Happiness on the faces of everyone around me is my goal

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Ajay Goel, CEO, Goldwyn Limited
Ajay Goel, CEO, Goldwyn Limited

Thursday, July 31, 2014: He is polite, yet straightforward and a strong willed person. Meet the soft-spoken Ajay Goel, CEO, Goldwyn Limited, who took over the helm of the company at the young age of 23. In a tete-a-tete with Kartiki Negi of Electronics Bazaar, he retraces his 22-year journey with Goldwyn and talks of how, despite several deterrents, he chose to stick with the LED business

I was born in 1969 into a middle class family that had strong values. I was brought up in Delhi, where my father worked with the Ministry of Defence, Government of India, while my mother was a homemaker. My childhood, spent with my elder sister and younger brother, was very sheltered. As a child, I had a keen interest in cricket and was even part of the school and college cricket teams.

I am a true Delhiite. I completed my schooling from Harcourt Butler School, located in the heart of the city, and by God’s grace, I was always among the top rankers in the class. I went on to do my bachelor’s degree in electronics and telecommunications engineering from Aligarh Muslim University. After completing engineering, I wanted to start my own business but life had some other plans for me.

Professional journey

After finishing my engineering, I joined Automotive Alliance in 1991 as an engineer trainee. Within a year, I was shifted to Goldwyn in 1992, which was a great opportunity given to me by the board of directors. Though I am an employee of Goldwyn, I have always treated the company as my own.

When we had started Goldwyn, it was a very small organisation with only six employees. I have been associated with the company for about 23 years now and have seen several ups and downs, but I am proud that the company has emerged as a winner. I have seen it grow in terms of both revenue and people. Over several stages, we grew from six people to 50, then to 100 and now, we are over 150 people.

Initially, we were engaged in the automotive parts business but eight years back, all of a sudden, one of our customers in the UK, to whom we were supplying parts for the UK metro, asked us to also supply LED parts. That is how we ventured into the LED business.

However, this journey into the field of LED lights was not a cakewalk, as it was a new and evolving field. The products that we make today might not be what we will be making two years or even one year from now. When we started out, LED lights were extremely expensive. Back then, convincing Indian and foreign customers to opt for these lights was not easy.

Today, our major customers hail from Germany and other European countries, where quality plays a very important role. To have supplied to these markets for more than seven-eight years shows our credibility, in terms of our quality and commitment. Initially, though defects were reported in a few products, we were able to rectify them and get those orders back from the same customers.

At this point, I would like to mention two major international projects that I found really satisfying. One was at the Chinook helicopter base in UK, which we undertook about six years back, and it was quite commendable that we could reach out to a customer of that stature. The second one is at the port of Houston where our lights are working at a height of 61 metres above the ground.

We have also done lots of projects across India. I am very proud of the fact that our products are being used at the border by the Indian Army to stop infiltration. It is extremely satisfying for me that we are able to contribute towards protecting our nation, in whatever way we can.

Challenges faced

The motivation to remain in the LED business was initially very low because of the slow growth rate. However, when I realised that Philips’ CEO was able to really fast-track LED growth across the entire world, including India, I felt that Goldwyn had a role to play. Initially, we were not able to achieve the volumes we were aiming at but, gradually, the cost of LED lights has been dropping. Also, to a certain extent, the awareness is also increasing among customers—that even if the initial investment they are making is high, the payback period is short. Now, we are getting new customers almost every day.

The R&D team is the backbone of any business. Initially, we did not have one, but in a landmark move about 10 years back, we set up our own design team. However, developing the R&D team was a major challenge, as skilled hands are still scarce in the LED field. Since then, there has been no looking back. Five years back we also entered the field of electronics design. Today, we do the entire mechanical as well as electronics design of our products. About three years back, we went into the optical side of the business as well. At present, the strength of the company lies in its designing and manufacturing capabilities. All the design techniques have been developed in-house. Today, when I see what our full-fledged R&D team has achieved, I feel very proud and satisfied.

Setting up the manufacturing plant in Noida was quite a task. The entire process—from getting the land to setting up the production floor with modern machines and getting the right people to run them—was fraught with challenges and hardship. But with the help of my team, we could resolve every problem that came our way. Today, Goldwyn’s plant is spread over 9000 sq m in Noida, and manufactures all types of LED luminaires. Our manufacturing philosophy is to produce all critical components and assemblies in the plant, so as to maintain high quality standards and guarantee the reliability in our LED lighting products. We will also invest in manufacturing metal casings with high speed turret punch press and power coating plant. This move will help us to ensure excellent quality products in shortest possible time.

I hope I will be able to continue fulfilling the aspirations of the board of directors of the company, by taking up new challenges and overcoming them successfully.

ajaygoelwithcolleagues.Management style

I believe in delegating responsibility in a well-documented and structured manner. My management philosophy is to give full authority to people to work in their own way.

Motivation plays a vital role in how well people work. If we are able to elicit new ideas from members of the team and implement them, then that it is a good motivating factor. You will be surprised to know that some of the production techniques we follow have been devised by an employee who is not even an engineer. I strongly believe that the person who is dealing with a particular task every day can give us good suggestions, and I make sure that those who make valuable suggestions are well taken care of.

Besides, LED is a new technology, which in itself is a motivational factor for everybody, whether they are in the design, manufacturing or marketing teams.

Turning points and achievements

Though life has been very kind to me, there have been some incidents that have changed the course of my life. I was quite young, just 17, when I lost my mother. Though tragic, her death impacted my life in a positive manner. Earlier, I was not focused about what I wanted to do in life but after she passed away, I started taking life seriously.

Then in 1992, within a year of my joining the organisation, I was given the flexibility to run Goldwyn—it was a small firm then. That was a high point in my career that I can never forget. I was given complete responsibility for the organisation by the board of directors.

As the organisation grew, I too grew both personally and professionally. I have been associated with the special economic zone (SEZ) movement in the country and, in 2002, I was selected to join the panel of entrepreneurs by the Government of India. We advise the government on how to improve the SEZ policy and SEZ Act. This work really gives me satisfaction, as I not only come to know about the challenges being faced by the industry but am also actively involved in finding out ways to overcome them.

Success, a subjective term

Success is a very subjective term for me. Whatever I term as ‘successful’ today might not hold any relevance tomorrow. What is considered ‘successful’ depends on an individual’s psychological state, at that time. In my view, those who feel that they are successful have perhaps stopped growing, personally. So, I don’t give this term much importance.

Rather than being remembered as a successful man, I would like to be remembered as a person who tries to help everybody. Happiness on the faces of everyone around me is my goal.

I have always advised young and budding entrepreneurs to make their own plans, not in their minds but on a piece of paper. Being ready with the complete roadmap of your plan, and going out to achieve what you set out to do, is what I feel people should do to achieve success.

My family is my strength

ajaygoelvacationMy family is my biggest strength. I attribute my success to my father, who has worked hard over the years to make me what I am today. He is a passionate worker and very honest about his work. I think I have acquired that quality from him.

Other pillars of my strength are my wife and children. They understand that my profession requires more hours of work than is normal. I am very thankful for their patience and understanding when I may not be able to come home every day at 7 pm in the evening. They have supported me and stood by me through all the ups and downs. When you have a supportive and understanding family, you tend to become more responsible towards it and make an effort to take care of all the family members’ desires and happiness. A supportive family also helps you to concentrate on the professional front better.

I have been married for almost 21 years now. My wife has always supported me emotionally, whenever I have had low periods in my profession. She is a commerce graduate, is ICWA certified and is engaged in teaching. She is also actively involved in a lot of social work.

I have two children—my elder daughter is studying to be a chartered accountant, while my son is studying automotive engineering from Manipal Institute of Technology. He is also passionate about engineering but in a slightly different field than mine. He, along with a team, is building a car called Formula Manipal. It will be showcased in Germany, within two years.

Furure plans

All this while, I have been working mostly in the export arena, whether it was for automobile parts earlier, or LED parts today. We now want to explore the domestic market as well because we feel the LED lights market in India has immense potential. It is also high time that we educate people here to shift to LED lights as it is an energy-saving and cost-saving technology.

I strongly feel that the LED market is poised for growth and that, in the coming two years, more than 60 per cent of the lights in the market will be LED-based. At present, the Indian market has a growth rate of 40 per cent. However, this growth is nothing compared to India’s potential. In the coming years, I aim to achieve 50 per cent growth for Goldwyn.

As far as my personal life is concerned, I would like to go slow, post retirement. I want to contribute and work towards the improvement of the industry. In all possible ways I would like to help the government in its endeavour to boost manufacturing in India. If given a chance, I would also like to give suggestions to the government on how to clean up our polluted rivers, or work towards a better taxation policy.

Apart from this, I will more actively follow my hobby of playing cricket. As of now, I get very little time for it but will make sure that I practice on the pitch a little more once I’ve retired. 

One thing that I would like to change…

In this world:

Reduce the disparity between countries

In the country:

Reduce the disparity between the rich and the poor 

At my workplace

Have a less hectic work schedule

In myself

I want to be full of energy when I start my day

 

THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVOURITE THINGS…

Hobby/Pastime:

Cricket

Food: 

Homemade

Book:

Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography

Holiday destinations: 

Kashmir

Film:

Old Bollywood films

Actor:

Dev Anand

Actress:

Hema Malini

Role model:

Mahatma Gandhi

Electronics Bazaar, South Asia’s No.1 Electronics B2B magazine