True to Its Name Falcon Has Soared High and Grown Into a Rs 1,500 Crore Turnover Business Conglomerate
Tara Ranjan Patnaik claims to be a ‘businessman by accident’. He learnt to swim by throwing himself into the sea and managed to churn out success by clinging on to the belief that he can safely swim ashore. His is a tale of victory that will be inspirational to others.
The 64-year-old entrepreneur who comes from a family of lawyers wanted to continue his ancestral profession but life took him down a different path. In 1985, he established Falcon Marine Export Private Limited and, for the past 15 years, his company has been the country’s largest marine products exporter.
Currently, they are the buyers of more than 65 percent of the seafood in Odisha, where they are based, and employ over 5,000 people. Together with their two other companies — Patnaik Steel and Alloys Limited, and Falcon Real Estate Pvt Ltd — their turnover stood at Rs 1,500 crore in 2016-17 and they are aiming at Rs 2,000 crore by the next fiscal year.
Tara Ranjan has been awarded the MPEDA (Marine Products Export Development Authority) award for being the country’s highest value exporter for the past 15 years.
He named his company Falcon because he loved the thought of soaring high into the sky, but even he didn’t realise his company will achieve such heights.
Born on 14 March, 1953, at Anandapur subdivision in Keonjhar, Odisha, he was the fourth of eight siblings and his father, (Late) Padmanava Patnaik, was a civil lawyer.
“It was a middle-class set-up. My father was a lawyer in the lower courts, but all our basic needs were fulfilled,” says Tara Ranjan, while sitting at Falcon House in Bhubaneswar, his company headquarters.
He started his education from a government school in Anandapur in 1954 and moved to Bhadrak to join Bhadrak College in 1969 to study science and started staying at a hostel. However, he left it after a year as he was disturbed by frequent strikes and student agitations in the college.
He then returned to Keonjhar and continued his studies in the science stream from 1970 to 1971 but quit again – he had lost interest in the subject. In 1972, he switched to the arts stream and took admission in Anandapur College, Keonjhar, from where he completed his graduation.
In 1973, he moved to Cuttack when he took admission at Madhusudhan Law College. “I wanted to become a lawyer like everyone else in my family… but destiny had other plans for me,” he says with a smile on his face.
Explaining why he calls himself a ‘businessman by accident’, he recounts that it was his friend and classmate J Rahmat who changed the course of his life in 1975. “He told me to invest in buying fishing trawlers,” says Tara Ranjan.
“I had no idea about the business whatsoever, but he insisted we do the business together. I agreed. We took a loan of around Rs 2 lakh from Odisha State Financial Corporation and purchased three or four trawlers. We both were equal partners.”
They hired 10 people who would go out to the sea to catch fish for them. Sometimes they would also go out to the sea for the catch of the day to get first-hand knowledge about how it’s done. Back then, often this was a risky task, as the waves were unpredictable and suddenly turbulent at times.
But this business venture failed. “We suffered huge losses because we lacked the required knowledge, says Tara Ranjan. “I had to sell off my trawlers to pay off the loan. It was a tough time…”
However, he didn’t lose hope. He had built a network in the business and, in 1978, he began to supply prawns to big export companies operating in the state.
“I began to purchase prawns directly from the fishermen and sell it to big exporters,” he explains. “Though I had incurred losses in my business, I had gained experience about where and how to make money.”
For the next seven years, he continued to sell prawns to exporters and build contacts, including buyers of prawns in foreign countries.
In 1985, he founded Falcon Marine Export Private Limited in Bhubaneswar. The business began to grow and the company registered a turnover of Rs 4.66 crore in 1987-88.
“We started by hiring a company who would package our products but soon I decided to have my own processing unit,” he adds.
The first processing unit came up at Mancheswar area on a 15 acre plot in Bhubaneswar in 1993 and Tara Ranjan invested Rs 20 crore in it. The second processing unit of 14 acres was set-up in 1994 at Paradeep at an investment of 20 crore. He took a loan for both units which he later paid off.
By 1990-1991, the turnover had increased to over Rs 12.5 crore with an export of 850 tonnes per year. “The business was moving smoothly. Our buyers were mostly from abroad, mainly the US,” he recalls. “But things became bit tough in 1999 when the state was hit by a cyclone. The goods kept in the Paradeep factory were submerged in the water and we faced losses to the tune of Rs 2 crore. The loss at the Mancheswar plant was around Rs 60-70 lakh.”
The entrepreneur managed to steady the ship and the company began to overcome the losses. “We learnt lessons and devised a new strategy,” says Tara Ranjan. “We began to encourage small farmers to cultivate prawn. We provided them with raw material and technology and bought back what they grew.”
The farmers did cultivation in small pieces of land – ensuring a steady supply to Falcon and also helping the farmers to become independent and financially stable. “At present, over 5,000 farmers work with us,” says Tara Ranjan.
By 2000-01 the turnover crossed Rs 157 crore, with an export quantity of 3,100 tonnes of seafood every year.
In 2006, the company entered into the steel business with Patnaik Steel and Alloys Limited. It has an integrated steel plant in Jora in Odisha. Spread over an area of 120 acres, the plant was started at an investment of around Rs 200 crore.
In 2008, his son Parthajeet Patnaik, an MBA from London, joined his father’s business. In the same year, the company made a foray into real estate and Falcon Real Estate Pvt Ltd came into existence.
The company had a land bank of around 300 acres in and around Bhubaneswar and its outskirts, and an investment of around Rs 45 crore was made for building 120 apartments.
Parthajeet says that though they have been running three companies, the focus is solely on seafood and they want to add more items apart from prawns. “We aim to become the biggest exporters of seafood in Asia,” he reveals his vision for the company.
With his son coming into the business, Tara Ranjan wants to take more time out for himself – over the years he has been too busy building up and expanding the company to spend quality time at home.
Tara Ranjan Patnaik’s magic mantra: Work hard with honesty and dedication. This simple method has catapulted him to the pedestal of success.
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