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`Pleased buyers please us'

Chandana Mohana Rao. - Photo: K.R. Deepak

Recently, a poor girl secured a seat in Andhra Medical College but she did not have the money to buy the prescribed textbooks. A good Samaritan took her to a successful businessman, who immediately granted her the required funds. That was not a solitary case; there were several others who were benefited by his magnanimity. He is also supplying free water through tankers in various slums in the city. However, the down-to-earth man does not want to go to town blowing the trumpet in this regard.

Meet, Chandana Mohana Rao, the managing partner and the driving force behind the "Chandana Bros", which has become a household name in Andhra Pradesh for its `good quality clothes at affordable prices'. He was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth but climbed the success ladder with his hard work and enterprising nature.

Born to Chandana Nageswara Rao and Veeramma at Rajahmundry on January 20, 1943, Mohana Rao evinced a keen interest in textiles right from his childhood. He started his career in textiles as a sales supervisor at the shop of his mentor, Bommana Ramachandra Rao in Rajahmundry.

Mohana Rao learnt the nuances of the trade, and in 1968 he started a wholesale shop, `Sri Ramachandra Cutpieces cloth shop' along with his four brothers. Within a short period, the shop achieved unprecedented sales and moved on to become one of the biggest retail showrooms in Rajahmundry.

The roaring success led to the opening of an exclusive silk saris showroom in 1976 and that was followed up with one of the biggest textiles showrooms in the State - Chandana Bros - at Jagadamba centre in 1985. The next year a huge wholesale textile complex was started in 1986 at Rajahmundry.

Today, Chandana Bros is a big textile chain with 25 showrooms in the State. They are located at Rajahmundry, Visakhapatnam, Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Guntur, Nellore, Eluru, Kurnool, Bhimavaram, Tadepalligudem, Tanuku, Kakinada, Amalapuram, Tirupati and Vizianagaram.

They started their first venture outside AP in Bombay in 1986 and at Surat in 1989. The group has forayed into the gold business and into horticulture.

Despite being the managing partner, he has no airs about himself. He took this reporter round the mall and showed the clothes and gold and diamond jewellery and explained about their special features. When there were no salesmen at some of the counters, he himself pulled out the saris from the racks and displayed them. At other counters, when salesmen displayed similar shades and from the same price range, he gave them a few tips on how to satisfy the customers. Later, he had a word of appreciation for his staff for the patience in displaying the wide range without any complaints.

The CMR Shopping Mall, which was opened in the City of Destiny recently, is another feather in the cap of the group. The five-storeyed structure, the first of its kind in the city is drawing huge crowds not only from the State but also neighbouring Orissa and West Bengal. "Impressed by the facilities at the mall, some of the tourists have requested us to open similar malls in their respective cities," recalls a beaming Mohana Rao.

The huge building with its glass doors does not deter even the poor people from walking into the mall. The price range suits every pocket and that does not mean there is a compromise on quality. "There are some customers, who have purchased saris each worth a mere Rs.100 or even less and have been using them for years without any complaint. We are able to sell at such low prices as we buy directly from the mills and eliminate middlemen in the process. We keep our profit margin low but the high volume of sales gives us an edge in profits over our competitors," he says.

Similarly, the gold and diamonds sold through the jewellery section have gained immense popularity for their quality, variety and affordability. "We have a unique exchange facility for both textiles and jewellery. The customer can return the products, he/she had purchased and take something new for a similar amount. Very often a person may buy something and the design or colour may not be liked by the other family members at home and in such cases exchange facility is a boon," he says.

Mohana Rao plans to introduce a unique `Marriage concept' at the mall in a couple of months. The objective is to offer everything needed for a wedding right from cots, bedsheets and door curtains to stainless steel vessels and consumer goods required for setting up a household, under one roof.

What is the secret of his success? "We thrive on word-of-mouth publicity. A satisfied customer tells his relatives and friends,and that brings us more customers."


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