Kozhikode: Entrepreneurship is in his blood. And, that’s exactly the spirit which gave him the courage to wind up his stationery business at Chavakkad in Thrissur district and move to Kozhikode to pursue a bigger entrepreneurial dream in 1997. After two decades, he is literally the king of hoarding (out of home media) business in Kerala. Recently, he forayed into PVC designer door business, for which he has laid out a roadmap to become a Rs. 500-crore company by 2023. Passionate about farming, he has also made investments in hi-tech dairy farms.
N K Abdul Jaleel lives the unflagging entrepreneurial spirit of Malabar. Starting with a small stationery business, he gradually scaled great heights through his hoarding business. Today, by providing vantage points at 500-plus locations all over Kerala, his Jay ‘N’ Jay Hoarding Company helps many leading brands run promotional campaigns. Later, he also entered the PVC designer door segment and conquered the market with the brand ‘Stylex Doors’. As Jaleel and his son Junaid successfully run their business empire they are equally focused on many of their big plans for tomorrow. In this issue of Destination Kerala,
we feature this father-son duo for our readers
Meet N K Abdul Jaleel, Managing Director of Jay ‘N’ Jay Hoarding Company Pvt. Ltd. and Stylex Doors. I met Jaleel, in his late forties, and son Junaid, who joined the business two years ago, at his palatial house in Kozhikode. An astute businessman, Jaleel has the typical Malabar entrepreneurial spirit – the drive to grow a local venture into a global business.
After his father’s demise in 1991, Jaleel was running the stationery shop at Chavakkad. But he was always thinking of doing something big, a business which has more potential to scale up. “It was then one of my friends suggested to venture into outdoor media business. Those days, the State was witnessing a gradual transition in the sector. Flex sheets had slowly started to replace painted billboards and hoardings. During my brief research, I found the market in Kochi very competitive. But Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram had huge untapped potential. I found Kozhikode more suitable for the business and started Jay ‘N’ Jay Hoarding Company in 1997,” Jaleel said.
Today, Jaleel’s firm has 500-plus hoarding points across Kerala together constituting around 3.5 lakh sq. ft. with many leading business houses like Malabar Gold & Diamonds, Francis Alukkas, VKC Group and Bhima Jewellers among the list of long-term clients.
Almost two decades later, another novel entrepreneurial idea struck Jaleel while he was holidaying in China. “The decision to set up a business in readymade PVC doors was very accidental. In China, I happened to visit the production facility of a readymade door company. It really fascinated me and instantly I made up my mind to set up a similar venture back home,” he says.
In April 2017, Jaleel entrusted Junaid the responsibility of running the hoarding business as he became fully involved in the new venture. According to Jaleel, Stylex Doors will be the growth driver of the Group in the coming years. “In our assessment, today readymade PVC designer doors is a Rs. 6000-crore industry in Kerala. At present, companies based in Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh are the leading players. The competition is tough but we have done the groundwork well,” he says.
Stylex Doors, which secured ISO-9001:2015 certification, now has 60 outlets across Kerala and one in Bengaluru. It has a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Malappuram district. “For us it doesn’t take more than 80 seconds to manufacture a door. That’s the specialty of the hi-tech manufacturing facility. No other company has such a facility in Kerala now. In a day, we are able to produce around 1000 to 1200 doors based on demand. The intent is to manufacture at least 20,000 doors in the facility every month,” he says.
Jaleel has plans to set up four more factories across South India by 2023. “Our mission is to make this a Rs. 500-crore company within the next five years. For that, we have to expand the product portfolio by venturing into manufacturing of Unplasticized Poly Vinyl Chloride (UPVC) products. With five factories, we look forward to supply a minimum of 5000 doors per day across South India,” he says. While Jaleel preferred not to disclose the fund required for expansion, which would drive his vision of achieving a turnover of Rs. 500-crore by 2023, he said the investment would be made by a consortium of directors and would not require loans.
Why are UPVC products considered more suitable for construction? I asked. “UPVC windows and doors offer many of the performance characteristics which no other material so far has been capable of offering - be it low maintenance, rain insulation, chemical resistance, salt water resistance and the like. Due to these qualities, UPVC has garnered more than 50 per cent market share in countries like the UK and the US,” he pointed out.
According to Jaleel, the growth of his business will hinge on how well the South Indian market embraces new trends in construction industry. “The sector is witnessing a massive change. In the near future, PVC or UPVC panels will replace plastering and painting on walls. It would be much cheaper, take less time to put up and have better finish and look. PVC can also replace window and door frames. With our state-of-the-art manufacturing facility, we are able to supply doors which are more durable and of high quality. In our initial research, we found that products available in Kerala were of poor quality. So we decided to provide better quality at the same price. We also have HD printed doors, which are far ahead in terms of quality. My experience in HD flex sheet printing came in handy here. It can be so customised that a customer can even emboss a picture of himself on it,” he said.
Though Jaleel’s entry into PVC designer door business was accidental, he had a genuine reason to think about diversification. “For us, at a given point in time, around 100 to 150 hoarding points will remain without any takers. This was also a reason why I thought of venturing into another business. While the space remains vacant, we can use it for promoting our own brand. This idea came up during a casual conversation with one of my well-wishers. For a while I thought about launching a branded shirt for the Kerala market. I had plans to set up the production facility in Bengaluru. But I realised that the market was too competitive and hence, dropped that plan,” he says.
Today, outdoor advertising industry in Kerala is worth around Rs. 400 cr. According to Jaleel, there are around 2500 hoarding contractors all over Kerala. “If you take the inventory, less than 15 players together share among themselves more than 50 per cent of the hoarding units,” he says.
Jay ‘N’ Jay is one among the top five hoarding companies in Kerala. Being the head of hoarding business division, I asked Junaid about his plans for expansion. “We believe the best thing to do is to effectively market the existing space in Kerala. We earn decent revenue from this. There is no point in expanding to other States without being able to manage them properly,” says the 23-year-old scion, who feels that the growth rate of outdoor advertising industry has stagnated.
“That’s the point,” Jaleel chips in. “Since 2010, the growth is flat in this industry. After 2015, it became literally zero. The decade from 2000 to 2010 was the golden era of outdoor advertising business in Kerala. As far as the Kerala market is concerned, having 500-plus hoarding points across the State is more than enough. Whenever we need more space, we always have the option to take it on lease from other contractors. We have an organisation called Kerala Advertising Industries Association (KAIA) which facilitates business among players in this field,” he adds.
However, the duo feels that business would grow when LED walls would replace flex sheets.
“LED walls are the future of outdoor media business. We can display advertisements of multiple clients at a time. Since the State Government has not yet framed rules and regulations for that we have not yet ventured into it. Moreover, we also need to make huge investment to sustain the business. Many small players will be forced to quit the sector then,” says Jaleel.
Currently, Jay ‘N’ Jay has the largest flex printing facility in North Kerala. “We can print about 50,000 sq.ft. every day. We use eco-friendly ink. We also undertake printing works of other companies as well,” says Junaid who prefers to travel across the State only by car. “Fine sense of judgment in identifying the most appropriate locations is the key to success in this business. Once it’s done, the rest is much like taking a place for rent. Besides offering high-visibility spots at key locations, prompt service to clients has been the other reason for our success. We undertake the responsibility of the structure and the lighting though we cannot guarantee the life of flex sheets which depends on several external factors, including weather,” he adds.
The turning point for Jay ‘N’ Jay was the all-Kerala business given by Tibre Trousers in the late 1990s. “We did the campaign for them across South India. For Impex, we did more than 615 hoardings totaling more than 5 lakh sq.ft. across the State. Perhaps, that would be the biggest outdoor advertisement campaign Kerala has ever seen. There might have been campaigns with same number of hoardings but the difference was that we did it within 41 days. In short, that’s the minimum number of days we need for printing, transportation and installation. That’s a record,” Jaleel said. Adds Junaid, “Now, majority of the work comes from hospitals, home appliances and builders. Three years ago, it was from jewellers and textile showrooms. So, the trend keeps changing.”
How do you face the campaigns that flex sheets cause environmental pollution, which is a fact? “Ever since we ventured into the business, there has been a campaign against flex sheets. I have always seen it as a political stunt. To my knowledge, no country has banned flex. You could see flex boards everywhere in the world. The same material is used everywhere. From our side, we always ensure that we use eco-friendly ink. Recently, a company in Mysore started recycling of flex sheets. The recycled product can be used as an ingredient in laying roads. In most of the countries, governments earmark spaces for putting up hoardings in public spaces. Here we have such space only in private properties. I don’t understand why the government is turning a blind eye to what can be a major revenue earner every year,” Jaleel says.
Jaleel is the Managing Director of Edayur Farms, spread over 15 acres of land, the hi-tech dairy farm is coming up near Kadampuzha temple at Valancherry in Malappuram district. “Work is in progress. We expect to commission the project in the first quarter of 2020. It is purely based on my passion for agriculture. The plan is to have a fully automatic farm with minimum human involvement. There will be around 300 cows. We expect to produce around 5000 litres of milk everyday. Besides milk, various other products will be marketed in Malappuram as well as neighbouring districts. The total investment comes to around Rs. 14 crores,” he says.
Today, the Group employs more than 230 people. After the complete implementation of the five-year plan, the employee strength would cross 2000. Jaleel attributes his success to the values that he learned and inherited from his father. “Money management is one thing. My father, whenever he had cash, invested in land. According to him, holding money as cash or gold would result in heavy spending. He did not want us to do that. Instead, his vision was to limit our expenses and adjust our lifestyle according to our income. I found it the best money management system as it is based on a behavioral aspect of human beings. If money is easily available, it would result in unchecked spending. In short, his idea of savings is minimum liquidity and maximum asset,” Jaleel says.
For Junaid also, entrepreneurship has been the first choice. “I have seen my father in business since my childhood. Business is in our blood. And, I always believed that I was destined to be an entrepreneur. I felt that I was very articulate hence, had a penchant for marketing. Even during college days, I was more interested in mobilising funds and other resources for college fests and events. Seeing my spirit, even my teachers used to say that you should look for a career as an entrepreneur,” he adds.
Every day in the morning and before going to bed, the father-son duo discusses their business ventures. “It’s a kind of reporting of the day’s activities and making plans for the next day. The biggest lesson that I have learned from my father is to follow certain ethics and values in the business. He is against making money for the sake of it. He is very particular that we have to be truthful to ourselves,” Junaid says.
Jaleel feels that Kerala is a good market if we can supply quality products in an attractive way. “That’s what I have learned from my 30 years of experience as an entrepreneur. For instance, take coconut husk. People will hardly use it for washing utensils. But if you process it and sell it in attractive packs, it would be a big success. That’s the market psyche here,” he says.
Though he accepts that Kerala has become a more investment-friendly State, Jaleel takes the State Government’s propaganda on ‘ease of doing business’ with a pinch of salt. “Believe it or not, I had to wait for five months to secure HT power connection for my factory. That’s the sad part here. As an entrepreneur that was the time when I felt really disappointed. I applied for power connection on August 2 but it materialised only on December 29. At the same time, some of my friends who started a venture in Andhra Pradesh have a different story to tell. Whatever is your investment, you will get 50 per cent subsidy. Secondly, when they say single-window clearance, they really mean it. Power connection will be given within 24 hours of submitting the application. Here, even after setting up the factory, I had to wait for five months to make it operational. It is very disappointing. In money terms, we lost around Rs. 1 crore. This happened even after we set up the factory inside the government’s industrial park! It was a kind of mental harassment as well. To be frank, government has different systems and schemes to support entrepreneurs but the officials who are supposed to implement them are not accountable. For this reason, we decided to set up our next factories in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka,” he says.
Jaleel advises young entrepreneurs to acquire the skill to take quick decisions. “When you delay the decision, it will cause loss, especially those related to financial matters. Also, aspiring entrepreneurs need to be aware of all legal formalities before starting a business. Or else, they will struggle,” he says.
So, does money bring you happiness? I asked. “Money is important but there are some other things which are more important for me; our lifestyle and behaviour with other people. Wealth is always a byproduct of hard work. There is nothing called easy money. There will be huge amount of hardwork behind every penny one makes,” he signs off.
N K ABDUL JALEEL
- Born at: Chavakkad
- Based in: Kozhikode
- Age: 48 years
- Family: P Kadeeja (spouse), Junaid (son), Fathima Lisna&Layana Fathima (daughters), Miza Mariyam (daughter in law)
- Loves to do (when not working): Reading. “I take photographs of articles, which I find interesting in newspapers or magazines and read those when I am free”
- Favourite Holiday Destination: Loves to travel to London and Dubai the most. In India, Ootty is his favourite place
- Drives: Audi Q7
- Favourite cuisine: Kerala cuisine. “I like to have various types of seafood preparations”
JUNAID N K
- Born at: Chavakkad
- Based in: Kozhikode
- Age: 23 years
- Loves to do (when not working): Driving. “It’s my passion”
- Favourite Holiday Destinations: Loves to travel to Hong Kong and Dubai
- Drives: Jaguar
- Favourite cuisine: Avid foodie. “Sometimes I travel only to eat out. I have some favourite eateries in Kollam and Alappuzha. Loves to try various dishes made of chicken and prawns”