“To become a dependable supplier to our customers and a reliable partner to our principals” is the notion that has brought Deepak Methi, president, Pankaj Electronics, a long way and helped his firm gain a strong foothold in the electronics industry. In a candid conversation with Sudeshna Das, senior executive editor and Baishakhi Dutta, business journalist of Electronics Bazaar, Methi shared his exciting journey in the electronics industry.
Year of birth: 1971
Hobbies: Reading, travelling, food, golf
Favourite music: Though not too much of a music buff, I like to listen to music depending on my mood. I have a wide range of preferences, starting from Bryan Adams and Def Leppard at one end to Guru Dutt and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan at the other.
Favourite food: To me, good food means eating authentic local cuisine; so I love to try out different kinds.
Favourite movies: Jindagi Na Milegi Dobara
Favourite books: ‘The Magic’ by Ronda Byrne
Favourite actress: Madhuri Dixit
Education: B.Tech in electronics and communications
My passion is to connect with different kinds of people. I like to travel and meet people from different nooks and corners of the world. I love to explore diverse cultures, religions and beliefs, since I think this acts as the best teacher in a person’s life. I have travelled to almost 40 countries. I will admit that this particular passion of mine has helped me grow my business manifold and also nurtured me as a human being. I yearn to travel further to every country on this planet in my lifetime, to get inspired by the never-ending discoveries of this universe and the indomitable human spirit.
How the company began its journey
The company was started in 1974 by my father, S.N. Methi, in a spare room at a relative’s house in a residential colony in Delhi. Back then, he sold semiconductors from Khandelwal Hermann Electronics, Bombay (as it was called back in those days). Within a year, he set up his own office in Chawri Bazaar, which is Old Delhi’s hardware and metals business district.
Since he was born and brought up in Mumbai, his working style was quite different from that of Delhi and the turning point was his decision not to open a shop-cum-office in Bhagirath Palace or Lajpat Rai Market, which were the business hubs for electronic components in those days. He did not want customers to come and buy products at his counter; rather, he wanted to go and sell the products to the customers. That was the differentiation he wanted to bring about in his business, way back then.
From a short-term, business point of view, I believe he could have done much, much better by having his shop at Bhagirath Palace; but we are reaping the fruits of his long-term vision today. The approach of being close to the customer increased our focus on customer service continuously, and created this structured and professional organisation.
How my own journey started
I joined the company in 1992. At that time, we were representing the local semiconductor manufacturers —Usha Rectifiers in Faridabad and Hind Rectifiers in Mumbai. Our sales were concentrated in and around the Delhi region.
There were limited applications such as DC drives, welding, battery chargers and rectifiers, along with the requirement for spares from the steel, sugar, cement and other heavy industries. In those days, it was worth our while to visit remote factories just to sell a few spares of thyristors and diodes, which I did. I enjoyed seeing different plants in some interior parts of the country.
The turning point in my life
In 1994 I started travelling overseas and my first trip was to PCIM (a well-known trade fair) in Germany.
We signed our first distribution contract with an Israeli company called Payton Planar Magnetics at PCIM. At that time, I did not know anything about high frequency transformers. I was just impressed by the technology, and the Israeli company was surprised that this young man who had come all the way from India was ready to work with it for the Indian market. It was that spirit that made Payton appoint us as its Indian representative-cum-distributor. I was super thrilled and remember calling my father from Germany to share the news.
Those were the landmark years of my life, when I wanted to break out from the standard products that we were selling. So I travelled all across the country, exploring all possible applications. I met different customers in all segments including R&D labs, educational institutes, space and defence organisations, as I introduced Payton Planar’s transformers. I finally realised that we were 10 years ahead of the Indian market and there were just no buyers.
Those years changed my life. Though we did not sell too many planar transformers, the experience gave me a complete insight of the Indian market, which was invaluable. The Israeli company taught me a lot about customer service, professionalism, communication skills, international trade, etc. I am forever grateful to all the people who stood by me and had faith in me.
In the meantime, without getting deterred, I continued travelling overseas and signed distribution contracts with Behlke Power Electronics, Germany; EBG, Austria; and also Advanced Power Technologies (APT), USA, right up to 2009.
I would say that my idol is my father. He gave me ample courage and freedom to explore,
discover and construct the business in the way I wanted to. The only thing that was available to me was his wisdom and decision-making was my territory. He never blamed me for any action of mine.
A satisfying journey
The big boost came in1999, when I met people from IXYS Semiconductors in Lampertheim, Germany. I still remember that meeting very vividly—it was with Andreas Sperner, the VP, sales and marketing. The meeting continued for two to three hours, covering topics like the Indian market, customer applications, the potential of certain products, etc. In the end, he said, “Deepak, I like you very much as a person and we would love to have you as our distributor in India. We get so many enquiries from India but no business. So how much of business, in numbers, do you promise to create for us?” I looked deep into his eyes and my reply was, “Zero!”
There was a short pause and I could sense his confusion. Here was someone who had flown in from India to be his company’s distributor, yet was promising zero business! It was then that I added, “How about I promise you 100 per cent of the market—then what we pick from the market could be a decision that we both can take based on strengths and clear information, and those would be the real revenue numbers.” That’s when we signed the deal and made another big move forward.
Something similar happened with ABB Semiconductors in Switzerland two years later and, this time, it was in front of the whole ABB top brass—from the MD, to various VPs. After making a detailed presentation on markets and figures, I clearly told them that these were my own estimates, for we did not have any official market data, supported by real numbers, in India back then. Honestly and simplicity paid off, and I came home with a contract.
From then on, it’s this approach that I have used for the last 16 years, and it has earned us all the distributorships and other contracts that we have now. We do not promise to deliver any business based on unverified data to our overseas principals. This has enabled us to build rock solid relationships, running across decades. This, I would say, is the major differentiation that we created in the market.
Eventually, when our principals realised that we were the people who would promote them well, the bond between us started becoming stronger and customers started ordering small quantities. The customers realised that they could order small quantities without over-committing any future numbers, for which they got the same attention and service that is normally associated with large orders.
Pleased with our style of working, our suppliers and customers started referring us to other companies. We started adding new product lines from different parts of the world and expanded our offerings to the Indian market. Whenever we added a new product to our portfolio, we had to go out into the market and introduce it to our customers. This involved extensive interaction with R&D engineers, and that’s how our knowledge kept growing.
In the early 2000s, the Indian electronics industry was experiencing a boom. The telecom market was booming, new applications were emerging, overseas companies were setting up subsidiaries and R&D centres in India – in short, India was on the growth path. There wasn’t enough organised local distribution in the market and Pankaj Electronics filled that gap, to everyone’s delight.
We had the ability to service various electronics applications, but we remained focused on power electronics and some high voltage applications. Most of what we represent are, or were, considered boutique product lines and, hence, expensive. To this, I always say, there is a market for everything—one needs to find the right customer for the right product. This certainly is not easy in industrial environments, but this is our game. We do not sell commodity products and, hence, Team Pankaj knows that we need to be continuously sharing all the new technologies, special features and benefits of our products to the design engineers, in order to make a sale. Product lines are added, not because there is a demand in the market and they would be easy to sell, but based on whether they feature a niche technology with future business possibilities. This strategy drives us as a unit to move beyond what we already know and do.
I consider representing more than 15 product lines and servicing almost all possible applications in power electronics as our achievement. The faith and trust of all our business partners, over the decades, is both our wealth and achievement. This commitment to look ahead to the future, has led us to move to SAP as our ERP system. This was a phenomenal exercise and experience, for a small company like ours, and is a huge achievement for us.
What’s new in the line
Besides components, we are working on the opportunities in selling systems. We already represent Selfrag AG and Astrol AG from Switzerland. In the coming years, this business will expand, and we will add a variety of niche systems in the area of high voltage, power quality and other applications, to our portfolio.
The setting up of our design lab is very recent. This was my dream project, so that we could work on specific high-tech programmes alongside the international community.
Five years down the line
The developments in the electronics world are never ending, and I see Pankaj Electronics becoming an organisation that will keep pace with the new opportunities and transform itself in pace with the changing times.
Our constant endeavour will be to use the strength of new technologies to improve the competitive edge of our customers. We have and will continue to expand our product lines, focusing on the latest developments in the electronics world.
The expansions will come in the components business, systems business and in design sales. And there will be investments and improvements in backend operational systems and resources as well.