Aditya Jha shares his secrets to sweet success
What it takes to succeed in business
Candy magnate Aditya Jha shares his secrets to sweet success
29 September 2008 05:00
When you’re handing out hard candies or bite-sized chocolate bars to little kids at your door on Halloween night later this month, you might not be thinking about where the candy came from. You might be surprised to learn that those sweets may have originated at an immigrant-owned factory in Hamilton, Ontario.
Entrepreneur Aditya Jha, who immigrated to Canada from India via Singapore and Australia, acquired Karma Candy Inc. in 2007 (it was formerly part of Cadbury Adams Canada and the Allan Candy Canada). He was already a successful businessperson at the time of the purchase, but candy was certainly new to him. He believes, however, that his past executive experience and previous successful ventures prepared him well to lead the confectioners that supplies candy brands and retailers in Canada and the United States.
Jha transitioned from being a top executive at Bell Canada, where he began his career a dozen years ago as the director of strategic marketing and sales, to becoming co-founder of a couple software companies including Isopia Inc., which was sold to Sun Microsystems for $100 million in 2001. “I thought it was time I got involved in a brick-and-mortar company. So here I am,” he says, with a smile.
Jha took over the 46-year-old candy business even though it was facing big challenges. “I think big companies expand very fast and give up very fast. When I came to see this place, I knew this could be turned around. I know only time will tell because I picked it up at a time when market is down. So if I can turn it around, I will have accomplished one more thing,” he says.
“Business-minded people should be taking calculated risks,” he adds as a piece of advice to prospective entrepreneurs. “In today’s world, the competition is more, and things change fast. The complexity of business is very high and business people are expected to take more risks than others.”
However, he cautions ambitious newcomers to first test the waters through work experience. “Learn as much as you can by taking up new assignments and go beyond the call of duty. You can be very smart, but you have to translate it into relevance. And that comes only when you understand the environment,” he says. “Learn at someone else’s expense, unless you are an exceptional person.”
Before venturing into entrepreneurship himself, Jha hadn’t actually given the idea much thought. “I just wanted to have good position in a big company, have a company car and lead a good life,” he says, pondering over his past. But while working at Bell, he frequently met with hi-tech entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, California. “When you see many people doing the things that you are doing, it is a validation of your capability. So you get the confidence that you can do it, too,” he says.
Jha, who also heads up Prego Della Piazza, one of Toronto’s longest established fine-dining restaurants located in Yorkville, says an entrepreneur doesn’t have to have expertise in a business, but be an expert in doing business. “You bring in professionals to do the job … I don’t produce but take care of key issues like the finances, cost, revenue and the right team,” he says. “Success is first about the team, then it’s about timing and then talent. If you have the right team, timing and talent, then you will succeed.”
Jha, who puts in up to 14 hours a day, adds, “It is also not about how smart you are, but how hard you work — that’s the key to success.
“As immigrants, we are a better recipe for this country’s success at a time like this … because we have a very conservative approach, are down to earth and bottom-line focused.”
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