Monday, January 13, 2014: As a child, he aspired to become a mathematician, but eventually ventured into business. Ignorant about the strategies to build up a business, he still put in all the effort and persevered to establish Rishabh Instruments. He not only struggled with his limited entrepreneurial skills, but fought against the Licence Raj and overcame all huddles. With limited capital, but innumerable challeges, he came out victorious. Today, he heads a company with a turnover of Rs 908.47 million. Its core competence is in manufacturing, design and development of test and measuring instruments and industrial control products. The company has been built on strong fundamentals, in terms of people, infrastructure and financials. Brilliant in academics, he shares his knowledge and experience with the budding entrepreneurs.
Meet Narendra J Goliya, chairman and managing director, Rishabh Instruments, while he goes down memory lane with Richa Chakravarty of Electronics Bazaar, reminiscing about his struggles, his survival strategies and eventual victory.
I was born in a joint family in 1951, with 18 cousins living under one roof. My family belonged to Bikaner but after Independence, my father, Johrimal Goliya, moved to Mumbai where he and his brothers tried many things, eventually finding success in the trade of instruments imported from many countries.
Growing up in a joint family was full of fun. I have fond memories of my childhood, where all of us siblings played, ate and slept together, and had our own share of fights. We learnt to be flexible in life, to be patient, tolerant, cooperative and to make adjustments.
I went to Don Bosco High School in Mumbai and was very good at studies. Mathematics was my favourite subject and I wanted to be a mathematician. Debate and elocution competitions were something I always enjoyed in school and this skill has helped me in my business as well, as I can convince people by easily putting my views across.
As a young boy, my father used to take my siblings and me to his office on holidays to help him out, and in the process learn to manage the work. I learnt a lot from him, and I attribute my success to his teachings.
I completed my B.Tech from IIT Mumbai in electrical engineering, and did MS from Stanford University, California, in microelectronics.
Turning points in my life
After completing my masters, I joined the family business of manufacturing and marketing electrical measuring instruments in 1975. But around 1980, I started toying with the idea of starting a company of my own. However, my plan sounded immature to my family and friends, and they didn’t take it seriously but I was clear about my vision and was determined to make it big. With the little experience I had about the industry and entrepreneurial skills, I started Rishabh Instruments in 1983.
Starting my own company was one of the biggest turning points in my life. Although I was determined to make it big, I knew that I had taken a huge risk. For a few initial years I went through really hard times, trying to stay in the business and grow it.
Another turning point of my professional life came in 1997 when we got into a technical collaboration with a German company. We made our first electronic instrument, which was digital and used SMT technology. So, we brought SMT machines, engineers and technical knowhow, and transformed the company. It took us two to three years to stabilise with this technology.
Expanding my business further, I acquired the Polish company Lumel SA in 2011. Despite being a small and medium enterprise, we had the credentials and finances to support this acquisition. Global Environment Fund, an energy and environment focused private equity firm, has also invested Rs 750 million in Rishabh. So we transformed Rishabh Instruments from a product-based company into a solutions provider.
Three rebirths of Rishabh Instruments
Like any other entrepreneur, the formative years were very difficult for me. The biggest challenge was to arrange finance. Finding the right financial partners or institutions is very difficult. These institutions support companies that already have good financial backing. For start-ups, getting finance is a real struggle.
To start Rishabh, I took a loan of Rs 5.8 million from the State-Industrial and Investment Corporation of Maharashtra (SICOM). It is a state owned development bank, whose objective is to develop and nurture industries in Maharashtra. My family business was based out of Mumbai, so I planned to start my company in Mumbai as well. But during that time, Mumbai was going through a textile strike and nearly 250,000 workers and more than 50 textile mills were participating in it. This affected all other industries as well. So I planned to open my new unit in Nashik. During that period, the country was in the grip of the ‘Licence Raj’, and there were an elaborate set of licences, regulations and accompanying red tape that which one had to follow when setting up and running businesses in India. Hence, the government had complete control over my business—right from defining and deciding manufacturing/ importing quantities, choice of technology, etc. There were no market forces, and under such circumstances, we had to survive. Along with other challenges, I had to overcome the poor manufacturing infrastructure in the country, low levels of technical knowhow and limited access to resources.
Another major challenge was for our products to get accepted. As an entrepreneur, I introduced new technology and new products but Rishabh products were not getting the right exposure. Hence, brand building was another area of concern for me. I was bogged down with several challenges—I had no money to continue the business and could not pay back the loan with interest which had increased to Rs 8.5 million. SICOM was about to declare us a sick unit and was ready to take over the company, as a penalty for non-payment of the loan. I requested SICOM to lend me Rs 0.8 million more, and thanks to the then head of SICOM, Mr Srinivasan, who was impressed by my academic credentials, the amount was sanctioned, giving us a second chance or a second life. The period between 1989 and 1995 was an acid test for me.
The following year also did not bring much luck to us. In 1996, there was major labour trouble in the company the Centre for Indian Trade Union (CITU) declared a strike for three months. However, our staff members, around 80 of them, worked day and night and ensured that production was not hampered. By then, the workers who were on strike had also given up and resumed work. This was the third rebirth of Rishabh. During this period, we introduced some of the production processes that were not followed before the strike.
Soon after the labour strike, a German company identified our manufacturing skills and started buying our products. From then onwards, things started changing. We started exporting analogue panel meters to companies that admired our mark for quality. By the early 20s, Rishabh stabilised as a company and found its feet.
Today, the company has developed expertise in buying, cost reduction and other manufacturing skills. We also started contract manufacturing of electrical instrumentation products for companies in the West. Rishabh is today a strong outsourcing partner to companies that, apart from the cost advantage, also appreciate our investments in new technologies. In 2003, we started an R&D unit, Trishala, with the aim to create new technology. This led to the introduction of new products completely developed and manufactured in Nashik.
I am happy with the success I am experiencing now, but looking back I realise that I have given my youth, my life to Rishabh Instruments to achieve the status it enjoys today.
To be an entrepreneur is a tough task
Despite a strong academic background and some experience in managing my father’s business, I could not hone my entrepreneurial skills well. Today, while looking back, I feel that if I had good entrepreneurial skills, my struggles could have been reduced. There are institutions to make good managers, but none to make a good entrepreneur. It is essential to train to be a good entrepreneur, and hone marketing and brand building skills. Otherwise, it is tough for many like me to sustain ourselves in business.
My father used to say that an entrepreneur has to be an all rounder. Having spent 30 years in the industry, I have realised that as you rise up in the hierarchy, you have to become universal. You need to trust people and motivate them. You need to work with them, guide them through their problems, and support them to develop new skills. With the growth of the employees, your company will also grow.
I know what it takes to dream big and live those dreams. There are no shortcuts to fame or success. I believe in the theory of karma, and like people who are passionate about their work and have an ambition in life. With the changing scenario of markets becoming more challenging, it is far more difficult to survive in today’s competitive market. For today’s youth, I have only one suggestion to make—if you are determined to taste success, be sure you put in all your efforts and be ready to bear the hardships. One has to learn things the hard way. Be ready to stand the test of time and once you have done that, there is nothing more satisfying than seeing your efforts bear fruit.
Family support is paramount
Throughout my struggle, I have not been alone. My family, especially my wife, Asha, has always been with me, and has understood and supported me. There have been times when I had to make a choice between business and family. At such moments, my wife had always supported me to choose the business as she would take care of the family. She never made me feel guilty as I could hardly give time to her or my children. I do feel I have neglected my family, but there is little that I can do about it now. I can only be thankful that my wife, son Rishabh and daughter Anushree understand me very well, and have been my support throughout. They are my rocks and are ready to support me through all the challenges I face.
Contributions to industry
Today, I am proud to say that we are a company that is exporting technology to other countries. We are working with companies in Europe, but the R&D happens in India, and the products are developed in India and exported.
Along with other industry experts, I have started a cluster called the Nashik Engineering Cluster (NEC). As a technical director of NEC, a Rs 600 million project promoted in joint partnership with the Government of India for the development of industries in Nasik, we share common facilities of prototyping, calibration and a CNC centre. Through these facilities we are able to earn around Rs 30 million every year. I enjoy investing my time and energy in supporting the industry to flourish.
I also plan to start a university with a global stature, which I feel India lacks. I have made a blueprint of this and plan to start a private university where there are no ‘pulls and pushes’. I also spend a lot of time giving guest lectures in colleges and offer students insights on entrepreneurial skills, which is my favourite subject.
|One thing that I would like to change…|
|In this world:||Introduce a common link language|
|In the country:||The political scenario|
|In society:||Try to develop entrepreneurs|
|At the work place:||People should devote more time
|In myself:||I procrastinate a lot, so I want to change
|THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVOURITE THINGS…|
|Music:||Old Hindi songs|
|Hobby/pass time:||Walking and swimming|
|Holiday destination:||Zermatt in Switzerland|
|Political/ historical figure:||Chanakya|
|Role model:||Jack Welch|
Electronics Bazaar, South Asia’s No.1 Electronics B2B magazine