It’s a true Indian multinational selling over 250 products in 90 countries across the globe. What’s more? It also holds the record of being the only Indian company in its industry to file for over 100 patents. In an exclusive interaction with The Dollar Business, Kunwer Sachdev, Founder & MD of Su-Kam Power Systems Ltd., talks about the brand’s journey so far and reveals secrets that have helped Su-Kam stand tall amongst competition.
Interview by Aamir H. Kaki | September 2016 Issue | The Dollar Business
TDB: From a humble beginning in 1998, Su-Kam has grown exponentially over years to become a true Indian MNC. How would you describe your experience and journey so far?
Kunwer Sachdev (KS): When we entered the power backup segment in India, the entire industry was unorganised. Consumers were forced to buy sub-standard inverters, which would break down regularly. Su-Kam became the game-changer by bringing cutting edge technology to the market.
In fact, we were the first company in India to set up an R&D facility and develop technology indigenously. At that time, the only high-quality products available in Indian market were from America. However, those products were quite expensive for general Indian customers. Due to our continued focus on R&D, Su-Kam became the first company in the world to make plastic-body inverters and also gave India a ‘Home-UPS’ by combining the features of UPS and inverters into a single device.
In 2004, Su-Kam became the only Indian company to manufacture sine wave inverters, which could even replace generators. We also developed 100 KVA inverters at a time when only two other companies in the world were manufacturing such products. Su-Kam revolutionised the power back-up industry in India by providing excellent products to customers at affordable prices.
As Su-Kam’s products popularity grew considerably, we decided to foray into overseas markets. We saw a huge potential in African and Southeast Asian markets as their power issues were similar to Indian situation. Since our products were specifically designed for Indian conditions, they became a good fit in those countries as well. I take pride in saying that a 100% ‘Made in India’ company captured Indian and foreign markets in such a way that even cheap Chinese products could not hold ground. We understood the problems and needs of our customers and provided them technology-driven solutions.
Owing to the hard work and talent of our team, Su-Kam is now recognised as one of the most-awarded power solutions brand in the world – some of these awards were won abroad. In fact, amongst all Indian companies in this sector, Su-Kam has the highest number of technology patent application filings.
Su-Kam, besides making inverters, batteries and solar products, has created many innovative technologies that have applications in diverse fields. Our portfolio now includes 250 products, which cater to millions of people worldwide through our network of 40,000 dealers and distributors spread across
"We see a huge potential in African and Southeast Asian markets"
TDB: What, according to you, sets Su-Kam apart from its counterparts?
KS: The characteristic that makes Su-Kam unique is our focus on developing technology that can solve problems of the people (from a small hut in a village to big industries) in India and around the world. We don’t just make products; we create solutions that are cost-effective and are driven by the latest technology. We don’t worry about competition because we take on challenges and utilise our resources to come up with best possible products – our only real competition is within ourselves. This continuously helps us improve what we offer.
TDB: Several companies are trying to capitalise on ‘Make in India’ theme. In what ways have the scheme helped Su-Kam boost its business? And what kind of support do you expect from the government going forward?
KS: The government should be lauded for coming up with such a concept. Our state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities and R&D units are based in India and we have been manufacturing in India for over two decades now. We are solely focussed on developing products and making them relevant to every Indian. Since we have never sought government support in the past, we have no plans to take help from them going forward.
TDB: The government, under the National Solar Mission, targets to increase the country’s solar power generation capacity to 100 gigawatts (GW) by 2022. How is Su-Kam contributing to this endeavour?
KS: Su-Kam has already installed solar panels, capable of generating 100 megawatts (MW) of power, across India. From lighting up villages to 80W solar home lighting systems and installing 1.3MW of photovoltaic systems for the Indian Army, Su-Kam is definitely on a mission to solarise India.
Our solar products are suitable for anyone, irrespective of the budget or power requirements. We are creating cost-effective solar products with an aim to make solar power accessible to all Indians. In fact, recently, Su-Kam installed one lakh solar DC (direct current) home lighting systems in villages across Uttar Pradesh. These villages were never been electrified, but now they enjoy 24x7 power.
Su-Kam has also installed a 1MW grid-tie system at Punjab Engineering College, in Chandigarh, that runs 50% of the total load of college. Similar systems have also been installed in offices, such as State Bank Academy in Gurgaon (100 kWp), Delhi Jal Board (50 kWp) and even the HUDA metro station in Gurgaon (100 kWp). Our latest solar project is for Chennai Metro wherein we are setting up a 1MW solar system.
In addition, we are imparting training and spreading awareness about solar power. We have made training videos, which are available on YouTube and have been watched by millions so far. We regularly update our blog to address myths and concerns related to solar power in India, which are then promoted on social media. This is how we are reaching out to millions of people globally.
TDB: You have a dedicated R&D division. What percentage of your company’s revenue goes into R&D?
KS: As I mentioned earlier, R&D is our backbone. Our team boasts of the country’s best engineers, scientists and technicians. We do not have any stipulated amount set aside for R&D. We invest in R&D as per the requirements of our projects.
TDB: Su-Kam has its presence in 90 countries. What challenges did you face while developing such a vast network? How do you compare your competitor’s products to your own, particularly from China and USA?
KS: We entered overseas market mainly because there are many developing countries that face challenges which are quite similar to those of India. We first ventured into the global markets in 2005. Since then, our business is growing and our products are now available in 90 countries. Su-Kam has been crowned with the title of ‘Most Reliable’ brand in Africa. We also have a manufacturing facility in Nepal.
Our channel network of dealers and distributors abroad is continuously growing. We have a strong presence in the Middle East as our products suit their needs. For example, in terms of voltage fluctuation, spikes and surges, our products are better than those made in China or Europe.
While Chinese products are low priced, they are of poor quality. And though American products are of high quality, they are very expensive. On the contrary, Su-Kam’s products are both technologically advanced and cost effective, providing customers great value for money.
Further, while setting up our business abroad, we have faced many challenges such as language barriers and dearth of trained manpower in Middle East and African countries. However, we soon learned to overcome them by hiring and training locals, which benefitted us by giving a local feel to our global brand.
TDB: Presently, what percentage of your revenues come from exports?
KS: Exports have witnessed a steady growth in the last few years. Currently, exports account for about 20% of Su-Kam’s annual revenue. In consonance with the ‘Make in India’ mandate we are taking several initiatives to increase exports of our ‘Made in India’ products. We are taking more dealers and distributors on board, and regularly conducting workshops for all our global channel partners. We are also running branding activities in many export destinations.
"Currently, exports account for about 20% of Su-Kam’s annual revenue"
TDB: What are the major challenges that a manufacturer like you faces while exporting its products?
KS: We face logistics and infrastructural issues in India. For example, most of our products are exported from Mumbai, and our products take about 15 days to reach the port. There is a delay at every stage and sometimes it takes 2-3 months to get our products delivered to a certain country. The lifecycle is very important for some of our products – if certain consignments get delayed by a month or two in reaching the destination, the shelf-life of the products gets shortened. This turns out to be a huge loss for us, if it’s a bulk export order.
TDB: What plans do you have for the future?
KS: We are continuously developing products that are not only good for the environment but also cost-effective and energy-efficient. We are currently in the process of creating solar products for which the customer doesn’t have to wait for government subsidy. Our R&D team is coming up with a testing device which can help you measure the product’s efficiency before you buy it.
We have created embedded systems – today all our products have embedded software. In fact, our new products run on the latest generation of processors – the same processors which run laptops and smartphones. We have also launched a series of ‘smart products’, which have features like touchscreen and bluetooth. These products can be controlled remotely by downloading an app on a smartphone.
As our focus is on middle-class customers, we are developing products that can help people harness the solar energy to light up their home and power small appliances. Our aim is to make a solar powered India.