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'The customer is king but should not take his power for granted'
This is how I feel after running different types of business in Gurgaon and experiencing first-hand customer behaviour of the highly educated and not so educated. I was one of the first persons in Gurgaon to offer all kinds of services under one roof.

WHAT I have learnt is that in business one can’t operate without some expectation of trust, but this is what some customers break. My present business goes back to August 2006, when I was one of the very few people to offer miscellaneous kinds of services in Gurgaon. At first, we used to provide every kind of service such as mechanic, plumber, animal rescue staff, drivers, mason, sewage cleaner, and even snake catcher. We used to get all sorts of strange requests. One day we got a call from a house in Gurgaon that a small kitten had fallen down from the second floor drainage. The family members could not bear the crying of the kitten, and had absolutely no clue whom to call. Finally, they got in touch with us with the condition that kitten is taken out live. We sent a person who gently put a long wooden pole to find out exactly where the kitten was stuck. Once we knew that, the particular portion of the wall was broken and the kitten was rescued, and the family thanked us.

Not all customers are thankful. Once we started a scheme in which a customer could pay Rs 365 for a year for our miscellaneous services, and if on the 361st day we received a complaint, we promised to return the entire annual subscription. A retired colonel in the army on exactly this day sent us a legal notice demanding his money back. To our surprise we found that he had accumulated dues, and after drafting a reply I sent him a cheque of Rs 11, balance from our side. The colonel went ballistic, called our office and shouted on our employee. I had to speak with him in strong terms to put him in his place. The colonel hasn’t called back yet.

The other problem we faced was poaching of labour. Customers started entering into agreements with bona fide drivers, plumbers and technicians on our payroll. When I was new to this multiple service business there were many times when I waived of service charges and took no advance to carry out services. But a few customers took advantage of this. Presently, we provide services of sourcing air and rail tickets, pest control, bill payments, meter changing, rent agreements and PAN card, etc. Now, we do all the work where applicants are finding problems in getting their applications through. 

Like in business, in my private life too, what I know for sure is that one should never give up. I come from a large Jat family in Haryana - my grandfather had five sons who now have 27 sons and daughters amongst themselves. I am 37 years old and am a self-made man. I fought with my parents who wanted me to take care of farm animals. I worked as a compounder with a Doctor family, and then took up a government job, which I realized wasn’t for me, and I started to build a business. In between, while I was engaged, my fiancé was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. We ended up having three miscarriages and were on the verge of giving up, when a doctor helped us, and we conceived. The child was healthy till he was 11 years old, and then developed Type 1 Diabetes. A few years back, I myself was involved in a horrible motorcycle accident in which I broke my leg in two, and I ended being hospitalized for 18 straight months. I still walk with a pronounced limp.

I have tried hard not to get bogged down. Due to my being in Palam Vihar and in the Vyapar Kendra for many years, many supporters from this locality and my village urged me to fight for the Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon elections. I did so from ward no. 2. Though I lost, I learnt a lot, as I have from all the experiences I have had.

(CJ: Mahesh Dahiya runs Excellent Services, a multiple service company in Palam Vihar's Vyapar Kendra in Gurgaon.)

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