December 2023 \ Diaspora News \ BUSINESS PROFILE

By India Empire Bureau
  • On top of a glacier in Milford Sound, New Zealand

Samuel John was born in small town Punjab without a silver spoon in his mouth. The family’s financial situation was never very rosy, and John, having made his way through school—St. Mary’s Convent School, Makhu, Ferozpur—had to set out to fend for himself early in life. The luxury of a college education and spending time with friends was something he had to skip, just so that the family’s financial situation could improve.

Today, at 39, he’s turned his life around completely. He has a thriving construction business, he travels well globally, and has made a name for himself as a dynamic entrepreneur with a vision. Some of the ministers and notable figures in his native state of Punjab do not hesitate to court him.

In spite of the hardships of his early, growing up years, John developed one taste that has stayed with him. He is a keen connoisseur of good food, a gourmet with a discerning palate. So it did not come as a surprise when he noticed that the jaggery (coarse, dark brown sugar in India made after the evaporation of palm trees), chikki (traditional Indian sweet made of nuts and jaggery, or sugar, that is brittle) and namkeen (salty snacks) sold in his native Makhu were not up to the mark.

These are fast moving items and their overall poor quality nettled John. So in 2007, only 23 at the time, he decided to start his own business called Feed Well. He set up a factory, brought in quality snacks and started making an impression in people’s minds straightaway. As was to be expected, the competition was blown away. So magical were his sales that 17 competing factories producing snacks near his town shut down after registering significant losses.

But the good times did not last very long, and soon the tide turned against him. The peeved factory owners ganged up, formed a price cartel and started peddling low-cost stuff and luring back their customers. Determined that he would not compromise on quality even if that meant not lowering the price, John decided to close his business, and move on.

He then shifted to Saudi Arabia as a driver, looking for greener pastures in a land of deserts. Luck did not desert him, though. In three months he was promoted as a junior purchaser, and another six months later he was a full-fledged purchaser. His zest for life, his uncanny knack of rising above the ordinary, his eagerness to learn new things each day, turned out to be his biggest assets. He became supervisor of an asphalt batching plant and a stone crusher. Then came another pleasant surprise: after returning to Saudi Arabia from a holiday in India, John was appointed operational manager and head of material purchase and dispatch operations at two new concrete and cement products plants. While promotions and higher pay were the rewards he was reaping for his honesty and hard work, one part of John was yearning to be back with his parents at home in the lakeside town of Makhu. He was missing family badly. So, in May 2014, not yet 30, John decided to return to India and pursue something of his own again.