Originally from Tom Peters book, ‘In Search of Excellence’, I first heard this phrase ‘Stick to knitting’ as a reply given by our Vice Chairman during my stint at Times of India to a guest when asked on his views on diversification into unrelated business. Many years later I found it relevant for our business.
My dad has always been conservative about investing. He never understood capital markets and therefore never really put monies there. Once, yours truly, who was an active investor, convinced him to put some monies in the stock market. The Year was 2008. So the story ends there 🙂
For him bank FD, Post Office Savings was always the best mode of investment for his hard earned money. And to some extent real estate.
I noticed he had one peculiar habit; he would always invest in properties within 3 km radius from his house. All his investments were around those areas. Now the general belief is that you should not put all eggs in one basket, so I was a bit skeptical. Many times I tried to provide him MBA style analysis on how great appreciation is imminent around Chennai, Noida, Pune belt and that we should look elsewhere instead of restricting ourselves to one location.
However he would not listen. He had a simple and uncluttered approach to investing. For him he would only invest in locations, he knows inside out, and since he hardly traveled beyond his factory which was 3 km away from house, he always looked for investing around there. That somehow worked very well for him.
For example, one property he had purchased, was in this typical industrial belt that had no residential development. However since he used to travel by that area every day for 10 years, he saw a marked improvement and could sense change for the good. Though an industrial area, its biggest advantage was its proximity to all major landmarks including airport and station and since there was no land elsewhere for development it was only a matter of time, this location would be in the spotlight. And it really did pay off. Within a year, metro was announced and slowly the industrial belt began making way for residential complex. This decision was based on his firsthand knowledge and not on any market speculation or and which no Jones Lang LaSalle analysis could report yet.
This kind of micro knowledge helped him in spotting the opportunity before anyone else and thus reaping the benefits even though it was something he could manage to do in his own restricted area. So, yes there could be bigger profits to be made elsewhere but this was more calculated risk and one looked more in control. And more often than not it had paid off also.
Another important observation was he never really compared his gains with anyone and that helped him to stay focused on his simple but effective strategy. Expectations sometimes create all the confusion in life as mentioned in my last post (
So this episode made me think whether the famous phrase ‘putting all your eggs in one basket’ is not really a bad strategy after all. Also whether diversifying is actually good? Could you not survive AND thrive by just sticking to your core.
This is so relevant in business too.
As a start-up, should we stick to our core offering or diversify into many things hoping one would click?
I realize that diversification is good and MUST for those businesses where resource is not a constraint and that is typically for larger more established companies. In conglomerates, resources would then move to the best performing business as per cyclic trends of business and industries to ensure that overall growth is maintained.
However when you have resource constrains as a small investor or a start-up its best to stick to knitting and do what you know the best. Put all your resources into the one thing you believe in and make it work. That is how you can succeed in the true sense. Of course you can and should diversify, provided you area of core is unchanged.
So as investor you can still diversify, by investing in residential, commercial, SRA projects, across different societies within your area/location of comfort provided of course you understand them well enough.
Same goes for business; diversify as long as your core is intact. In our case, since we have defined our core as sourcing, we restrict diversifying into any business which does not leverage our core strength of sourcing. Instead we have diversified by catering to different segments such as Retail, promotional and OEM which leverage our sourcing strength.
Sometimes real life experiences contradict with what we generally believe to be true. However once we study these experiences and start understanding the patterns which uncovers knowledge and insights is what makes this life truly remarkable.
So for me Sticking to Knitting is a remarkable experience learnt this lifetime.