Sumit Mahajan is the visionary behind Mahajan Home. The name might not ring a bell, but you have seen their products in stores throughout Canada and the U.S. This award-winning private label textile and décor development company, is currently working with retailers and top brands. Mahajan didn’t begin with a background in home furnishings – he actually started in finance and marketing.
“I just basically stumbled into an opportunity, where I was able to leverage something special that was going on with family overseas who were looking to scale up and penetrate a direct link to customers over here in North America. So it started primarily in a sales and marketing role. The passion, I think was developed over time. This wasn’t something on my radar or that I was initially looking for, it’s more of something I fell into and I absolutely love it.
“I was at a stage where I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was exploring many different opportunities just like many entrepreneurs and I wasn’t really focusing on any one thing. And then when I took the stance, that was the key. ‘Let me focus and give this a shot.’”
The early years of the company started slowly, and Mahajan shares with EI that it was probably a year and a half to two years, before he saw any sales. However, it was one contract with Home Outfitters that inspired him to give it his all, and his furnishing company took off from there.
“Most of my clients are big box retailers or major brands, so it’s not easy to really penetrate these markets. It takes a lot of persistence, follow up and being able to create a case as to why us. The aha moment was really when I received that first order and I got inspired to start driving this.”
“I got motivated from then on and I started getting more aggressive in the sales process by calling on more accounts and started to understand how I can drive value and solutions for retailers as opposed to just being another B2B vendor.”
Some areas that a textile and home decor company has to consider is product, logistics, retailers operations and human resources to manage the various processes. While juggling these separate elements, Mahajan shares his personal philosophy that holds the business together, and maintained its integrity:
“I think with any company providing a service or a product, two things are very important: Price and execution. They’re non-negotiable.”
“In today’s competitive and global landscape, companies need to be well priced and also be able to execute. Beyond that, that’s where you can set yourself apart. I feel that the value is driven through a combination of many other deliverables you can offer your clients. Being able to provide collaboration on the design and the development of the program with my customers or simply producing what they require. I set up my company so we can start studying trends. We work with clients and let them know what we are seeing in the market and how the landscape will look twelve to eighteen months out. We communicate how we can engineer and supply a product that caters to their specific needs, while understanding what they are trying to sell throughout the store, not only for home division but in all areas. Colours, themes and the overall look and feel of the store experience are all important elements for us to consider when working with specific clients.”
Collaboration with his clients is key to Mahajan’s success. While it takes time for clients to build up trust with their providers, Mahajan makes it easy for retailers and brands to design and develop their products. Beyond manufacturing, Mahajan Home really stands out with its management structure by stating how they want to collaborate and drive value through specific solutions right from the start. Rather than putting off customers, this personal approach is driving Mahajan’s success.
“I’ve developed many strong relationships with key individuals in the retail sector. People move from company to company and they bring us with them because they’re confident in what we can do, and they know our abilities to execute and deliver on their needs. It’s not something that I deal with as a ‘hump,’ it is more of this is our main mission of the company.
“We look to work with companies that have invested interest and confidence in us just like we’re gonna have a vested interest in them. As a result, we are working with companies that share the same values as we do through collaboration, integrity and a desire to drive solutions and create value”
“I think we know our industry quite well, in that we not only collaborate with our customers, we also collaborate with suppliers. We have a key supplier in India, managed by family there. We have some key suppliers in China along with dedicated people on the ground. In the U.S. we have key suppliers and we also have manufacturing and operations here in Canada.
“I also have my team which is solid and continues to grow here in Canada and overseas. Our people is what is going to drive the future success of our business and an integral component to help growth and sustainability for the company. Through transparency and team engagement we are defining the pillars that are going to strengthen the client experience and loyalty.
“The design and the development is the starting point. What we can do is more of a full-service company where we can actually go out and develop a product, we can manufacture the product, bring it in and distribute it. We can service our clients however it suits them best. I think that’s something that sets us apart from others. We are set up to accommodate broad or specific needs of our clients so we can make their jobs more manageable.
While Mahajan states that he tries to do the heavy lifting for his clients, to ease their burden, it must take some toll on him. As with any business, there is a need to recharge, a way to cope with stress. How does this father of two and President of Mahajan cope?
“I’m a member of EO (Entrepreneurs Organization) and I have a forum group and the ability to lean on them. I also have some mentors in my life that have experience in business and not necessarily in my business but in general where I can gain insight and visibility to real world experience.”
“In any entrepreneurial business there’s good times, there’s also hard times. Hopefully, there’s gonna be many more good times than there are hard times but you got to ride it, right? And that’s part of the drive. The down moments are opportunities to learn and become stronger. Persevere and learn from challenges and set backs and make sure you don’t make those same mistakes results in both personal and professional growth. Having a support network to speak to and share experiences with is a great outlet if you can access one”
Getting to understand his clients’ needs and working with people can present a challenge, but Mahajan shares his trick to understanding people, and getting a baseline to talk to them. He feels that while dealing with people, there will always be an emotional element, but that’s only one aspect of business.
“I think if you have the ability to be transparent, let people know your challenges and include them in planning solutions, you’ll find a lot of your allies and they’ll help you work through those things.”
Mahajan adds that the entrepreneurial life is often isolating, not having many people to talk directly to, outside of customers. How can a new entrepreneur or a start up business find support in today’s online, impersonal world?
“My big turning point was when stopped holding things in and I was able to start talking to people and getting my challenges out there. I was so surprised at how many people would come out of the woodwork, and would help. They would never have stepped out had I not been vocalizing what my challenges were. I think that was a big part of growing both professionally for me, personally too. It was the ability to open up and talk about challenges and know that it’s not so bad.”
Finding and speaking to a mentor or someone in a coaching type role can be an intimidating obstacle, but ultimately rewarding. Mahajan states that finding a friendly peer who’d lend advice was invaluable. He knows what challenges that a first-time business owner can face:
“My earliest challenge was probably just frustration with not being able to close sales. I probably knocked on over a hundred doors before I started getting any market penetration.”
Staying motivated was a big challenge, as so much of his business depended on getting clients to boost his output. How to keep his chin up when the chips were down? Planning and goal-setting was the key.
“I think that was a big challenge – just being able to stay focused. In the last, probably three to five years, I’ve been taking time out to think about where I want to go and how I’m gonna get there. I’ve set up some goals along the way which allows me to stay the course of action and also keep me motivated when I reach those goals, the achievable goals, the SMART goals. And I think that’s been very good for me over the last years and I will continue to do that high jump.”
Some of Mahajan Home’s SMART goals involve gaining access to ten new customers in the next two years, and diversify their customer and supplier mix. That is not without some challenges: “When we’re dealing with big box retailers, you need to be prepared to support their needs and execute. Having the right people in the right roles to support those needs is key. Clients can easily ramp up very quickly and we need to be prepared upfront and make sure they understand how important they are to us.”
No matter how many new clients Mahajan Home plans to acquire, nothing will persuade him to change his business philosophy of seeing collaboration as a tool. He adds that the company slogan, “You dream it, We’ll Deliver It,” will remain their motto for the foreseeable future.
You can reach Sumit Mahajan via LinkdIn