Kunwar Sachdeva

DARE spoke with Kunwar Sachdeva - Power Backup Entrepreneur
Kunwar Sachdeva, the Managing Director and founder of Su-kam, is popularly known as the man who revolutionised the inverter industry. A law graduate determined to fix his troublesome inverter, he created a new breed of break-down-free inverters called Su-kam.
Su-kam is the number one inverter company in India today. Begun with a meagre turnover of Rs 1-2 lakh around 14 years back, Su-kam’s current turnover is approximately Rs650 crores.
DARE spoke to the man who breached all barriers to make the brand a synonym for inverters.
What led you to start an inverter manufacturing company?
My entry in this field was purely accidental. Before I started manufacturing inverters, I owned a small marketing and production unit of cable TV accessories. The cable TV industry was growing back then, and I had my own plans to grow with it. But He had some other plans for me.

One day at work, when the frequently malfunctioning inverter conked out again, bringing everything to a standstill, I sat down determined to tear the machine apart and fix it forever. I realised that the chunk of metal was a poorly designed machine and so were the rest of the inverters available in the market. Charged by the finding, I decided to make one of my own minus the existing flaws.
However, it was easier said than done. I was no engineer, only a law graduate with no formal training in electronics. But my stint at my previous job, where I was a sales guy in a cable company had taught me some engineering. With some help, I was finally able to design an inverter which was much more efficient.

How did you establish your product in the market?
Establishing Su-kam as the future brand of inverters was a herculean task. The market was highly fragmented, with only small-time manufacturers and no distributors or large-scale manufacturers.
In the absence of a distribution network we had no option but to choose direct marketing to reach our potential customers. However, down the line we realised that the path could perhaps take eons to reach us where you aimed to, in a much shorter time.
To go beyond our existing figures, we started targeting the manufacturers to create a bigger market. We tried to convince them about the superiority of our product which was one fourth of the size of the inverters they were manufacturing. Among many other advantages that our inverter offered, it was also repairable and used just a single battery for 500 watts while the ones available in the market used two. All for an unbeatable price.
Not many believed in our pitches, but our product spoke for us. Gradually, people began finding our inverter better and more reliable. Thus, started the acsent of Su-kam.

What major challenges did you face in bringing Su-kam to life?
Challenges were galore. However, the one problem that kept me running from pillar to post was ‘money’. I didn’t have adequate funds to finance my project, and banks invariably chose to deny my loan applications. There was a time when no bank was ready to give me a loan of even Rs5,000. However, I couldn’t afford to let my work suffer from unavailability of funds. So I borrowed money from my friends. I begged my creditors to give me an extension. Some agreed, some didn’t. But, somehow, I managed to keep my business afloat. And a day came when the banks and all sorts of money lenders came after me, offering credit.
The other issue that I struggled with is human resource. Since I’m not from an electronics background, it was important that I hired people with thorough knowledge and substantial experience in the field. But getting the right people on board proved difficult, for people with experience demanded good packages and a well-known brand. I had neither at that point.

How did you become the number one in the market?
Our technology definitely played a crucial role in positioning us in the market as the number one inverter brand. And it was affordable. We were, in fact, the first one to create Sine Wave inverter, the inverter that didn’t make noise.
Our team, which worked round the clock to create the best possible product in the market, equally contributed to our success.

In this competitive industry of power back-up solutions, how do you manage to keep yourself at the top?
Staying at the top is more difficult than reaching there. Many a time my competitors upstaged me but the competitive streak in me has always helped me regain my position in the market. While I believe that it is a mix of several ingredients that help us become the number one, it is but the mind-set of one that helps retain the position.
Everyday people with better ideas are entering the market. The competition is cut-throat. But I try to come up with better technology and better strategies to keep up with the competition and keep my customers content.

What, specifically, are the best practices of your organisation that is leading you to steady growth?
We believe training is very important both before and on-the-job to understand the changing dynamics of an industry. We create a lot of training opportunities for all our employees, irrespective of the hierarchy. In fact, at all our locations we have state-of-the-art training rooms for our employees. However, we understand that having a training room is not sufficient. We, therefore, create an environment where employees, of their own volition, show interest in learning new things.
We try to make our company a system driven company. We have created several manuals for our employees to help them have clarity in every possible subject matter. However, we try to keep things flexible so that the policies don’t suffocate our people.
Additionally, we as well try to adapt best practices from other organisations.

What are your targets in terms of your sales and revenue in the next fiscal year?
Our target is `1000 crores in the next fiscal year.

How important is research and development for the company? 
We depend on R&D to propel the business further. It is more important than anything. Engineers often do not understand the need of customers; marketing team does. So it is imperative that they work closely together. Currently we have a team of 40 people in our R&D department working day and night to create what the customers desire.

How focused are you on creating green technology?
We are taking the green path in a major way. We are constantly working on developing technology on solar energy. We will soon be introducing a whole range of innovative solar products in the market.

How does it feel to be referred to as the man who revolutionised the inverter industry?
More than anything, the tag creates pressure. A constant pressure to continue the legacy of the past. The industry expects you to outdo your previous numbers, create newer benchmarks, and win, always.
But yes, it also feels nice to know that the industry respects your contribution and expects more from you.
****Source: http://www.dare.co.in/people/featured-entrepreneur/kunwer-sachdev-su-kam.htm