Innovating India’s first Programming Logic Controller (PLC) from his garage to taking brand Messung across national & global canvas, Mr. Farook Merchant believes there is no replacement for hard-work, passion and determination for an Entrepreneurial success. He says it is imperative to innovate on regular basis to be ahead of the market which brings organisations closer to their Vision. Building strong and trusty worthy team with long term objectives plays key role in the success of any organisation he further adds. Lets understand his inspirational success journey in details, where his business conglomerate stands today and what it takes to build it…
- How have you kept abreast with times to achieve the position that you’re in today?
I am able to keep abreast of things mainly by the following methods
A) Visiting various strategic exhibitions and seminars relevant to our businesses to keep in touch technically with what happens in the international market. B) Take part or visit many exhibitions or product launches in India. C) Do a lot of research on the Internet and go deep into each subject in the technicalities. D) In each of our businesses, we have invested in a good technical team and they do a lot of research and development and that’s one very good way to keep abreast. E) Lastly and most important, constantly keep meeting our customers and System Integrators as they clarify the requirements very specifically and also inform us as to what our competition is offering.
- Can you share with us some defining moments that tested you as a man of mettle?
A)When the time came to sell our Factory Automation business in 2010-12, that was the most trying time for me and really tested my mettle. B) With the giant Mitsubishi Electric as our purchaser along with their team of investment bankers and lawyers, I had to hire a strategic investment banker who walked me through the process. This was very difficult and challenging. C) There were times when I couldn’t understand what is happening and had to trust my investment banker explicitly.
- How has the entrepreneurial spirit and environment changed? Has it come a long way?
A)Luckily my entrepreneurial spirit has not changed. It has actually become sharper and more ambitious. B) Since I have a lot of ground to cover, I have to work very hard and appoint very good people; give them good salaries but also work with them closely to see that we achieve our marketing and developmental goals. C) Our focus now is on making our presence felt in all our businesses and to build a good reputation.
- Where do you see the enthusiasm for self-employment going?
A)Presently the entrepreneurial spirit in young entrepreneurs is going down very sharply. B) Except for IT or APP based startups which are looking for venture capital or angel funding and creating a company with huge profitability and no risk of losing their own funds (since they are funded by VC), the business idea may even go bust. 3. Brick and mortar companies are very few though the “make in India” movement by the new Government has definitely given some impetus to the mind set.
- What did you have in mind when you started off as an entrepreneur and how much of it have you achieved, you think?
A)In 1981 when I started off on my own, I was only 26 years old and my personal expenses were very less so whatever business I could do, I was able to do with reasonable profits. B) I definitely did not have a very long term plan but as I began making whatever was required by the industry, I quickly settled down to a single product line and that was PLC (Programmable logic Controllers and the whole eco structure around it) C) I was quickly able to get hold of the Automotive and Pharma machinery verticals and was able to get the initial break through orders. 4. We also periodically developed newer and better products and that added to our repertoire and we were on the right path
- How much emphasis would you lay on lateral thinking? How has it helped you in your journey?
At a very early stage I was able to take some very important decisions
A) Buying a plot in MIDC and making my own factory in Bhosari was a good idea. B) Keeping only one business entity and not splitting into smaller companies to avoid getting under the aegis of Excise was a wise idea as getting registered in all the government matters, keeping proper records and doing the submissions in time with a good CA and sales tax and excise consultants helped me grow my company better. C) One of the important things that we did was that we went national and opened our offices in all the major cities of India which was unthinkable for a small company like ours. D) We also appointed good System Integrators and partners who were technically sound, throughout India which was critical and necessary for our growth. E) We invested in a good research and development team and continuously developed good quality products and that kept us always ahead of the competition. F) Investing in a very modern Production and SMT assembly line did a lot to make our products more reliable and world class. G) Implementing modern business practices like ISO 9000 and having CE marking for our products also helped make us acceptable in the market on par with international market leaders
- How do you generate new ideas? What keeps it ticking?
1.Being an electronic engineer and working mainly in the design department help us all to quickly execute any new ideas that we get. 2. Our customers and our competition drive our creativity. 3. Saying “I can do it” is the most important and motivating factor. 4. Sometimes we have to restrict our creativity in order to complete the agenda that we have taken up and start delivering whatever we have planned. 5. It’s better to use the creativity then on sourcing of better raw material, better production ideas, better quality control, and to spend our creative energy in giving the best solution to the customer and also in preparing an all India support infrastructure
- Words of advice for the new generation.
1.Being technically very sound is very necessary if you are planning to start an engineering start up. 2. Having ability to handle multiple things at the same time is also very important. 3. Once you decide that you want to be an entrepreneur, then never give up as that can be very bad for one’s ego and self confidence. 4. Step slowly if required, keep costs down, try to be innovative. Use your funds judiciously and do not get carried away. Especially entrepreneurs with a large source of funding can get carried away and lose a lot of money and confidence. 5. New entrepreneurs must learn to work with a balance of employees and consultants so that they get the best of experience from outside and retain the same in the organisation. 6. Good health and a balanced life will enable the entrepreneur to be cheerful and not get stressed out
- Who influenced you the most in your life? Any experiences that you would like to share?
1.When I passed out from the engineering college, it was my professor and head of department who guided me to take the job in a R&D department in a small company and get a lot of experience quickly, rather than chase a higher paying job in a large organisation where the growth would be narrow and restricted. 2. My first boss was also most influential in my personal development as an entrepreneur. He taught me how to design electronic products in a practical way; I learnt about quality and how it can begin right on the drawing board. He taught me the importance of documentation and importance of good engineering. 3. Taking a decision on being an entrepreneur at the aged of 26 was revolutionary and I would definitely give credit to my MD in my first job as he was a thorough business man and self made entrepreneur. His life story and his successes made me confidant that I too could succeed.
- What is current status of your business and what are your future plans?
I sold my factory automation business in 2012 and with that I lost the complete momentum of my business. I then ventured into various businesses with my two sons and some key staff from my previous organisation.
1.Test and Measuring tables and work place ergonomic products for the T&M industry especially for ESD and Ergonomic requirements
A) In 2015 I began my business with my elder son by taking distributorship of a German company for world class Testing and measuring tables with a battery of T&M instrumentation. These tables were made of aluminium and had a very good quality design of volumetric ESD, something that was unique to our market. B) We were able to penetrate into the Government and defence sector and got good repeat orders from them. C) We took part in strategic exhibitions and road shows where we invited the scientists and officers responsible to set up laboratories or implement upgradations. D) We were able to custom design the T&M tables and get a lot of repeat and reference business. E) In 2016 we added very good quality ergonomic and ESD compliant work chairs from Germany. F) Though these chairs were expensive, they fitted the requirement of our customers adequately and we were able to get good complementary business. G) Now in the last one year, under our Make in India programme “Navonmesh”, we have started developing our own indigenous version of ESD Tables and Chairs. These are all ESD compliant and are of excellent quality at a very affordable price. H) We also added a brand new range of MS ESD tables mainly for the electronic assembly market and this is a new addition to our deliverables and should open new markets and add a lot to our business.
2.Automation business “BACD”
A) We began with entering into a distribution contract with a Canadian BMS (Building automation systems) company who was looking at the Indian market and a good Indian partner. B) The technology was very new to us and the market was also very new and very competitive. C) The stake holders were different and the decision makers were mainly HVAC and MEP consultants. Getting our products approved by these vendors was very tough and slowly we have now got a number of prestigious orders which we have executed. E) Shopping malls, Government building, IT and ITES complexes are the main customers who have purchased our BMS products. F) In future we look forward to indigenise a lot of these products to become competitive and aggressive in our quotations.
3.Automation business:“Home, Office and Hotel Automation”
A) We entered this business by signing a distribution agreement with a Spanish manufacturer of KNX based home automation products. B) We specially chose these products as they had solutions not only for Lighting, Curtain Control, HVAC and Energy Management but also had products suitable for Automation in Offices and Hotels. C) We were successful in introducing these products to residential clients mainly HNI and real estate projects for high end apartments. D) We also got business from some prestigious Hotel projects and all the projects are successfully working and creating good reference for us. E) Here the decision makers are mainly Architects and it takes quite an effort to convince them of the importance of our products and how they will bring long term value, safety and comfort to their clients. F) We recently added a high end Audio/Video product in the Home and Office Automation range. With this we are able to get further breakthroughs and business leads. G) Now, under our Make in India programme “Navonmesh”, we will shortly be introducing many complementary products to enhance the range of products in this category. H) With our indigenous effort, we will create special products especially for the hospitality market where the budgets are very tight and competition fierce.
4. Automation business: Industrial Automation business “PLC/HMI/Scada”
A)In the five years preceding our business sale in 2012, Messung had entered a joint development project with a Brazilian PLC manufacturing company to develop a state of the art modern PLC mainly for the Process industry. B) Two years ago we were appointed their Indian distributor for the full range of products with a white label agreement. C) This is a product for the higher Input/Output market. This too is a new market for us as we have to build our new sales and marketing team and enter a very crowded market with newer ideas and solutions. D) We have now undertaken to make our own indigenous range of PLCs under the Make in India banner “Navonmesh”. E) These new products will be made suitable for the machinery market which Messung is most familiar with. F) We will continue to add various new interfaces and solutions to be able to customise solutions for OEM and key end user markets. G) Thus with the Brazilian and Indian product range, we will have a full range of products with the IEC 61131 platform for programming. H) We are also trying to add products to enter the servo control and motion control business to be able to give competitive solutions for high speed packing and filling applications mainly in the pharmaceutical and food & beverages market.
5.Our new venture into the Electrical Engineering sector: Busbar and power distribution systems
A)We have strategically entered the Electrical business with the international quality Busbar and Power Distribution products from a world class manufacturer from Germany. B) These products are designed as per the IEC 61439 standard which is very new standard. Manufacturers who adhere to this standard are able to make very reliable and quality products. C) These Busbar systems are very uniquely designed and are state of the art products produced in a fully automated plant in Germany. D) Most of the key car manufacturers have internationally standardised these Busbar products for all the electrical panels being used in their infrastructure. E) All European, American, Japanese and South Korean companies setting up manufacturing facilities in India insist on using these high quality products in their electrical panels. F) The Indian railways and solar panel manufacturers are the new business segments that have attracted our attention. G) These German Busbar and Power Distribution products in the range of 100Amps to 2500Amps are of very high quality and have some unique designs which enable the electrical panel manufacturer and designer to give a more aesthetic and safer product. H) Being able to accurately measure the Short Circuit Withstanding Ability of the Busbar and to be able to accurately calculate the Current Carrying Capacity of the Busbar system right at the design stage, allows the panel builder to demonstrate to his customer that he is making world class products with maximum safety. I) The company has a range of electronic power products which are complementary and add a lot of features to the Busbar range of products. J) State of the art fuse switch products with protection against arcing and accidents are also a very good addition to these products.
Lastly, being able to make good quality electrical panels ourselves for the BACD, Home, Office and Hotel, and Industrial control manufacturers adds a lot to our deliverables. Messung hopes that we create such a strong battery of products that it will be the envy of all and attract more and more Project business, OEM business and End-user business to enhance the Messung profile to great extent.