NRI businessman Jerome Mendes decided to embark on a journey in Goa after spending most of his life abroad
By Michael Fisher | B&C
Many Goans migrate abroad in search of job opportunities. While some of them permanently settle there, some others return back to their roots to earn a living in Goa. Jerome Mendes from Verna happens to be one of them.
Jerome is a self made businessman. He employs more than 100 people – 60 in India and 40 in the UK. He may be the least known in the corporate ladder, but he could be on his way of becoming the biggest Goan employer for a new wave of unemployed Goans in his latest ventures.
Jerome visits Goa regularly to take count of his projects and company. The latest, he says, is the B2B event-cum-exhibition to pep up business in Goa with neighbouring states. Calling it the ‘Borderless Potentials’, it will serve to showcase border business.
Taking a clue from Business Opportunity and Franchise Expo held recently at Menezes Braganza Hall, Jerome says, “The event I intend to organise aims to facilitate an all-in-one business service. It will assist exhibitors and entrepreneurs with aspects such as marketing, networking and breaking into a new market sector. With full implementation of the ASEAN economic community, Goa can gain competitive advantage of its strategic and touristic location for trade agreement and opportunities for global business events with strong government support,” feels Jerome.
Recalling his life in Africa, at the tender age of six, Jerome thought his mum and dad were taking him for a walk in the park. They boarded a ship and off they went sailing to Kenya, Africa. An immigrant from India, he went to school till he was 16 and in standard nine his dad told him he couldn’t afford to educate him, and instead told him to look for a job.
“I was invariably stunned but got over it as I went knocking at companies’ doors scouting for an opening. I was recruited as a clerk at James Finlay, the biggest tea producing group in Africa and India,” he says. After a couple of months, the company sent him to night school. From 4.30 p.m. to 8 p.m, he learnt short-hand, typing, a little bit of banking and learnt to speak grammatical English.
“Over the years I rose to become the PA to a well-known personality heading the company Sir Collam Campbell. I worked for 20 years and witnessed Kenya’s Independence Day in 1963. I was involved in planning, marketing and promoting.
We had an opportunity to become Kenyan or British citizens, but we chose the latter. In 1964, at the age of 24, I married Anastasia. Meanwhile, my mom who had suggested I should marry Anastasia, recommended I purchase a plot in Verna to build a house. It was a barren 2,000 sq mt piece of land. I was the sole bread earner for the entire family then. We decided to migrate to UK and the same company in Africa, James Finlay, hired me as a bookkeeper. From a personal assistant to bookkeeper, I humbled myself and accepted the job, and thus worked for 25 long years. Then one fine day, my wife rang the office to tell me she was not feeling well, but the call was not conveyed to me. So the next day I went to work as usual, and resigned. I grabbed the first opportunity that came my way. It was for a Japan agency to market pharmaceutical and cosmetic products. This was in 1973. With an investment of £100,000 through a loan and with full support from Anastasia, we launched Salomplast UK Ltd, a Japanese franchise, he recalls.
Jerome then started by hiring a secretary to work in the office. He would go out on the streets to sell and give away free trial samples of their products. “I was thought to work with passion for the job. Gradually, I outsourced sales for a commission. We were growing and well-known branded companies approached me for agency deals which I gladly accepted. Hair and wig products were in demand. I took up wholesale and supplied to retailers. In 1985, I bought the rights of all Konkani movies. Other entertainment projects include organising track car and horse races. In 1994, I pioneered the first dialysis kit distributorship in Goa. While I was growing up in UK, there was a strong urge in me to invest in Goa. So in 1995, what was intended for a house, I converted it to Leonoras Restaurant, what it is today. The profits from this, I invested it into a beauty parlour and a Monginis franchise. I have 40 staffs giving them all necessary benefits,” he adds.
In 1995, Jerome invested in a retirement home, with a promise to St Anthony to intercede for him in curing his wife from a serious ailment. “The people who purchased the homes are in their 40s and say they have another 15 years to retire. My next project is to build a beach resort in Benaulim. The business in UK, called Juliet, is managed by my son William Spencer and daughter with a staff strength of 40 people,” he says.
When asked to define success, Jerome says, “Success is financial freedom, being able to spend time with family and friends, sustaining a quality lifestyle with incredible experiences and being able to take lots of naps. Additionally, I believe that success is empowering others in my company and in my community to achieve what