Jalandhar, Oct 26 (Calcutta Tube) The hands that once shaped laddoos are now shaping the academic careers of thousands of students. The Lovely group, which ruled in Punjab as the undisputed makers of the coveted celebratory sweet for decades, is now making a big name in the education sector.
Spread over a sprawling 600 acre of land 150 km from Chandigarh, the Lovely Professional University (LPU), Punjab’s first private university set up in 2005, is now fashioning the career of over 24,000 students.
In a journey from rags to riches, the Mittal family that once struggled to manage one day’s meal has now emerged as a leading educationist and a top, multimillion rupee business name in Punjab.
Lovely group started its journey in 1961 with a meagre investment of Rs.500 in a sweets shop from a 15 by 16 feet rented room in the Jalandhar cantonment. Baldev Raj Mittal started the business. After his death in 2004, his second generation is carrying on with the family business.
Their annual turnover now runs into millions of rupees and they now boast of a university, automobile dealerships and a modern sweets shop in the busy Nakodar Road market here.
‘Our father’s business mantra was based on smaller margins and bulk orders. We are still following the same philosophy. Loyalty and customers’ satisfaction are foremost priorities for us,’ Ramesh Mittal, 54, chairman of Lovely group, told IANS.
He added: ‘Our father had done a lot of hard work and we had seen many difficult days in life. My father started working at 4 a.m. and was never free before 10 p.m. There were days when we had to manage with only one meal in the whole day.’
Till 1986, the Mittals operated from their small sweets shop in the cantonment area.
‘Our sweet business was growing at rapid pace. Our ladoos were very famous and we were getting orders from all over the country. So we decided to open a big shop in the main market in early 1980s but that idea failed. Then again we started our shop in the Nakodar market in 1986 and this attempt proved fruitful,’ stated Ramesh.
Nearly 700 employees are engaged in the Lovely Sweet Shop. They are all set to open another sweets shop in the same market in the coming months.
Naresh Mittal, 50, vice chairman of Lovely group, told IANS: ‘We are offering the maximum varieties of Indian sweets under one roof in the whole world. We have a very loyal clientele who have been buying sweets from us for the last many years.’
Naresh said that their clients include top corporate houses, Bollywood personalities and senior Indian Army officers. ‘Every year we send sweets to the Deol family in Mumbai and sugar-free sweets to (Lord) Swraj Paul in London,’ he said.
Their sweet success spurred them on to enter the automobile sector in the early 1990s.
‘In 1991, we opened our first dealership of Bajaj automobiles, but it was an arduous journey. There was a lot of retaliation and people doubted our potential. They said how can ‘halwais’ (sweet makers) run an automobile dealership,’ Ashok Mittal, 46, chancellor of LPU, told IANS.
‘But we never lost heart and got an appointment with Rahul Bajaj. We gave him a presentation and convinced him. Then within the next two years, we were among the top three Bajaj dealers of this region. The same thing happened when we went to apply for the Maruti dealership in 1996. But somehow we managed to get it and it was also an instant hit,’ stated Ashok Mittal.
At present, Lovely group has Bajaj dealerships in Jalandhar, Kapurthala and Phagwara and Maruti dealerships in Jalandhar and Nawanshehar.
Lovely group then decided to step into the education sector.
‘Our sweets and automobile business were running very successfully, but my father wanted to do something for society. We explored various options of opening a charitable hospital or a dharamshala (public house) but finally decided to step into the education sector,’ said Ashok.
‘In 2001 we started our institution, offering BBA, BCA, MBA and MCA courses. But we realised that there were many glitches in the education sector and so we decided to establish our own university. In 2003 we started working in the direction and in 2005 we finally got approval from the Punjab government,’ said Ashok.
LPU is offering over 150 courses and more than 250 foreign students from 16 countries are studying there.
The second generation of Baldev Raj Mittal is more ambitious and is planning to diversify the family business.
Aman Mittal, grandson of Baldev, told IANS: ‘We are planning to diversify our business and venture into many other areas that would be new in this region. But we cannot divulge much about this at the moment.’
(Alkesh Sharma can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)