Today Ginkhanpau Vualnam, a Bamboo artisan from Chrachandpur, Manipur is currently working tirelessly to attain the Guinness World record for the largest Bamboo pen. Zogam Bamboo Works, the proprietary firm registered by him has already petitioned the Guinness Book of World Records in June last for the record attempt. He then embarked on the overwhelming task following the instructions of the officials of the Guinness Board. He had spent more than 180 days to craft the pen which has a length of 7020.50 mm (including the cap), 6580 mm (without the giant pen’s cap) and a diameter of 125.50 mm in the middle and weighs 18 Kg. The entire pen is made of bamboo except for the nib which is also stuffed with cotton and can be loosened to refill.
The journey for Ginkhanpau has not been easy and the childhood particularly tumultuous. At a tender age, his father deserted the family leaving him and his small sister under the care of his mother. As luck would have it, his mother died in 2003 after a brief illness. This was quickly followed by the demise of his grandmother who was their guardian. Ginkhanpau, though very young to fend for himself and his sister, did not panic but ventured out looking for opportunities in such adverse circumstances. Armed with unrefined skill in Bamboo craft which he acquired as a child, he decided to engage in bamboo craft as a full scale economic activity. An invitation from his maternal uncle in 2008 to live with them at their hometown, Churachandpur came as a boon. Uncle offered his store room to be used as a production space cum office.
Simultaneously, Ginkhanpau managed to complete 10th standard with the support he received from his maternal uncle and a waiver of tuition fees from the Principal of his school, South Point School. Due to financial problems, he could not pursue his studies any further. At a young age of 23 years, Ginkhanpau now designs and manufactures bamboo utility items like pens, fruit baskets, ashtrays and other goods and markets them world-wide. According to Ginkhanpau, as each item is uniquely hand-crafted, the products are in great demand. He is now a contended person being able to support his small family. He is also happy with the kind of recognition he has received from far and wide. All these, he could achieve with great determination and without any support from government or non-governmental agencies.
Ginkhanpau says that his current attempt at breaking the world record is not only for personal recognition but also to highlight the usefulness of bamboo as an environment friendly income generating activity which can be adopted by any individual possessing basic skills. He also asserts that bamboo as a resource has the potential of generating trillions of dollars in revenue worldwide.
When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was a kid I want to become a great person like Abraham Lincoln who worked for the betterment of the country.
How did you get your idea or concept for making Bamboo pen?
When I was in high school, I always dreamt of making and achieving something different from others. So from the branches of bamboo I started making pens using cello 10-15 HB Maxriter refills. That was the first time I made a Bamboo pen.
Tell us about your first business experience. What were your tasks at the beginning?
In the year 2014 I made 10 to 15 pieces of bamboo pen with traditional motifs and posted to one facebook group hosted by Phualva Times and I got an interview there. From then on, I started selling my bamboo pen at ? 50 per piece locally as well as abroad.
What do you do on a daily basis to promote your business? How do you find inspiration?
I make a target on daily basis and work towards surpassing them. I seriously review the feedbacks I receive – both positive and negative and work towards improvising constantly. Through these feedbacks, I draw my inspiration.
How did you make your first sale? How did you get funded or what creative strategies did you use to execute on minimal cash flow?
As I said earlier, my intial sales were through social networking sites. Our firm i.e ZOGAM BAMBOO WORKS have not received any funding from any source. The increase in our sale volume with the passage of time leaves us with operating profits incrementally which we plough back into our operations. In this manner, we are able to ensure growth.
How do you generate new ideas? Do you think you’re good at what you do?
New ideas come naturally to me particularly when I am at work. I normally take the customers’ feedbacks seriously and then improvise. I believe that I have an inborn talent in creating new bamboo items. However, there is no end to learning; there are enough rooms for improvement and bamboo as a commercial activity has tremendous scope.
How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
I am fully aware of my limitations. I therefore fix realistic targets and so far I have been able to achieve them. I am open to all forms of marketing routes, be it through internet, word of mouth or through intermediaries. I have also been receiving overseas orders. All channels have worked well with me.
Why do people buy your product? What will be your average earnings in a year?
People like unique things and new things, and they want to be the first person to use it. So my customers buy my products as souvenirs or for gifting to some loved ones. Most of my products are items of daily use like pens, baskets, vases etc. and they come cheap when compared to similar products made of different materials. Well, our volume of operation is very modest. what is important for us is our acceptance in the market and the impressive growth rate year after year.
What is your competitive advantage and why can’t it be copied?
I am not worried about competition. The global demand for bamboo products is enormous and there is large untapped market. There is enough room for many more players in large scale. Moreover, we have our own core competencies that keeps us performing better and better. I would therefore welcome many more units similar to ours.
Looking back, what is the one thing you should have done differently?
I think that everything that has happened was God’s will. The difficult times and the good times, all have been great learning experience. I only dread to think what would have become of me had all that has happened did happen differently. I am happy aboutg my past and now I only focus on the future.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
When I do things wholeheartedly and when I can finish the order on time. And when I see my customers using my products, that gives me tremendous amount of satisfaction.
If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
As I said, I am happy with what I have achieved.
What would you say are the top skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Trust and fulfilling commitments are two key ingredients to be a successful entrepreneur. You have to fulfill your commitments to your clients in terms of timeliness, services, pricing and quality. Also one has to be trusting and trustworthy in order to remain in business.
How does being an entrepreneur affect your relationships with your family and friends?
If you know time management, you can manage both your business and personal relationships at the same time.
Who is the most influential person in your life and why?
Zogam Bamboo Works is fortunate to have some very seasoned advisers. Among them is one Thangliankhup of Zenhang Lamka, currently working as a teacher in CHURACHANDPUR GOVERNMENT COLLEGE. His guidance has made immense positive impact on our operations. Without him we would not have achieved what we have done so far.
How do you think being an entrepreneur has turned you into a better person?
First, I have begun to experience God’s hand in my business. Secondly, without honesty, you cannot survive long as an entrepreneur. Finally, my involvement in the business keeps me away from unsavoury activities.