Kunwer Sachdeva, Founder and MD, Su-Kam

“In order to successfully implement “Make in India”, firm laws must be put into place to improve the facility for granting of a patent filed by individuals or companies.”

Jan 03, 2015 09:01 IST IIFL Anil Mascarenhas and Subhkirti Sinha |

Kunwer Sachdeva, Founder and MD, Su-Kam, as a first generation entrepreneur has built a 1000 Cr company with his understanding of the marketing, keen business acumen and hard work. A graduate in Mathematical Statistics and an LLB from Delhi University, Kunwer Sachdev incepted the Su-Kam company in the year 1998. Mr. Sachdev, then running a small-scale unit for production and marketing of Cable TV accessories, was plagued by frequent power cuts and soon realized that cutting-edge power solution products are a necessity in India.

With a firm belief that solar power could offer solution to the power shortage under Mr. Sachdev’s guidance Su-Kam is now focused on developing innovative solar power solution. The company is constantly working on new technologies & product within the solar space to offer innovative solutions to Institutional, industrial, corporate and home consumers.
 
Su-Kam was founded in the year 1988 by Kunwer Sachdev, popularly referred to as the ‘Inverter man of India’. At present, Su-Kam is one of the leading power back up, generation & monitoring company in India with a wide array of best in class products, in-house R&D center , product innovations, highly efficient manufacturing units, widespread dealer, distributor & service network, robust exports, strong workforce, large project base, numerous awards & recognitions and a wide string of firsts to its credit.
 
Replying to Anil Mascarenhas and Subhkirti Sinha of IIFL, Kunwer Sachdev says, “In order to successfully implement “Make in India”, firm laws must be put into place to improve the facility for granting of a patent filed by individuals or companies.”
 
With the current power crisis in India, how do you see the inverter business growing in the coming year? Do you think the power situation will improve soon in the country?
Right now, all the steps taken by the Government are in the planning stages. There are issues with coal blocks allocation, power shortage and the industry is going through a rough patch. However, the government has shown the right intentions and I expect changes getting visible in 5 years. Therefore, everyone including me, is very hopeful that the industry will grow in the coming decade.
 
As far as Su-kam’s power business is concerned, our focus is on the states which will take long time to stabilise in the power sector, like UP and Bihar. In Telengana, there is a great demand for inverters. So, we are also gradually charting out our plans for the next 5 years. Export is also a growing market for us, like in Africa and Middle-Eastern countries.

Talking about Africa, how big is the market there? Also, could you elaborate a little bit on the India market?
Right now, total exports contribute around 12-15% of the revenue of our entire business, and most of it comes from Africa.
 
Domestically, the sector is very unorganised. There are only three branded companies, including us. For the unorganised sector, we don’t have any data to determine its size. However, they are not very dominant, because they lack the superior technology that we or other good players can offer.
 
The business is also very dealer-driven. So, the customers are buying from the dealers who sell known brands, and choose their products from companies who can give them better servicing, fair price and good after sales support. In the coming years, I see more technologically inclined companies making entry in this business.
 
Can you give us an example of how with the help of technology, you are cutting competition?
Well, it is difficult to explain to customers, and sometimes even to the dealers, of how technologically advanced we are. We did not have any external mechanism to show them of our expertise and superiority of the product at hand. Now, we have taken steps, by which a customer can visually understand that we manufacture better products. For example, in charging technology, we have introduced a concept called ATC (Automatic Temperature Compensation) which are available in our products.
 
Coming back to the question of the states where there is much demand of your products, do you see a demand arising in Mumbai as well?
With the current power scenario, we have experienced good sales in Mumbai as well, which is not a traditional market for us. People are now opting for back-up power, since sometimes there is power cut and work gets interrupted. We have received some orders for elevators and there are signs for future order.
 
What kind of user base do you have? Is the business model generally for retail or you cater to large industrial houses?
Generally, our business is that of retail. Most of our customers use the inverters for their personal use. However, now we are also targeting industrial houses and major corporations. We are also thinking about extending our network to cater to hospitals, which is currently using UPS technology.
 
Where are your research/manufacturing centers in India? Do you face competition from the manufacturing hubs in Asia like China?
We have two manufacturing units in Gurgaon and four units in Himachal Pradesh. An interesting fact is that probably we are the only industry which does not face competition from China, since we have developed maximum technologies in this industry. So, even in the countries of South America and Europe, Indian inverters are a big hit.
 
How do you view the growth of solar sector of your business, given that the current government is pro renewable energy?
Like I said earlier, everything right now is in the planning phase, so it is too soon to comment. However, our solar business has gone big, since state governments are more aggressive than the central government in terms of implementation of projects related to green energy. E.g. Tamil Nadu is very aggressive on solar. One thing that actually works in our favour is that we operate small scale solar power plants and not huge megawatt units.
 
Can you tell about the technology involved in your hybrid solar conversion kit?
Solar Conversion Kit is based on DSP technology. It can be connected with any existing HUPS/inverter and convert it into a solar hybrid powered system. It is built in artificial intelligence gives preference to solar power over main supply to either charge the batteries or to run the connected load, hence utilizing the solar power generated optimally.
 
One of the unique features of Solar Conversion Kit is that it gives you the reading of rupees saved directly on LCD display. The LCD also displays data and information about the system to the user.
 
What % of business comes from the solar vertical?
This year, we would generate 30% of our revenues from the solar business. Last year, it was about 20%.
 
Any plans for CAPEX?
Not in the solar business for now. However, probably in the next year, we would consider investing in our battery business, since they are used in different products. In terms of solar, we are planning to give services to our customers and sell the electricity, but that would be restricted to private individuals and for roof-top installations. We are also in the process of recruiting a lot of people for maintenance activities.
 
Do you offer any financing schemes for solar power installations?
No, not any right now.
 
Is it true that the cost of production of solar panels are high, and hence there is less enthusiasm to install a plant depending on solar power since the cost goes up?
Actually, it is a misnomer. Solar panels are among the cheapest parts to produce. Three years back, a panel used to cost 5 times more than what it is now. The government has decided not to levy any duties on it, so it is viable to source the panels locally. The problem is that people still have the mindset that solar energy needs big capital expenditure in the beginning. However, the cost of installing a plant is recovered in 5 years or so, and after that, for the lifeline of the plant which is atleast 20 years, the business starts generating profits. But, this is not yet clear to a lot of people. One thing that has also worked against the solar power industry is that the people involved did not have a very deep understanding of the industry.
 
With ‘Make in India’ initiative of the government, what do you think are the problems, remedies or the challenges facing the programme, concerning your sector?
How I see it is as our PM has set a great initiative to market India to the global investors. E.g under the National Solar Mission, our goal was to have 20 GW of solar energy by 2020. Now, this has been increased to 100 GW by Narendra Modi, which is a huge step. This would need a lot of investors, manufacturers, and other such different stakeholders to achieve this target. The prime minister has ensured that India is showcased well, and has talked about the plans of the government, and created a blueprint. This has created a positive environment, and of course, the investment will come. With them, there will be problems as well, but then I believe, we can only do better from here.
 
The only thing that I would like to add to ‘Make in India’ is that the patent granting system is very weak in India. I have filed patents for products almost six years ago, which are still in the wait and now the technology has changed. So, in order to create an effective environment for this campaign to work successfully, firm laws must be put into place to improve the facility for granting of a patent. 

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