An Ode to the school dropout entrepreneur-

An Ode to the school dropout entrepreneur-"Crane Subba Rao"

Posted by P. Charitha on March 25th 2017

Grandhi Subba Rao, popularly known as “Crane Subba Rao" (89) one of Andhra’s celebrated and respected entrepreneurs passed away in Guntur recently.  ‘Crane Vakkapodi’- the betel nut powder, is a brand name which is synonymous with the Telugu Culture ( so famous that it also became a  prefix to his name) and which also went on to become a National brand made available in all paan shops & grocery stores, in every nook and corner of India and many parts of the world too.
 
In a condolence message, the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh Mr.N. Chandrababu Naidu said, “Crane Subba Rao's spectacular success as an entrepreneur with no formal education should be a source of inspiration to the younger generation”. As he rightly said, the young start-up world has a lot to learn from his life and his illustrious entrepreneurial journey.
 
Crane Subba Rao success story sequenced:
 
Circa 1952: A class 7 dropout who bootstrapped his business of selling betel/arecanut powder with  Rs 100  as capital given by his father.
 
Sales on a cycle:Apart from his father, he also credits Chunduri Subba Rao, a grocer in Guntur who gave him betelnut/arecanut bags on credit and introduced him to suppliers as part of his success journey. He sold the betel nut powder locally in Guntur and other villages in and around Guntur riding a bicycle.
 
Innovation: Reaping modest profits, Rao realised the way forward was to expand by making innovations in the betelnut/supari mix by seasoning it with spices, oil, fruits and to making  fifferent mouth fresheners using other aromatics.
 
By the 80’s: He established the Crane Betel Nut Powder Works Ltd. and pioneered the use of imported “From Fill Seal Machines” used for packaging the betel nut powder. These packets retained the freshness of the aromatic betel nut and the concept was an instant hit and increased sales.

Crane as brand name: In an interview given a few years ago, Crane Subba Rao explained why he had chosen a Crane as a symbol for his products. "Crane stands in a meditative pose in a pond on one leg, waiting patiently for the fishes to surface, and then strikes swiftly when the opportunity arises. That is what an entrepreneur requires - enormous patience, persistence, and perseverance, and that has helped me through life "!
 
1995 :Joined by his son GVSL Kantha Rao in the family business , they acquired a sick dairy company- Durga Dairy , whose turnover was Rs 60 lakh  and raised it to a Rs 22 crore company, in a span of 12 years. Under the name Virat Crane Industries Ltd., the company produces the famed “Durga Ghee” as its premium Ghee brand. The current unit can produce up to 2500 tonnes of ghee every year.
 
Success:Starting with Rs 100 as capital he changed the fortunes of his small company to a Rs 100+ crore successful company by the millennium. 
The price of a plain/scented Crane betel nut packet rose from 2 paise to Re 2, in the past 60 years but he never comprised on quality.
 
Failures :They made attempts to set up a  manufacturing fruit pulp concentrate and bottling company in Orissa which failed. But that was just a part of the learning journey. He has provided direct employment to over 1,000 employees and 10,000 indirect employees.
 
2013: After six decades of relentless work and establishing Crane as a national brand, he announced his retirement from business and handed over operations to his son and vice-chairman of Crane Betel Powder Nut Works - G.V.S.L Kantha Rao. 

Diversifications: With investments in a software company & infrastructure the family is hopeful of leveraging the experience and gains to expand their core business.
 
Social Commitment: Mr.Grandhi Subba Rao, also made immeasurable contributions towards social welfare and development through the Crane Foundation and has generously donated towards social causes like community welfare (schools, orphanages, old age homes, scholarships etc.), feeding the poor, promoting Indian culture and uplifting temples and building libraries.  
As said in their website- Crane Subba Rao is truly the man with the Midas touch who carved the fortunes of the company with a modest Rs 100 to a multi crore presence in the country !

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