Yogesh Mehta meets Nick Wheeler

Shirtmaker Nick Wheeler meets petrochemicals entrepreneur Yogesh Mehta

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The road to success is never straightforward when establishing a company.

Nick Wheeler's approach has been to rely on instinct over market research.

About the series

Ideas Exchange
  • Eight-part series on TV and online
  • It pairs up global business leaders to discuss today's business landscape and their secrets to success
  • Find out what they have to say with features online
  • And watch each weekend from 1 September on BBC World News, Saturdays at 02:30 or 15:30, and Sundays at 09:30 or 21:30 (all times GMT)

Having tried and failed to set up a shoe company in the months after leaving school, he founded the shirt company Charles Tyrwhitt in 1986 as a mail order service.

Mr Wheeler was still at university and the company's growth was initially very slow - it took four years to double the workforce from one to two.

But rapid expansion is not the name of the game for Mr Wheeler.

He continued to develop the brand and strengthen the company's position until, by the mid-90s, he had established a shop on Jermyn Street in the heart of the central London's district famed for its tailored shirts.

Back to business

Since its relatively humble beginnings, Charles Tyrwhitt has grown into a company with annual sales of $170m (£105m) and more than 500 employees.

There are stores in the UK, the United States and France, but the heart of the company is still the mail order business, which has benefited hugely since the advent of the internet, allowing Charles Tyrwhitt to cater easily to clients from Sydney to San Francisco.

It has not been plain sailing all the way. Mr Wheeler acknowledges he has a "rather annoying habit of making mistakes".

Charles Tyrwhitt

  • Retail company renowned for its tailored men's shirts
  • Established: 1986
  • HQ: London, UK
  • Revenue: $170m (£105m)
  • Number of employees: 550
  • Fact: 2.7 million shirts were sold last year

Losing sight of Charles Tyrwhitt's main focus and brand cost the company dearly in the past, he says, though it has also provided the company with valuable learning opportunities.

And yet, history repeated itself.

In 2005, for example, the company went into receivership after diversifying the product range to offer a line of less formal wear, as well as ranges for women and children.

Two years later, Mr Wheeler stepped back in to bring the brand back to what it did best: clothes for businessmen.

Middle East move

Despite working in a very different industry, Yogesh Mehta has experienced similar peaks and troughs on his road to success.

Mr Mehta had always desired to run his own company.

Petrochem Middle East

  • Global leader in chemical distribution
  • Established: 1995
  • HQ: Dubai, UAE
  • Revenue: More than $1bn (£618m)
  • Number of employees: 234
  • Fact: Largest distributor of chemicals in the Middle East

Walking away from the offer of working with his father at his chemical manufacturing firm, he decided to establish his own chemical distribution company in his native Mumbai.

But despite working at it for several years, the company folded in the late 1980s, leaving Mr Mehta virtually destitute and uncertain of what to do next, until a friend suggested he should move to Dubai to take advantage of the growing economy in the region.

It was early 1990 when Mr Mehta and his wife moved to the Emirate.

The hardships Mr Mehta faced in his first months in Dubai, however, were quickly overturned as his months of research into the local chemicals market were channelled into setting up a chemicals division for an established company in the region.

Four years later, Mr Mehta founded Petrochem Middle East, a chemical distribution company based in Dubai, which grew quickly to have operations across the world from Shanghai and Singapore, Antwerp to Mumbai.

Petrochem has become the biggest chemical distribution company in the Middle East.

Its large, state-of-the art storage and distribution centre means it can offer its clients, be they pharmaceutical companies or paint manufacturers, a just-in-time service, providing the right chemicals in the necessary quantities for each company, no matter how big or small.

With a turnover in excess of $1.1bn, Petrochem has grown through a combination of hard work and good luck.

Mr Mehta's hands-on working style is visible throughout the company.

He maintains that business relationships are best forged through face-to-face meetings, travelling regularly to meet his colleagues, business partners and clients across the world.

The Ideas Exchange is an eight-part series, starting on 1 September, broadcast on BBC World News on Saturdays at 02:30 and 15:30, and Sundays at 09:30 and 21:30 (BST).

Every week, two international business leaders meet to talk about their different experiences of global markets and business.

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