Taking care of the employees and not backing out when they need help, is what helps a company to grow strong and succeed in the long run. This is the belief that has brought Manish Kwatra, CEO, Metro Electronics Pvt Ltd, a long way and helped his firm gain a strong foothold in the electronics industry. In a candid conversation with Baishakhi Dutta of Electronics Bazaar, he shared his amazing 20-year journey in the electronics industry.
Year of birth: 1976
Favourite music: English soft rock, from Elton John to Guns ‘n’ Roses
Favourite food: Being an avid foodie, I travel the world, sampling cuisines. For Punjabis, Mughlai food is very important
Favourite movies: Notting Hill, DDLJ (I prefer rom-coms)
Favourite books: The Shiva Trilogy, Osho’s Gita (for the last few years, I have been trying to read a lot on mythology)
Favourite actress: Julia Roberts
I went to Modern School, Barakhamba Road, which is known for its extra-curricular activities. My school had an electronics club, of which I was the president. Having such a club as part of the school’s co-curricular activities at that point of time was something extraordinary, which helped develop my interest in electronics.
It was thanks to my school that I got a lot of exposure, because of which I got my first PC when I was in Standard 5 (1987). At that time, computers were not so much in demand. In fact, the computers that were available in the market at that time were not at all like those available today. I got to work on those huge PCs that had no memory drive and were accompanied by large floppy disks. In fact, the first computer camp I attended at my school involved IBM machines.
I did my electronics engineering from the University of Pune. Those four years were the learning phase of my life and taught me how to live independently. I can also say that those were the best four years of my life. My parents gave me the liberty to choose what I wanted to do. Never did they compel me to do something, either on the personal or the professional fronts.
My passion was to be my own boss and start my own company, so electronic T&M was an obvious choice. I love my work and my company. I do read a lot and there are holidays when I just read and do nothing else. I believe updating your knowledge through various means like newspapers, the Internet and by meeting people can be of immense help in one’s professional and personal life. I am a foodie and I travel to various parts of the world to try out different cuisines.
How Metro Electronics started its journey
I started out in 1998, after my engineering. Our firm, which was started by my father, has been into test and measurement since the last 50 years. When I came into this industry, I worked with my father for a couple of years and then started my own firm. That’s when we started standardising our own brand as well as the testing equipment which we had been bringing out for so long.
My father encouraged me to start my own company in 2000. One thing that helped my company to grow was my father’s good reputation within the industry. Since then, we have grown rapidly and have successfully introduced several international T&M brands into India, like Mastech and Owon, with exclusive distribution agreements. We also started our own brand called MetroQ, under which we tried to source and introduce the latest instruments and technologies into India at very economical price points – products that were not available at that time. Today, our brand MetroQ is one to reckon with in the T&M industry. For example, 20 years back, an oscilloscope (CRO) would not cost less than ₹40,000. Today, a digital version (DSO) sells for around ₹15,000. In fact, currently, we sell the market’s most economical DSO in India. We also focused on building up a strong pan-India dealer and after-sales network. Due to our proper marketing and networking efforts, the company has become a trendsetter in the T&M industry.
The vital role of my family and friends
My school and college gave me a very good network of friends and they form a very strong pillar in my life. I am part of a very strong school alumni association, which works for various social causes. In my family, my parents and especially my wife are a very strong emotional support structure for my various endeavours in life.
The turning point of my life
When I finished my engineering in 1998, India was not really booming and going to the US for a master’s degree was an obvious choice. A lot of my close friends chose to do so. I, too, applied for an MS and got a call from a couple of colleges.
But I chose to stay back in India. I believe that at that time if I had left India, I probably wouldn’t have returned and would have built up my career in a different way. Today, after all these years of hard work and subsequent success, I am very happy and grateful to God that I took the decision.
My father has invested nearly 50 years in the test and measurement industry, building up a reputation apart from achieving monetary success. When I started my own company, whenever I called up people, they never ever refused to take my call – all because of my father’s reputation. When everyone picks up your call, you know that you can move ahead fast in the industry. He also gave me the liberty to do whatever I wanted. He never really interfered in my work but was always present for his invaluable suggestions. There were times when I made some mistakes in the industry, and yet he did not say anything and encouraged me to move on. He was my backbone. I could fall back on him at all times. He taught me that hard work always pays off and there are no short cuts.
A satisfying journey
The electronics T&M industry has been changing at a breakneck speed. Twenty years back, there was not much clarity and awareness about it. But since the last 10 years, a lot of international companies, particularly in test and measurement, have come in to India and have set up their bases here. This has helped our company also in understanding the industry better and we have been able to reach out globally. The Indian industry has also started focusing on the quality of the products. Now we feel that the T&M industry in India has caught up with the best in the world and is even leading in a few fields.
Preferable work culture
I personally select every product that we choose to market. We have a small but effective team in our company.
I tend to chart out an area of responsibility for them, and allocate their day to day work, since working alone becomes pretty strenuous. Also, I believe in taking care of my employees’ personal needs. You have to stay informed about their requirements and be with them. You should not back out when they need you the most.
Major contributions to the industry
There was a time when international brands were not present in India. So we introduced some of those brands into the country and established them well in the market. At the same time, we tried to make them cost viable for upcoming industries. A very good costing, along with back-up services, is what we have always believed in. At that time, except for one or two companies that weren’t very fast in launching their products in India, no one really offered back-up services locally.
We really had to fight the system to get things done at the start. Today, with an industry-friendly government, things are much easier.
Five years down the line
As of today, we are really settled with our brand name and reputation. We are increasing our product portfolio on a continuous basis. It’s now over 20 years that I have been in this industry, so I personally believe that this is the time for me to concentrate on my personal life. I have two lovely young daughters, and would like to spend more time with them and be a part of their growing up years. I want to travel with my family and have a better work-life balance. Regarding work, I believe that by setting up my firm and getting a strong foothold in the industry, I have already done most of what I had planned to do. Yes, there are plans for further expansion, but the reputation has been created.
I want to get more time out from my work schedule and enjoy what life has to offer me. Once you turn 40, which I will this year, you tend to be more content and sure about your future.
My message for budding entrepreneurs
“Believe in yourself and be honest in your work,” is what I would suggest to all the new entrepreneurs who are taking their first steps in this industry. One needs to work really hard to leave behind a lasting impression. Hard work will definitely show its result one day. There will be lots of people around to discourage you at every stage of your life—there is no shortage of those who want to pull you back. One should simply move ahead and not really worry about anything. At the same time, you need to enjoy your work, for without that joy, success cannot be achieved. Embrace and enjoy life to the fullest.
My attachment to EFY
EFY has always been a part of my learning curve. During my school days, as a part of the electronics club and later during my engineering college days, we used to get EFY magazines and go through the various circuits published in them, and then tried to make these on our own. In fact, I remember my father telling me about his first print advertisement in EFY magazine. It’s one of the oldest and, in fact, the very first magazine on electronics in India. I have been connected with EFY for a pretty long time.