If you can develop the concept of ‘my company’ among the employees, you are a winner

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His razor sharp looks belie his low-key disposition and a personality that exudes warmth, humility and enthusiasm. A man who speaks with machines, is also passionate about tigers, and can floor you with his zest. Today, the industry knows him as a successful business leader, an agent of change, an expert technocrat, a peoples’ person, and an inspirational motivator who groomed many CEOs and business heads in the country. Meet Rajan Shringarpure, managing director and director, operations, Vishay Components India Pvt Ltd, as he gets into a straight-from-the-heart chat with Richa Chakravarty of Electronics Bazaar.

Walking down memory lane, I consider myself lucky as I got everything I wanted out of life. I don’t feel sad when I look back, rather, the memories always bring a smile on my face. The acceptance, adoration, repute and respect, I have earned in all these years, I owe to my near and dear ones. Today, the industry knows me for my contributions in the electronics space, and my professional journey from Tosha Electro Incorporate to Vishay has been a fulfilling one.

The foundation for my career was laid down at Tosha

Like any other fresher, I was full of enthusiasm, vibrancy and zeal to make a name for myself. My fervour got channelised in the right direction when I joined Baroda-based Tosha Electro Incorporate in 1976 as a production engineer. It was my first job, which laid down the foundation for my career, as it exposed me to all aspects of a business. It was a small-scale family-owned company, which manufactured connectors. There I handled many different departments, which helped me learn the intricacies of the business. Though I was enjoying my work, I had to leave the company within one year to pursue my post-graduation.

In 1978, I joined Jyoti Ltd in Baroda again as a production engineer, where I worked for three years. The company manufactured pumps, turbines, motors, generators, etc, that were used in power plants and for irrigation purposes. Here, I was exposed to the nitty-gritty of production, and implemented various policy changes that resulted in drastic improvements in the production of the company, while reducing accidents. However, since this was a friend’s company, I did not continue for long as it might have created differences between us.

The turning point of my life

My next job was at Chowgule Industries Pvt Ltd in Goa, which I joined in 1981 as an assistant engineer. The company had 18 divisions including shipping, mining, automotive, etc. This job proved to be the turning point in my life, not only because it was a new field for me, where I faced several challenges, but also for the first time, I was away from home and started learning to live a life out of my comfort zone. Born and brought up in a joint family, initially, I really found it very tough. The more nostalgic and restless I got, the more I worked.

This lonely life also taught me to make friends and I learnt about bonding in the real sense. I also started playing cricket and volley ball with my colleagues, started participating in various tournaments, and on weekends explored the beautiful places in Goa. Gradually, I became more confident and started believing in myself and my abilities. While I was in Goa, I got married to Megha in 1981. She was a post-graduate in science and a gold medallist in zoology from Bombay University. We had an arranged marriage. Since both of us were away from our respective joint families, it proved to be the bonding factor in our lives. However, we were looking for an opportunity to move to Bengaluru or Pune, and that came with a job offer from Philips India in Pune.

Philips groomed my professional and managerial skills

Rajan Shringarpure receiving ELCINA EFY award for Vishay from Sam Pitroda, advisor to the Prime Minister, in 2012

Taking up the job in Philips in 1982 was a paradigm shift in my career, as I moved out of family-owned companies to an MNC. It was a huge cultural change for me. I joined the maintenance department as a maintenance engineer, a domain in which I did not have any experience.

When I joined the Pune unit of Philips, it was going through an industrial turmoil. Every now and then there would be a strike. The production activities would stop and the atmosphere at the unit was not conducive for work. We even received threat calls from the workers. However, this situation served as an excellent testing and learning ground for me.

The plant head at that time, Shanbhag, a dynamic and process-oriented man, took a call and convinced the Philips top management to take a tough stand. It was then the union executives were chargesheeted and dismissed. As a result, a lockout was declared at the plant, which continued for seven months.

During this period, all the officers, including me, operated the machines, worked at the shop floor and made products ourselves. This gave me an excellent opportunity to develop a close affinity with the machines and processes since I was managing and repairing machines myself. During this period, I worked for 12-14 hours daily for almost one year. This hard work and dedication helped me gain complete knowledge of the machines and production processes. Soon, I became a master of the machines. The machines and production processes started talking to me. I learned the art of correctly picking up the signals given by machines and processes about their health. This helped me devise and execute preventive maintenance and machine improvement plans, which helped us set and achieve new targets in terms of increased outputs, reduced costs, improved productivity and better yields.

Rajan enjoying vacation with wife Megha, niece Mitali and son Akhilesh in Toronto

Our hard work and perseverance helped the management immensely. Slowly, the situation improved on the workers’ side, too. All the workers joined back after giving personal undertakings. It was a task in itself to start afresh and build an environment of mutual trust and confidence.

The management decided to pick ‘quality’ as an issue to focus on. I took the initiative in training the workers on seven QC tools. My perseverance in such communication helped to get some positive response, and I started implementing quality improvements in a structured way. Philips top management also appreciated these initiatives.

In 1992, Philips introduced companywide competition for the best small group activities (SGAs), which I won with my team. We continued winning the first prize till 1998, and as rewards, we were sent on foreign trips to Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. This was a unique encouragement during those days. I also won another competition in 1998 organised by Philips business group’s passive components unit and got the opportunity to visit Austria and Switzerland as a reward.

Through SGAs I got the opportunity to know everyone in my team closely. It established me as a leader, and I earned the trust, respect and confidence of all the employees.

Since I had a passion for machines and automation, I took the initiative in doing reverse engineering. As a result, we could successfully import substation of machinery at one-fourth cost and developed advanced versions of some of the existing machines. Over the period this competency helped in upgrading our equipment and machinery with the latest technology.

In Philips, I had the opportunity to undergo grooming under the guidance of global experts. I got the opportunity to participate in MDP-I and MDP-II programmes which broadened my business acumen. I won the ‘Business Case Simulation Competition’, and received the first prize among participants from different locations from the Asia Pacific region.

I consider myself lucky to receive training in ‘Design of Experiments (DOE)—Shainin Techniques’ directly from the legendry Dr Keki Bhote, group director of quality and value assurance of Motorola Automotive and Industrial Electronics Group. I could practice those techniques and learned their applications by solving chronic quality issues under the close supervision and guidance of our director Siddhartha Dasgupta, who had a fascination of using these techniques for realising breakthrough quality improvements.

Over the time, I developed a passion for application of these simple but effective tools and that become a part of me. I was sent to Philips light factory to help them solve a chronic quality issue which was hampering exports. I had resolved this problem within two working days.

Because of my passion for solving chronic issues, I started conducting training programmes on DOE and statistical process control (SPC) within our company across all global locations. I had conducted training programmes in Europe, Taiwan and China, and at the industry forum such as CII, and also for some of our suppliers.

During my tenure of 31 years, I had witnessed two ownership changes. In 1999, Philips divested its worldwide passive components business, as a result, globally we became a separate entity under the name of BCcomponents. Later in April 2003, BCcomponents was acquired by Vishay Intertechnologies Inc., USA. I call these ownership changes as “moving from strength to strength”. Philips was a household name whereas ‘Vishay’ is a very strong industrial brand.

I became committed to my employees

The transition from Philips to BCcomponents was most challenging and most fulfilling since it was a move from certainty to uncertainty, from a secured present to unsecured present, from secured future to unsecured future. BCcomponents represented two different brands—Beyschlag, which had specialty in professional and precision resistors, and CentraLab, which had specialty in ceramic capacitors. Both were parts of Philips.

The name BCcomponents was unknown in the market. So it was a tough task for all of us to establish BCcomponents as a brand in the market. This called for the then management team, including me, to travel extensively and meet all suppliers, customers, existing and prospective bankers, to generate interest in us and get their continued support which was crucial for our survival. At that time, I was the plant head, executive director.

As the plant head, I was in the forefront communicating with the employees and making efforts to resolve their confusions. Although every employee was given freedom to choose between Philips and BCcomponents, but within a day all opted to resign from Philips and took employment in BCcomponents. This was a real miracle, and it happened only due to the extensive and frequent communication we had with the employees. Seeing people believe in you is such a satisfying experience, that I too got committed towards them and I made a commitment that I will stay with the company till the day of my retirement and always ensure the wellbeing of my employees.

I convinced the employees to work hard and contribute their best in establishing the company, and in the process secure their future, too, which was now linked with the betterment of the company. That is how I developed the concept of ‘my company’ among the employees. Believe me, if you can develop that, you are a winner.

I rejected many lucrative job offers that came my way and stayed with the company through thick and thin, as the employees were committed to me. I felt proud to be associated with all those who supported me throughout the period of struggle, and made my struggle theirs.
Vishay’s management, too, gave me enough freedom and empowerment to carry forward the company’s vision. The growth opportunities continued in a much more focused way both for the business as well for the individuals who worked for the company.

Meeting with the legend

I had the opportunity to meet the legendary founder and chairman of our company Dr Felix Zandman when he visited India in 2008. I consider him at par with the great scientist Einstein. In fact, ‘Vishay’ is named after Dr Zandman’s ancestral village in Lithuania, in the memory of his family members who perished in the holocaust.

My strength came from my strong family values

Whenever I go down memory lane and think about the challenges that came my way and how I overcame them, I remember the strong family background I have, which inculcated all the good values and principles in me. And those good values were passed on to me by my father, Mukundrao Shringarpure, who was a works manager with the Indian Railways—he was my motivator. Both my father and mother, Shalini Shringarpure, who was a homemaker, taught me to be ethical, truthful and honest in life.

I have three elder brothers, three elder sisters, and a younger brother. We were all brought up in a secular environment. Although we performed all religious rituals, my parents were not orthodox. They were quite open and broad-minded. Despite living in a joint family, my parents were determined to give us all a good education and ensured that each one of us got the education of our choice. Nothing was forced upon us. They were always there as a source of motivation.

I was born in Baroda in 1954, and did my primary and secondary education from Govindrao Maharaj Madhyavarti School and higher secondary from H J Parikh Model High School, both in Baroda. Throughout this period, I had my education in my mother tongue Marathi, and I feel proud of it.

I completed my graduation in mechanical engineering and passed out in 1976 from Faculty of Technology, MS University of Baroda. I pursued my post-graduation from Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan and along with it, I also took up a job as a teaching assistant at MS University in Baroda, to support my studies.

I was always very fond of outdoor games like kho kho, langdi, lathi, and learnt talwar bazi, malkham, yoga and gymnastics. I was good at cricket too. I represented my kho kho team at the district, state and national levels. These games taught me the importance of hard work, dedication, team work, cooperation, and coordination of efforts in pursuance of goal which helped me immensely in my professional career.

During my collage days, I had a passion for NCC (National Cadet Corps) activities. I was a member of Navy wing of NCC. I attended NCC camps that exposed me to different people from different regions. I was also very fond of wildlife.

I had aspired to be a doctor first and gave the relevant entrance exams, too. I was on the waiting list but did not get selected. It was disheartening, but later, I reconciled to that fact. My second choice was engineering, so I joined MS University in Baroda. I completed my education through scholarships and the money I used to get from NCC.

My wife and I try to inculcate in our son Akhilesh the same values our parents imbibed in us. Akhilesh has completed his graduation in hotel management and catering technology from Pune University. He has opened his hospital catering business in Mumbai.

Rajan at his workstation

My advice to budding entrepreneurs is that be the ‘BOSS’ to your subordinates. According to me, that stands for ‘biggest obsession for subordinates’ success.’ I strongly believe that if your subordinate is not ready to fill in your position, it is your failure. It means you are not empowering him but competing with him. You then become the biggest obstacle to your subordinate’s success. Make it an obsession to develop as many subordinates as you can. Empower them, give them the knowledge and freedom to work. They may make mistakes, which can be corrected and redirected.

I want to pursue my passions

After my retirement, I have a long list of passions to pursue. I love to sketch and paint, but now it’s been years since I had the time to pick up my brush. I really want to restart this forgotten hobby and nurture it. I am also very passionate about tigers. Every year, I make it a point to go to the jungles to see the tigers in their natural habitat. I want to study their behaviour and contribute to their survival. I also want to contribute to the electronics industry through my association with ELCINA. But over and above everything, I would like to continue working for Vishay for many more years to come.

THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVOURITE THINGS… 
Favourite music: Instrumental and Indian classical
Favourite food: Fried fish and prawn pickle
Favourite films: Padosan, Chalti ka Naam Gaadi and Lagaan
Favourite book: ‘Never the Last Journey’ by the founder chairman of Vishay, Felix Zandman
Favourite hobby/passtime: Painting
Favourite holiday destination: The Indian jungles
Favourite political figure: Indira Gandhi
Favourite actor: Aamir Khan
Favourite actresses: Rekha, Madhuri Dixit
Favourite singers: Manna Dey and Mohammed Rafi
Role model: Ratan Tata
Favourite sport: Cricket
One thing I would like to change… 
In the world: I have travelled a lot across the world and would like to change people’s attitude towards India – to respect our country for its good old values and principles.
In the country: Eradicate corruption and inculcate a sense of belonging and love for the country, which is diminishing because of division and the rift created and capitalised by our political system for personal gains.
In society: Inculcate a sense of discipline for traffic rules.
At my work place: Create exceptional performers from ordinary performers.
In myself: I think, I would spend time in learning and acquiring all those qualities that my idol Ratan Tata has. Even if I acquire 10 per cent of those, I am sure I will be altogether a different person.

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