B D Nathani

The book My Journey Through Lala Land opens in a very interesting note wherein the author askes this direct question to his readers: “If you were to imagine a lala, would you see an unruly looking man looking over his accounts or a well-groomed man in a three-piece suit”?

Later, himself answers his question saying, “if you saw the former, it is likely because in a country where most of the small and medium businesses are family owned, lala is seen a derogatory term for an unprofessional leader or owner of a busines.

This sets the tone and tenor of what a reader could expect in the book – a journey together in the memory lane of the author – B D Nathani.

BDN describes how even after working extremely hard for his graduation, he could clear his exams NOT before seven years! (Primarily due to then flawed education policy).

After finally graduating, he cleared an examination to work as a low-ranking officer in the Ministry of Foreign Trade. Throughout his tenure, he keeps clinging onto his dream of making it big one day!

The hard working and intelligent man even cleared the IPS exams but could not qualify because of his DNA – the mediocre height that he had inherited.

However, the silver lining was to appear soon.

One fine day, his life took an altogether undreamt-of direction – one of his uncles tells him about job in Mumbai which was to pay him three times more than his father’s then earnings.

Elated BDN grabs this opportunity and joins the company as a sales executive.

The author begins his career as a salesman in the 80s and has to sell herbal soap and also a cough syrup for a pharmaceutical company.

In spite of the bumpy the initial years, he gradually moves up the ladder and becomes an Areas Sales Manager. It is when that he starts looking after the launch of the herbal soap, one of the first in the erstwhile India. Here, he understands the importance of promotions and events in building a successful brand.

Many years later, he would use his learnings from his brand promotions through events as one of his strategic tools to launch many international brands!

After selling FMCG products for almost eight years, BDN is soon given an opportunity to sell an Italian shoe in India.

Soon after joining, he learns that the Indian consumer loves the foreign made tag and uses that in a very clever manner to launch Lotto. To everyone’s surprise, it become a huge success!

While he was working with Lotto, the Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated.

Since the PM was wearing the same shoe the day he died, the author decides to portray hoardings of the PM wearing the Lotto basketball shoe as a homage to the noble soul.

He does this in Lotto stores in South Indian cities and towns where it is tradition for stores to display a photo of their political leaders. This helps the sale of the shoe by 3X within months and becomes one of the landmark event in his career.

The author’s prime professional years begins in the year 93 when he joins The Aero Group, a small leather manufacturer based in Karol Bagh, New Delhi. The same year, the company launches a shoe they manufacture themselves, called Woodland.

Interestingly, BDN is the only employee of Woodland!

Hiring slowly begins with the appointment of distributors for a one-of-a-kind premier leather outdoor casual shoe. BDN, very meticulously hires members for his team and gets the ball rolling from the scratch. Followed by promoting the shoe in college and youth festivals.

After the initial success in one such show, BDN  decides to try other out of the box ideas with the help of his team and chairman, a professional lala. The company sponsors many events, including a fashion show on a train and a fashion magazine’s cover girl contest. The brand becomes extremely appealing to the fashion-conscious middle-class Indians, who are seeing wealth as dispensable for the first time.

Once the brand reaches foreign shores, there is no stopping. The brand also launches an exclusive line of shoes called Joggers, a white leather jogger that was unique for its times and continues till today.

In the late 90s, things take a U-turn when the management imposes strict control on advertisements and due to some differences, the author resigns in the early 2000s.

The rest of the journey has equally interesting incidents – BDN launches Lotto again but with a different franchise company in the early 2000s.

This time he signs one of the biggest teen sports celebrities, Sania Mirza as a brand ambassador. The author launches other successful brands in the footwear industry, including Hi Tech, Crocs, Disney footwear, Chota Bheem and New Balance.

According to BDN, the aim of the book is two-fold: to document the professional journey, and also dispel myths about traditional family owners in India, also known as lala. Most of the brands he has worked with were run by family business owners and BDN himself describes them as successful leaders, those who enabled him to launch and sustain brands in the most professional manner.