Not being from a commerce or business background, Dhiman entered the Growtharator programme to glean whatever knowledge he could. He says that the programme has helped him understand a lot of fundamental concepts of entrepreneurship, and even induced him to take more risks. “As a film dialogue goes: Even Spiderman has to take risks. I’m just a businessman.”

The pandemic has given him time to introspect on his business and take major decisions. “Business has been slow, but it’ll revive soon enough,” he says, his voice as cool and equanimous as his outlook towards his business and life.

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