He rose from obscurity to pre-eminence, yet he retained his humility. With courage and the determination to pursue his dream, he overcame all obstacles and nurtured his ideas to fruition. Meet Subhash Goyal, managing director, Digital Circuits Pvt Ltd, a name that the electronics industry is familiar with. The present vice president of ELCINA, Goyal, took Richa Chakravarty of Electronics Bazaar, down memory lane, reliving his entrepreneurial journey.
My birth place, Pai village, which is in Kurukshetra district of Haryana, is a small place that may not be known to many people. I was born in 1948 into a joint family. My father and three uncles were all in the conventional foodgrain business. We were one big family living together.
When I was four years old, my father migrated to Bengaluru with the vision to expand his business. After three years, when my mother had to go back to the village to look after my grandmother, my younger brother and I accompanied her. So the rest of my childhood was spent in the village.
We are five brothers and two sisters, and I was the most adored child in the family. Since our family bonds were strong, we never missed our father back home.
I had a keen interest in academics, and was a bright student. I did my schooling from the village panchayat school. My mental mathematics was very strong, which made me popular among my teachers. They used to encourage me and I was asked to exhibit this talent on various occasions and gatherings in the village.
In those days, we used to have scholarships in the fourth standard, which I bagged. I also used to win ‘the best student of the year’ award, every year. I passed my eighth standard (in those days it was the first board exam) with the highest marks ever scored in that village.
Seeing my excellent academic background, the principal of a school from the neighbouring town Pundri, approached my family to admit me in his school, and took on the responsibility of my career. I was excited to be admitted in Sanatan Dharam High School, the same school from where my father completed his education. I performed brilliantly in that school also and stood first in the town. I was felicitated for my excellent academic performance and later my principal got me enrolled in the DAV College in Jalandhar, Punjab.
The DAV College was one of the best colleges in the northern region. Hailing from a rural background, this was the biggest challenge for me as I had my own apprehensions. But I took up the challenge and adjusted to the city life. I stood first in the college as well, and also bagged fourth position in Punjab University. In 1967, I joined Punjab Engineering College in Chandigarh and took electronics as my subject of specialisation. Later, I joined Thomson College of Engineering for my post- graduation, now a part of IIT, Roorkee.
My first job was a training ground
Despite a lot of pressure to join the family business, which had grown manifold and required more manpower, I had a desire to pursue a profession of my own. My first job was at a startup public sector company, Instrumentation Ltd, in Kota, Rajasthan, in 1971. Seeing my determination and belief in my dreams, my father supported my decision. He was a man with a broad vision. He knew well that from Bengaluru he could not guide me in my academic and career growth, and hence he had readily agreed to my decision and that of my high school principal, who was not only my guru, but my guide as well.
I had no regrets of leaving my post-graduation in engineering incomplete and following my professional career. However, along with my job, I completed my post-graduation in business management from the All India Management Association.
Instrumentation Ltd was not a very big company and being a fresher straight from the college, I had the opportunity to learn, which proved helpful in my future career growth. This job gave me immense exposure as I worked in various departments starting with R&D, to engineering, prototype making and the production process, to quality control and, finally, planning and management.
My entrepreneurial journey
Though my job at Instrumentation Ltd gave me immense exposure, I felt my growth was restricted and the work was getting repetitive. The desire to learn and explore more compelled me to take up entrepreneurship. I was looking for an opportunity to start my own business, which was not surprising since I came from a business family.
In 1981, ITI in Rai Bareli, UP, was looking for ancillary entrepreneurs who could provide them custom-built components. I applied for this and seeing my work experience, my international training in PCB testing and my strong academic qualifications, they selected me.
This was not only challenging but gave me enough opportunities to test my entrepreneurial capabilities. In those days, running a company is a difficult job and I was handling the task alone. I had to put in all my savings into this company along with a loan. Though there were incentives from the government, I still had to put in my life’s savings. It took two rigorous years for me to set up the whole unit. We started production in 1983, and started supporting ITI with PCB assembly.
In 1991, when the telecom sector was thrown open to private companies, ITI could not perform well. It was then when I thought of moving out of this sector. So, on the one hand, business prospects in Rai Bareli were reducing, on the other, both my children wanted to shift to Bengaluru for their higher studies. Also, at that time, Bengaluru was one of the upcoming cities in electronics. Hence, I decided to move to Bengaluru and start my business afresh as my parents were already there. It proved to be the right decision as after coming to Bengaluru, my capabilities got the right exposure, and I could utilise and channelise them in the right way, which was not happening in Rai Bareli.
One of my friend’s relatives owned Digital Systems Inc that was supporting Arcus Technologies for their prototype requirements, which they wanted to sell off. In 1997, I took over this company and started with a small turnover of Rs 4 million.
As my business grew and expanded, in 2004, I converted my company into a private limited and formed Digital Circuits Pvt Ltd. Today, the company has not only grown in terms of turnover but also in terms of the number of units—presently, there are ten units across India with the latest has been started in Manesar near Delhi. Digital Circuits is today one of the top ten EMS companies in India. I never really planned to set up an electronics manufacturing services (EMS) company—it just happened due to the circumstances at that point of time. We started off by providing services to Eureka Forbes, which was our major client.
One of the most challenging phases for the company was when Eureka Forbes shifted its manufacturing base to Baddi, HP, cutting off our business with them. At that time almost 75 per cent of our products were supplied to Eureka Forbes, and hence our production was cut drastically, leaving our production capability under-utilised. The challenge of keeping the Bengaluru unit running led us to look for other customers.
From just one to 150 customers today, Digital Circuits has grown by leaps and bounds, providing the right quality products at the right prices. Even our top five customers account for less than 50 per cent of the company’s business. We also planned to diversify and set up an injection moulding plant in Baddi to support our customers with plastic casings and components.
My management style
Thanks to my rural background and close-knit family, I ran my business like a family unit, treating my team like family members. Also, during my early struggles, I was influenced by R K Agarwal, director, ITI. He was a man with vast experience, knowledge and a broad vision, who inspired me to make it big in life. I also adopted many of his management skills later in my profession.
I started with a very small unit in Rai Bareli, so all my employees there were like family members to me. Till date, I continue to believe in this concept. I feel that in addition to the facilities and incentives that you give to your employees, it is how you treat your employees that matters a lot. In earlier days, we had more time and the interaction with employees was more. So, the employees used to get to know more about me and my work style, which in itself was a motivating factor. My sincerity was reflected in their sincerity and hard work. I still try and maintain that connection by having maximum interactions with my employees. Unfortunately, unlike earlier days, today, financial incentives matter more to the employees.
My success mantra has been hard work and sincerity—there are no shortcuts. If you do things that you believe in, you will surely achieve your goals. A superfluous approach will land you nowhere, in the long run.
I like to work with young people. The younger generation has fresh ideas and huge potential, but they need to be guided to channelise their energies in the right direction. I would like to advise budding entrepreneurs to follow the systems approach rather than relying on individuals alone. Every organisation should be system-controlled and the interference of the management should be minimal. Every small thing should be recorded and documented, so that even if an individual leaves the organisation, it does not impact the working of the company. Particularly in our profession, systems lead to success, as they are very important for the control of inventory, quality and delivery.
I am a family person
I am a family person and love to spend time with them, particularly with my two granddaughters. Whatever I have achieved in my life would not have been possible without the support of my family. My success can be entirely attributed to them.
My wife, Vinod Goyal, is an art graduate and is a home maker. She has been a big source of support and strength to me on both the professional and personal fronts. My daughter Shikha is married to an IT professional and is pursuing her interest in interior design as a freelancer.
My son, Ankur Goyal, an engineering graduate and an MBA, has been involved in my business for the past 10 years now. He is now the director of the company. In fact, I owe a lot to him as he has been instrumental in taking the company forward. He is from a generation that is different from mine—brimming with a new and fresh approach to business. Whatever growth we have achieved, it is because of his energy, enthusiasm and hard work. In fact, he is more popular among the suppliers and clients than I am.
I am satisfied with whatever I have achieved today, and what I couldn’t complete, my son will do. He is now responsible for taking Digital Circuits to newer heights. I have spent a major portion of my life in building my business, so now I am more inclined to do social work. Along with this, I am involved with ElCINA, working closely with the association and trying to identify the growth areas in the electronics industry while guiding the government in framing the right policies.
|THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVOURITE THINGS…|
|Music||Old Hindi songs|
|Book||Discovery of India|
|Hobby/pastime||Love spending time with my family|
|Holiday destination||Rann of Kutch, Gujarat|
|Political figures||Jawaharlal Nehru and Narendra Modi|
|Role model||Sam Pitroda|
|ONE THING THAT I WOULD LIKE TO CHANGE..|
|In this world||Eliminate corruption and terrorism|
|In India||The labour laws|
|In society||Remove the gap between the rich and the poor|
|At my workplac||I want people to take ownership of their work and be responsible|
|In myself||I am very much attached to my family and to an extent I feel dependent, so I want to reduce this involvement and move towards social activities|
|Some of my achievements in 2011-12|
|For entrepreneurial excellence in electronics, I was awarded the EFY ELCINA Award in 2011|
|In comparison to 2011 when we exported Rs 6 million worth of products to the US market, we exported Rs 150 million in 2012|
|We have also developed new solar inverters for the Tamil Nadu Energy Development Agency (TEDA) in 2012|