Even at the age of 72, Qimat Rai Gupta strives to seek new challenges. After building Havells into a formidable company and acquiring and turning around Sylvania, the veteran businessman has now set his sight on healthcare and education business. In an interview to FE’s Saikat Neogi, he elucidates how he turned the fortune of the company from scratch to a Rs 5,500-crore entity, lessons learnt from the slowdown and the road ahead. Excerpts:
You started as a trader. How did you build a brand like Havells?
I was marketing Havells products in India and during the process bought the goodwill of the company. At that point of time I realised that if we buy the company, we will be able to make it a big brand in the domestic market. So, I bought Havells in 1971.
What was the road map you had in mind to turn around the company?
At that point of time I just had a mental roadmap. But with the passage of time, things started developing. When we took over Havells, it was not a respected brand and there was no acceptability of the product amongst customers, government agencies and other bodies.
But for us, it was an opportunity to build our future business. I put up a factory in 1975 and subsequently added a few more. The main focus was on marketing and it took us almost 15 years to build the brand.
There were a plenty of roadblocks in arranging funds and in starting the manufacturing facilities. At that time our competitors were foreign companies like Larsen & Toubro, Siemens and Crompton. These were global brands and we also wanted to make Havells a global brand by first making it strong in the domestic market.
When did you start to look at going in for foreign and technical collaborations?
In the 1980s we were looking for foreign collaborations and joint ventures to get technology for the latest electric products. So, from 1980s to mid- 1990s, we were setting up factories across the country and engaging in collaborations. Foreign competition increased in India 1995 onwards and we shifted our focus to get into world class R&D because by that time brand building and distribution channels were in place. Over the last 10 years, we have been investing between Rs 150 and Rs 200 crore every year in capital expenditure. As all old plants sold in the seventies were running on old technology,