Entrepreneurs see change as the norm and as healthy.

The entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it.

                                                    Prof. Peter F Drucker, American Economist & Authour (1909-2005)

The evolution of transistor as an electronic component stands as a testament to the power of human ingenuity and the relentless pursuit of progress in the fields of Computing, Consumer Electronics, Control engineering, Defence, Health-care, Telecommunication,  just to name a few. This has transformed not only economic aspects, but socio-cultural life and the political aspects too; to the extent that twenty first century is known as digital era. Being an Electronics engineer and having worked in the Research and Development (R & D) department of Indian Telephone Industries Limited (ITI) for a decade (1974-84), I got to understand this transformation that was brought about by digital technology in the society.

Sometime during December 1979, Ramesh, one of my colleagues from production department, who incidentally had joined ITI on the same day as me, had some problem with an instrument that was used on the test bed and hence, desperately called me to help him to sort out the issue as it was urgent. I asked my friend Subrahmaniam (Subbu) also to come along and in the next couple of hours we sorted out the problem. While thanking us Ramesh said, that he’d like to procure a few of them as replacement to avoid such embarrassing situation in the future.

After finding out about the price of the instrument from Ramesh, I jocularly asked him if the same were to be supplied at one fourth the price that he had paid, will he be interested to buy. He said because of the urgency he can buy atleast five of them without going through the tendering process, as he had access to some impressed funds.   I discussed with Subbu about feasibility of developing and supplying such an instrument and he said, we can do it in a month’s time.  In a couple of days’ time I got a letter-head in the name and style Process Automation and Control Engineering (PACE) printed and submitted a formal quotation to Ramesh to supply five numbers. The order was successfully executed and payment was realised in less than two months’ time.

Thus, without having any experience of doing business, on the spur of the moment I got transformed into an entrepreneur – an individual who has the ability to understand that fulfilling a need in the market place is an economic opportunity. Because of the small success that we tasted, after I got married in May 1980 I created a partnership firm in the name and style, Interconnections with my wife Hema and Subbu’s mother Lakshmi as partners to explore possibilities of getting more orders.

Raghunath Raghavachar Kandade (1936-2017), a qualified engineer and maternal uncle of Hema, was an established businessman based out of Bombay. He was manufacturing disposable thermocouples for measuring temperature of molten metal under the name and style, Fykays Engineering Private Limited (Fykays). His customers were mainly drawn from Steel industries and Foundries spread across India. He was also selling Strip-chart recorders that recorded the measured temperature and associated accessories to complete the measurement process. He had his own or distributors’ offices across India and used to visit Bangalore once in two or three months. During one of our conversations I had mentioned to Raghu mama (as I used to address him) about the one time accidental commercial transaction that I had done with ITI.

During August 1980 Raghu mama visited my home with a couple of imported Digital Portable Pyrometers[1]  and a few more electronic products like Quick Check Meter (QCM), Temperature Audio Visual Alarm System (TAVAS) that he was getting manufactured from a Bombay vendor and wanted me to develop similar ones.  He also wanted me to develop Digital Temperature Indicator with built-in printer to replace the Strip-chart recorders that he was then procuring from a distributor. He further invited me to visit his factory in Jogeshwari to take the discussions forward. The immediate week-end I landed up in his house located in a posh residential colony of Juhu and next day visited his factory.  As Raghu mama narrated his story of becoming an entrepreneur after working over fifteen years for a few engineering industries across India, it paved the path for my future entrepreneurial journey.

Subbu and I were already well versed with development of equipment based on Micro-processor[2]. Hence, it was relatively easy for us to take up the development projects offered by Fykays on part time basis. During 1969 many private banks were nationalised and the government, as part of their Industrial policy was pushing banks to support Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs). I approached Syndicate bank for a term loan of Rs.100,000/- to purchase test instruments and an additional amount of Rs. 50,000/- for working capital. It took a few months for the bank to take a decision to sanction. As the entire work place of Interconnections was less than 100 Sq. Feet, bank’s development officer who visited the premises to assess the project feasibility, being a mechanical engineer, perhaps could not imagine that a factory can be managed in such a limited space!

In a short span of one year Interconnections had become the R & D centre and production facility to meet all the temperature measuring requirements of Fykays.  I and Subbu were working as part-time engineers at Interconnections employing services of just one wireman. While Subbu coordinated assembly and testing, I managed procurement of various components including getting the Printed Circuits Boards (PCB) done, fabrication of enclosures and coordination with Fykays.  In April 1984 Fykays celebrated its tenth anniversary and being one of their vendors, I participated. After the celebration I stayed back for one more day to discuss about future plans with Raghu mama. He said it’s high time that I should consider becoming a full-fledged entrepreneur.

Over three years (1981-84) Interconnections had done well both in terms of revenue and profitability. Subbu got married during December 1983 and was finding it difficult to give time for Interconnections during post-working hours / weekends. Even I was finding it difficult to cope up with ITI work, part-time work and family responsibility.  Hence, I decided to resign my ITI job during May 1984 with effect from 1st July to manage Interconnections on fulltime basis.

We took up a few more products for development based on temperature measurement – Carbocomp to compute Carbon / Silicon contents by studying cooling curve of the molten metal poured into a small special cup with a built-in thermocouple[3] developed by Fykays. Further Fykays had developed a special probe for measuring Oxygen in the molten metal and we developed another instrument – Oxycomp based on certain algorithm.

Sometime during end of 1984, having known that I had resigned from ITI, proprietor of the enterprise that was supplying PCBs to Interconnections asked me whether I’d be interested in joining hands with him to take care of commercial functions including finance of his enterprise so that he can focus on development of PCB making machines. After a couple of discussions to understand my responsibilities, I decided to invest in his enterprise and convert it into a Private Limited Company. Thus, within a year of coming out of ITI, apart from managing Interconnections, I had become Commercial director of U.V.Circuits Private Limited, manufacturing PCB and machines to make PCB.

With this new responsibility I was once again wearing two hats and needless to mention, life had become very hectic!

[1] Pyrometer is an instrument used for measuring high temperatures.

[2] Microprocessor is a Large Scale Integrated circuits containing the arithmetic, logic, and control circuitry required to perform the functions of a computer’s central processing unit (CPU).

[3] A thermocouple is a sensor for measuring temperature. This sensor consists of two dissimilar metal wires, joined at one end.

June 12 , 2024 | Ravi 79