I sat down with A-SLIM founder, Amanbir Sawhney, to discuss this rich history and how his own Dada Ji (Punjabi for Grandfather) and Father became a pivotal inspiration in his early life and helped to make his dream of A-SLIM a reality.
Can you tell me about your Grandfather and the relationship you had with him?
“My Grandfather was born in India in 1935 and started life selling sweets on the streets.
In 1975 he started a leather company with his 3 brothers which over the years grew to become successful. Their business started with hand painted leather goods, exporting mainly to the UK.
Throughout my younger years we would meet every year either in London or Kolkata. Our relationship was always fun and as a young kid I was always fascinated by how things worked, which led to me taking apart a few watches, TV's, wallets etc. and he always had the patience to explain whatever he could.
Throughout my teens I was a grumpy little guy and didn't take much interest in family life but we would still meet and he would never complain about the lack of contact or anything else for that matter. One thing that always stuck out to me though was that he would try anything. Exotic food like snails, zebra and alligator and bucket list adventures like skydiving and paragliding. This is something that definitely stuck with me.
Once I made the decision that I’d fallen out of love with education and decided to join the family business, I would pick his brains as often as I could but he was a very philosophical man at this point. One thing he would always hammer home is that if you are going to do something then you have to give it 110% or don't do it at all. Better to try and fail than not try at all.
I drew a lot more than business advice from him though, relationship advice also whether that be between family, friends or romantically.”
Were there any specific qualities or values your Grandfather possessed that inspired you in your entrepreneurial journey?
“Dada Ji was a people person, he could make anyone laugh and this was his strongest weapon. He could talk business while being humorous at the same time. Beguiling.
He taught me to not be scared of failure, the best lessons come through failure.
When my father chose to leave India for the UK, this came with no support financially and led him to setting up his own brand: Visconti. He sold this door to door, even when he was abused at exhibition shows, nothing stopped him. This is something I am yet to learn, I get angry very quickly. My father and Dada Ji seemed calm in almost all scenarios.
Another great value I learned was to respect your employees, without them you are nothing. You may be the commander but they are your soldiers. My Grandfather would insist that all staff had lunch times, were paid a wage (very rare in India) and we supported many children through the education system. In return we had a loyal and highly skilled workforce.
Do you have any memorable stories or experiences involving your Grandfather that directly relate to A-SLIM?
“One thing we would always debate was the value of cash, which is funny with A-SLIM being fundamentally based around this. I hardly ever carry cash but he would always insist that physical cash was the greatest way to budget.”
How did your Grandfather's life experiences shape your perspective on entrepreneurship?
“If it wasn't for my Grandfather, would I have ever had the opportunity to do what I do? Probably not. So there’s that.
Money isn't everything, I believe you should always under promise and over deliver. This is a big one and influences A-SLIM greatly. I LOVE it when someone tells us we sell our wallets too cheap. Instead I see it as outstanding value for money.”
In what ways do you incorporate your Grandfather's legacy into A-SLIM?
“We indirectly employ over 300 people in the UK and India. Every single one of them has direct access to me, my father and other senior members of our company. Employee problems come first.
Also being the best but not bragging, we let our products do the talking.”
Are there any specific products or projects within A-SLIM that hold a special connection to your Grandfather's memory?
It was an enlightening experience learning about the people who shaped A-SLIM into what it is today. Here’s to this legacy living on for many more years to come.
“Creating Tap'n'Go was quite fun, he didn't really understand it but was impressed at the idea and the fact that we made it come to fruition.
Our packaging also holds a special place in my heart, being recycled from off-cuts. Again, he couldn't see the vision but was pretty impressed with the results.
Just as much as my grandfather, it was my father that has moulded me as a person.
I've never really been told how to do things but instead shown the path and had to walk along it myself. A little like Rainbow Road on Mario Kart. Sometimes I’d fall off but I'd always get back up again and race on!”