Their 15 years of relentless service to establish VisionTek has proved fruitful. Today, their efforts have established the company as an expert in innovative project-and product-based solutions. VisionTek has a reputation for consistently delivering high quality and cost effective telecom and software products and services to its clients.
Meet the couple behind the success of this SME, which has received several awards for excellence in electronics from the Government of India and ELCINA. Krishna Prasad, managing director and his wife, Radha Rani, executive director, VisionTek, share a common vision to take the company to greater heights. Here’s the story of their inspiring personal and professional journey of success and failures, as narrated to Richa Chakravarty of Electronics Bazaar.
Away from the humdrum life in the city, I was born to a farmer family in Vijayawada, in coastal Andhra Pradesh. Though not a traditional farmer, my father, Subba Rao, was very keen on academics. His desire for education and knowledge is what I inherited, and since childhood I have been very inquisitive. Knowledge, as I see it, is of two kinds—one is to have technical knowledge and the other is to possess the talent to apply that technical knowledge. Though the former landed me with a degree in electronics engineering, it is the latter that helped me achieve my dream of starting a company of my own.
As a child I was a voracious reader and I am still passionate about books. My interest in books ranges from economy, to politics and globalisation. Apart from imparting knowledge, books paved the way for me to channelise my talent and interests.
Being from a middle class family, we had a very simple upbringing. With three brothers and two sisters, my father had a big family to support, for which he had to struggle to make both ends meet. The sacrifices he made for his family and his relentless hard work have left a lasting impression on me.
Creating my own path
I completely live by the belief that ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going’, and it has proved to be very true in my life. Hailing from a village, I always nurtured the dream to make it big for myself. My family has been very supportive in this journey. But I had to struggle a lot in the initial years. Books did help me a lot, but I acquired a real business sense from my father. Being a farmer, he knew what kind of weather would be suitable for different crops and how one ought to manage, cope and get equipped for the changing weather conditions. These lessons are what I apply to my business and the various customers that I manage. With the different requirements and specifications of customers, we have to cope and equip ourselves to cater to them with the best that we can offer, within the given environment.
I did my schooling from ZPHS Edupugallu, and after finishing my engineering from JNTU Kakinada, both in Andhra Pradesh, I landed my first job in an HCL group company. However, I soon discovered my lack of interest in a 9-6 job. It was then that I started planning on establishing a company of my own, and soon in 1987 Linkwell as a trading organisation was born, which later expanded to VisionTek as an R&D and manufacturing organisation. Though it sounds easy, the journey of venturing into a business was not that simple. Coming from a non-business background, it was even more difficult for me.
The initial few years with VisionTek were tough as it was not a runaway success. I first started making contacts with prospective dealers and distributors, inviting them to have a look at our product line and the manufacturing process. Our objective of offering innovative products helped in positioning ourselves as different from the leading companies of that time. I started developing products that could meet customers’ needs and that proved to be a hit. I also focused on R&D, which was later recognised by the Government of India. Starting from scratch, today we have more than 150 technically skilled hardware and software design engineers to deliver the best services under one roof.
We started very small with a strength of 25 people, from where the company took off and today we comprise more than 600 people. Given the infrastructure constraints that we have, the lack of competent domestic suppliers, a competitive market and wafer thin profits, I realised that the electronics business is one of the toughest markets, especially on the hardware side. However, having ventured into this stream, I knew there was no looking back. Business is similar to a marriage—whether it is a success or failure, you have to take it forward, so one might do everything to make it a success.
One thing that I always believe in is that monetary success is not the end or the only factor to measure your success. We should make sure that within the given environment and without compromising, we are able to achieve and deliver the best. This is what I have been trying to do throughout my life and to implement in my business.
We have no liabilities with the customer and no disputes with them. Yes, I do wish we could have done more for our customers, but there are certain constraints to that as well. But one should remember that there is no limit and end to the upgradations one can carry out in anything one does—whether it is in business or other aspects of life. We should try and give our best; that should be one’s motto for life. Being an SME, all these years I have tried to deliver the best within my capabilities and I continue to try to achieve even more success. I am still on the learning curve, trying to incorporate more into my business.
My people are my asset
I started with a small team, but while the team started growing bigger, I realised that decentralisation is a major factor of success. Any organisational growth happens through proper man management and human relationships. Once you involve more people, their growth is equally important for the organisation and should become your responsibility. Unless your employees grow personally, they will never be happy and stay with the company. Thus, it is vital to take care of the needs and desires of the people who work for you. We always ensure that all our employees are happy and fully satisfied in their respective jobs. So retaining people, and giving them the opportunity to grow along with the organisation is very important and can add further to your success. I really take pride in saying that we still have people who started their careers with us. There are more than 100 employees who have completed 10 years with us and more than 200 employees who have completed five years with us.
I owe the success of my company to these people who stood by me through ups and downs. My company has been exporting to 25 countries, and we are diversifying fast. Had my family and employees not supported me, it would have been difficult for the company to succeed.
Motivation and transformation should come from every level. Individual contributions are equally important, whether it is from an office boy or an engineer. Every person is a part of the company and should be responsible in running the organisation. For me, if a company can run in the absence of its CEO, that is the biggest achievement.
As a message to the youth who wish to set up enterprises, I would say that investing on your employees will pay you in the long run. There are two kinds of people—those who think they will act and those who will act. India needs youngsters who are ready to learn and take on challenges. One should not be apprehensive about the outcome; it’s only by making mistakes that one can learn and grow. Apart from getting higher pay cheques and personal benefits, the youth should focus on how they can reform the industry.
My partner in every sense
I was really fortunate that in Radha, I got a partner in business and in life. We had an arranged marriage and Radha, the executive director of the company, is my partner in true sense. Radha has always stood by me through thick and thin, not just as a wife but as a partner in the company as well. Together, with our efforts and common vision, we have taken the company forward. I respect her for her support and indomitable attitude towards life. Unlike me, she had a larger role to play in the family as well, as a mother, wife and daughter-in-law, and she has excelled in all her roles. Besides family obligations, she looks after the company’s affairs sharing all my responsibilities.
Our common interest in books and knowledge gives another dimension to our relationship. We share a great bond and comfort zone, which allows us to agree to disagree! Radha’s father, Koteswar Rao, was a librarian, so she was completely into books from her childhood. Born in Guntur, she acquired her MSc and BEd degrees from Nagarjuna University, Guntur. She was associated with the Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts of India as assistant administrative officer before joining VisionTek.
She is an athletic person, into sports and other physical activities. Owing to this athletic side of her, which gives her energy 24X7, she cannot stay idle, ever. During the time when she was carrying our first child, and was on maternity leave, she could not bear to sit, doing nothing at home. So she started coming to my office to support me. It was then that she began taking interest in the company and its affairs. She slowly picked up and learnt more about the products. She also started interacting with the dealers, which later translated into business. Today, human relations and man management are her forte. Radha loves nature and religiously devotes time to gardening.
We are blessed with two daughters—Swapna, my eldest, who has finished her engineering, is now doing her internship in Chennai. She plans to start a company of her own and we have been encouraging her to follow her dreams. Our younger daughter, Chetna, is in Standard 12 and plans to take up event management as a career. Just as our parents gave us a strong educational base, this is what we have passed on to our children. Though both our kids know that they have a family business to fall back on, we are very clear that they will have to prove their mettle to enter this business.
A fulfilling journey
When I look back at my journey of trials, errors and successes, I feel content. There has been no extraordinary feat achieved by me. Anyone who has a passion to follow his dream will definitely make it some day. But I am happy that I put in my best efforts to realise my dreams. I am equally grateful to the industry for having recognised my efforts. In return, VisionTek has been catering to the industry with innovative products. At our individual levels, we should all try to strengthen the industry, in particular, and society as a whole.
In comparison to India, countries like Japan, China, Korea and Taiwan are financially and technologically developed. Along with infrastructure bottlenecks, we do not have a large supply chain. Since we are in the same manufacturing wheel, SMEs should ensure to bring in competencies for India. As a diversified group, we should focus on offering quality of life and high productivity through our services. In the India of tomorrow, at least 75 per cent of managerial posts will be filled by the youth; thus, it is important for youngsters to have a learning attitude and a willingness to take up challenges.
THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVOURITE THINGS
Music: Telugu folk songs
Food: Dal and brinjal curry
Book: ‘Manufacturing Consent’ by Noam Chomsky
Dress: Nothing in particular
Historical figure: Darwin
Actor: Sobhan Babu
Actress: Telugu actress, Savithri