Bilal Khan | Founder & Managing Director – KashPET | Part One
After over seven months of conversation, www.thecherrytree.in was able to secure an interview with Bilal Khan, the founder and managing director of the pioneering PET Bottle manufacturing facility in the State of Jammu & Kashmir. In a candid discussion with Rajesh Prothi, Founder CEO of Absolute Factor and the Founder of www.thecherrytree.in, Bilal unveils the remarkable journey filled with uncertainties and challenges that led to the establishment of the very first PET bottle manufacturing plant in the picturesque region of Kashmir. In this initial segment of our conversation, he sheds light on the positive aspects of his remarkable odyssey.
Apart from your professional pursuits, what other interests do you have?
Outside of my professional realm, I’m passionate about trekking, and engaging in volunteer work to give back to society & I believe in the common man’s social responsibility – every person has the responsibility to give back to society in one way or another.
I am also associated with a few NGO’s as a volunteer & board member, I have been doing Volunteer work since 2014 after the floods in Kashmir, started as a donor & ended up as a volunteer.
That is one aspect of life which has a clear slant towards supporting society. Do you indulge in activities or have pursuits which touch you personal life?
I was a voracious reader since childhood, I still remember my first Novel “Crimson Flame – Hardy Boys” in my 5th Standard. I did not understand half of it for the first time, I reread it after a few years. Now due to paucity of time, I do pick up a book once in a while. I love exploring new destinations through travel.
I am also passionate about my gym sessions, especially weight training to stay active, I believe it helps both the body & especially the mind & also believe early morning gym sessions are a good way to start a day on a positive & energetic note and I also play badminton.
Can you share some significant turning points in your personal and professional life that have influenced your approach towards both?
Throughout my educational journey, institutions like Tyndale Biscoe and Mount Carmel in Delhi played a pivotal role in shaping my character. Participating in various extracurricular activities, especially trekking and sports, instilled in me a sense of confidence and an outspoken nature, attributes that have been with me since my schooling days. Standing up for friends and supporting them through challenges has always been a part of my core values.
Moving to the UAE in 2010 marked a significant turning point in my professional life. The exposure to diverse cultures, and meeting people from various races and countries, significantly broadened my perspectives and fostered a new way of thinking. Working under Japanese leadership further honed my work ethic, emphasizing the pursuit of perfection in everything I do.
As a Business Development Manager focusing on African markets, I had the privilege of travelling extensively, visiting different countries up to 3-4 times a month. This not only enriched my understanding of diverse cultures but also provided invaluable insights into the various approaches to conducting business. These experiences have been instrumental in shaping my approach and understanding of global business dynamics.
What motivated you to pursue a career in the bottling industry, and how did you enter this field?
I had to move back from UAE in 2015 due to personal reasons. Upon landing back in Kashmir I had to do something on my own as doing business was my childhood dream.
To make my dream a reality, I pursued BBA & MBA, and I started as a distributor for a couple of mobile companies but while doing that I realised my calling lay in something more significant. After a couple of years, I closed down the distribution business and instead embarked on researching what to do. I thought of manufacturing something but had an idea in my mind that I should either be the first/pioneer to market or manufacture something for a niche market.
I researched Tin Profiling, PVC pipe’s Manufacturing, Packaged Drinking Water industry, Plywood Manufacturing, I even thought of constructing a hotel, but Allah had other plans. After almost a year of researching I landed up on Manufacturing PET Preforms. What enticed me was the absence of local production & reliance of all Packaged Drinking Water Plants on external sources for buying their Raw Materials.
What kind of challenges cropped up at this juncture?
Nothing is as easy as it seems. There were lots of issues in manufacturing PET in Kashmir. It took me almost another seven to eight months to sort out technical issues for which I had to visit PET Preform Manufactures in NCR, Himachal etc. Let me confess, I am still learning to cope up technically with how to manufacture PET Preforms.
On the other hand, during research I saw there was a limited scope of sales in the Kashmir market as customers & their production capacity were very limited and shipping out to other states was very difficult because of the freight cost factor. Frankly speaking, I was in a double mind, to move into this vertical or not. But then entrepreneurship is all about taking a calculated risk “ thoda risk to lena he padhta hai”. Fortunately, the risk paid off.
So looking at all these factors I started construction of my plant in July 2019 & in March 2020 at the onset of COVID our machines landed in Kashmir.
Overall the journey has been satisfactory.
What if someone decided to start a greenfield project in this vertical? Will it be easy and sustainable now?
If someone else starts this kind of greenfield manufacturing plant today in Kashmir it will become difficult to stay profitable unless the pockets are really very deep. But then “spirit of entrepreneurship is embracing risk to pave the way for innovation and growth.”