Wednesday, August 14, 2013: Behind his stern looks lies a shy person. A man of few words, Rajiv Batra, managing director, Rabyte Electronics Pvt Ltd, has made the company a leader and innovator in the distribution and marketing of advanced technology semiconductors and components, through his dedication and hard work. Unlike those who are gifted with a family business to carry forward, here is someone who chose a new and challenging path, away from the comfort zone of the family’s earlier businesses. In a tête-à-tête with Richa Chakravarty of Electronics Bazaar, he reveals his personal and professional accomplishments.
Coming from a business family, I was always passionate about doing something on my own, but never thought of venturing into the electronics industry. I joined my father’s business soon after my graduation in 1973. My father, Rajinder Paul Batra, who belonged to Lyallpur in Pakistan, had owned cotton mills there. After coming to India, he continued with the same business as he had cotton mills in Rajasthan, too. Besides this, he also set up a plant in Delhi to manufacture industrial fasteners. Later, he also ventured into the trading business and sold UK-made bicycles in India.
I started looking after the industrial fastener business, while also studying to be a chartered accountant. However, destiny had other plans for me. Before I could understand the business well enough, I lost my father in 1975. This was a major jolt to my life, both personally and professionally. It was my most devastating experience as I lost my biggest strength, teacher and mentor. Being the only son, I had to take on the reins of both my family and the business in my hands.
The personal loss made me mature
After such a big loss at the beginning of my career, I was left directionless. However, since I was now responsible for my mother and young sisters, I could not look back or grieve over my loss. Overnight, I became mature beyond my age. I also had to leave my chartered accountancy course mid-way to look after all the businesses myself. I decided to close down the cotton mill as I felt that I could concentrate only on one business at a time. I continued with the fastener manufacturing business. However, I was not satisfied with its progress and dreamt of venturing into some new areas.
Venturing into the electronics industry
In the late 70s, when television first made an entry into India and began to be manufactured in the country, I realised that the demand for electronic components would soon shoot up significantly. The television manufacturers started giving more importance to the component suppliers and started treating my fasteners as degraded products. Studying the market trends, I grabbed the right opportunity and ventured into the electronics industry.
While the decision to start a business of supplying electronic components was swift, the execution was tough and risky. The first hurdle was my lack of knowledge about these components. I didn’t even know what a capacitor or an IC looked like. It was like going back to my school days and learning things from scratch. But with the determination to overcome all my shortcomings and to make my business a success, I started putting in that extra effort. I constantly kept in touch with my customers and learnt a lot from them.
The second hurdle was my lack of knowledge on the electronics industry. However, since I had a strong business background, I could resolve all these problems in my own way. When I was confident enough, I started Rabyte Electronics in 1986, and began supplying electronic components.
The initial phase was full of struggles—right from arranging finances to looking for customers. The only positive note was that I did not have to take any loan to start the new venture, as it was a big risk that I was taking. I decided to go forward step by step; hence, I hired just one person to assist me. We started off from a small office at Asaf Ali Road in New Delhi. I met and interacted with my customers from 9 am to 4 pm, and in the evening I looked after the fastener business. For years, I worked 24×7 without a break, without focusing on my family, friends or relatives. In fact, all the money for this business was being sourced from the fastener business. After a couple of years when I was a little steady with Rabyte, and realised that I was not giving enough time to the fastener business, I closed it down.
Rabyte is the fruit of my sweat and blood
Rabyte grew from strength to strength, and today it is a leader and innovator in the distribution and marketing of advanced technology semiconductors, passive components, interconnect and electro-mechanical components, displays and modules from various reputed manufacturers. It has evolved into a single-window source to our customers for their electronics solutions needs.
But I still remember the early days of struggle. For 10 years I had no major principals on board. G-Luxon was the first to come on board and then the floodgates opened. It gave us the credibility with which I approached other big brands to join me. Today, we partner with premier technology suppliers globally, and continuously introduce new and innovative products to the industry. We offer cutting-edge technology, superior service and design facilities to our customers. Our technical expertise, understanding of market trends and dedication to customers is the competitive advantage we provide to our business partners.
Rabyte is not just a component supplier, but provides innovative solutions to companies that want to introduce new products into the market. We work with these companies to give them the best solutions for their products. The entire designing of the product, including hardware and software, is done by us. This is a new and demanding trend, which will keep us ahead of our competitors. We also provide value-added services to our customers like technical support and help in solutions designing without any charge. Today, our strength lies in providing complete solutions and on-time delivery of a large number of components from different principals.
Component trading nowadays is heavily dependent on a company’s design capabilities. If one can successfully design solutions for customers, then one can successfully sell components as well. We have been growing at the rate of 15-18 per cent for the last few years. We shifted to a new office in Noida in 2011.
The equation with my sons
As a novice, I had to struggle to establish Rabyte. But I cannot ignore the fact that both my sons Raj Guarav Batra, who is the director, business development, and Arjun, who is a manager in the company, have been instrumental in bringing about the required changes within the organisation and have steered it in the right direction. All three of us share a great equation and this works very well for the company’s growth.
We ensure that we do not encroach on each other’s zones of operation, hence, maintaining the trust and respect we have for each other’s decisions. Though there is a big difference in my approach towards business, the younger generation has a lot of potential and is coming up with new ideas. Both my sons have professional degrees from USA to run a business, unlike me, as I did business based on my own instincts. Also, I get inputs from my daughter-in-law Supriya, who holds an MBA degree in family business. We also do not have conflicts as we learn from each other. From the younger generation I have learned that one has to be very aggressive in today’s world of business to survive the tough competition.
The work atmosphere in the company has changed for the better. It is now run more professionally, and in a more structured and organised way. Earlier, I was running it as a one man army but now I have realised that an organisation needs to grow, and for that we need more professional and skilled hands. Delegation of work and decentralisation have worked well for the company. Newer systems like ERP and CRM have been introduced for better yields.
I have full faith in my sons and believe that they are now ready to shoulder the burden of the organisation. As far as my contribution is concerned, I am always available to share my experiences. I am glad that while I had nobody to guide me through difficult times, my sons have the opportunity to learn and evolve and ensure that the mistakes I had made were not repeated.
My wife complements me in every way
While I was paying more attention to making ends meet in the early days, my wife Geeta, who is a housewife, supported me through thick and thin. She not only took care of my sons but also looked after both my personal and professional needs. She also contributed time to run my fastener business. I had lost my father within two months of my marriage, and she was always there to support me through those difficult days. Although those were the most cherished days of my life, I was dragged down with responsibility, and am truly thankful to Geeta for understanding me and complementing me in every way.
I feel I became too serious in life at an early age. When I look back, I feel I was heavily burdened with work and responsibility, which overshadowed my actual fun-loving self, and made me a more mature man at a very early stage. But Geeta always understood the changing priorities in my life.
Since my childhood, I was an introverted child. I was born in Delhi in 1953, and did my schooling from Modern School, Barakhamba Road. While I loved to play different sports, studies never interested me. However, I passed school with decent grades and took up commerce in Bhagat Singh College in Delhi.
I was very close to my father, and was my mom’s most favoured child. I grew up in a joint family with a number of cousins. Yet, my parents gave me and my sisters a very liberal upbringing. No decision was enforced on us. I try to do the same with my sons, giving them their own space, freedom and the liberty to make mistakes and learn from them.
Business with vision and purpose
A lot of people ask me about my future plans, now that my sons have joined the business. I tell them that I will keep working as long as I have a vision. My vision is to make Rabyte globally competitive, and take it to greater heights. My target is to make it a billion dollar company.
However, with the growth of the company, I also want to ensure that this growth benefits the industry and society. Hence I wish to serve humanity as well. I strongly believe in value systems, and feel that even with our focus on core sales, we still need to take care of society.
We do not have any plans to diversify at the moment. Our focus is on components distribution and to provide designing solutions. However, expansion is underway at Rabyte. So whatever vision I have I want to see it become a reality before I retire.
|One thing I would like to change|
|In the country:||Remove corruption|
|In society||Eradicate poverty|
|At my work place:||Bring about a sense of belonging to the company|
|In myself:||Be more carefree|
|These are a few of my favourite things…|
|Favourite music:||The Beatles|
|Favourite film:||The Godfather|
|Favourite book:||The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari|
|Favourite political figure:||Bill Clinton|
|Favourite actor:||Robert De Niro|
|Favourite actress:||Julia Roberts|
|Favourite singer:||John Lennon|
Electronics Bazaar, South Asia’s No.1 Electronics B2B magazine