achutan

The Story of a Reliable Electronic Controller Manufacturer

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Our country India was known as a developing country among the highly developed western world. The High level of population in our country was considered as the main problem for this inferior situation. After completing the preliminary education in my native village Pazhayannur, Trichur Dist., Kerala, I was fortunate to get trained at IITM, Chennai, and subsequently in Germany with a Govt. scholarship, around 1978. I and my wife Meena Achuthan could make many advanced & fascinating observations, being from a poor developing country, during the stay in an advanced country like Germany. All these quality experiences and exposure to various such applications of science, cultures, etc., gave us enough motivation to do something on our part, after returning back to India. After my return, I met many senior/junior persons in ministry/ administration/ police, etc., and discussed the ideas seen in a developed country like Germany. I only had a bicycle at that point of time and most of these people used to send their vehicles to pick me up. 

We both, in the meantime, were fortunate to get selected for an Entrepreneurial Development Program (EDP) by the State Bank of India, which required agencies to pick up only highly motivated and target-oriented participants. During this fully residential EDP of about one month duration, I understood the concept of techno-economics, observing things, how to achieve our goal/dream by resorting to moral & ethical practices, time & task management, the importance of budgeting, managing the performing & non-performing assets, etc. The training we received was excellent and is worth mentioning here.

Although I was qualified as an expert in electronics from IITM and holding two patents at that point of time, we thought of venturing into activities connected with villages. This means we had to plan only by considering manpower, knowledge, etc., with freely available materials in the village, etc., and not electronics. So, we started a firm named Presevi Food by availing a loan of Rs.5000/- from SBI bank in 1984. The word Presevi was formed from “Village FOOD PRESErvation”. The bank’s advice, during EDP, about starting a small-scale venture with an idea of scaling it up later was considered as an important point, particularly we being the first-generation entrepreneurs. 

So, we started processing dehydrated vegetables that could be used by deep frying in oil or by re-hydrating. This food was very popular among the people from south India. The women folks were deployed for cleaning, cutting, blanching, sun drying, packing the final product, etc. I used to get up at 4.00 Hrs. in the morning, catch the bus to go to the main vegetable market, return to the bus line with the vegetables before the buses get crowded. My wife used to process the vegetables and pack for delivery. 

The company registration process, like sales tax, power connection, etc. took a lot of time and required visiting many offices. Few friends in higher positions helped us very much with these tedious tasks.  Although we approached many organizations for marketing our dehydrated vegetables through their outlets, Khadi Gramudhyog Bhavan and a few bakeries came forward to help us out. This tiny food processing firm started growing gradually. 

 

We thought of expanding the outlets by introducing it to many other small shops, bakeries, food chains store, etc. Most of these interactions were done without applying any scientific marketing plan. We even thought of reaching the end customer without the middleman at the time when one had to wait for about three to four years for getting a telephone connection. In other words, our small business, within a period of eighteen months of operation, jumped into a loss of about Rs.30,000/- (which was a big sum those days).   

One evening, the SBI bank manager called both of us to his office and gave us an advice of practical nature. He, from his wide experience with companies, could pinpoint our strengths & weaknesses. He suggested certain remedial measures in his personal and official capacity. I still remember some of his practical advices about dealing with “Performing & non-performing assets”, doing social service only from the profit of the organization and never from the capital, etc. Our food processing company Presevi Food was forced to diversify into Electronics since we had to pay back our liabilities. 

I was good at developing sensors and integrating them into physical systems by designing the required electronic circuits. A few of my friends, employed in a bigger firm, asked me whether I could solve one of their perineal quality-related issues. I could succeed in solving their problem, by designing sensors and associated electronic circuits within about three weeks. They raised my quoted price to Rs 2500/- when I felt that it shall be done with around Rs.180/-. They felt that my solution is worth the money and hence they are paying for it. After observing the good performance and results, they decided to implement the same idea in nine other production lines too. I could solve similar such problems in many other companies as well. All these helped us to pay back our liability of Rs 30,000/- within four months’ time. 

The bank manager advised us to continue with this and not to think of deviating from the present line of activity. In the meantime, a small washing machine manufacturing company in Chennai approached Presevi Design to develop “electronic controllers” for replacing their mechanical timers due to higher importing/cost issues from Japan. We could help them out in their requirement by successfully designing and manufacturing it with certain additional features.  

We both were benefited due to the higher volume of sales. We were maintaining a cordial relationship with healthy business practices. One of their close relatives, an electrical engineer by profession, wished to start the business of making controllers and tried to copy our design. This non-ethical practice of theirs punched a hole in my trust levied in them. I felt like approaching other outstation washing machine manufacturers like Videocon, Sumeet, IFB, etc., situated in Aurangabad, Bombay, Calcutta, etc. Many other small manufacturers also approached me for designing and supplying these electronic controllers. In other words, Presevi Industrial Company, Chennai became a reliable electronic controller manufacturer’s washing machine in the country. 

In the meantime, one fairly big washing machine manufacturer in Delhi approached us for designing and manufacturing electronic controllers on a large scale. Although we could fulfill their requirements and did a healthy business, an economic recession happened in our country. The Bank’s interest rate dropped up to 22 % if I remember right. The company that used to give advance payment along with PO, requested Presevi to extend the credit facility. We borrowed money from the private borrowers at an exorbitant rate to fulfill our P.O, Cash flow and money circulation became worse and Presevi got into financial traps again. 

Being worried about running the firm, we decided to look for other better avenues for survival. Although I designed a few electronic controllers for a big refrigeration company in Bombay and spent three to four days with their R&D team, I got nothing but fundamental knowledge about cooling systems & control algorithms and good advice from a dedicated parse engineer. He advised me not to waste my time & knowledge further with that company and advised me to look for better business opportunities with air conditioning OEMs. 

As per his sincere advice, I approached a few OEMs in the Air-conditioning sector, instead of returning back as a frustrated young person. Even though most of the companies were happy to entertain me, my experience with VOLTAS in Thane was quite different. I could reach their factory in Thane only at around 15.00 Hrs. on a Friday. I was taken to the production manager of their factory when the engineers employed in R&D were impressed by my work. He requested me to come on Monday by 8.00 Hrs. (since Saturday was a holiday for them) and requested me not to go back to Chennai, before meeting them. After reaching there on Monday, as per the specified time, I met various officers in the company and finally the General Manager. I felt as if they were interviewing me for a job. He too got impressed and took me out for lunch along with him with a request to solve many of their engineering problems. Probably this meeting was another turning point in my entrepreneurial journey.

I could design, develop and manufacture many Electronic Controllers for Air conditioning application. I felt that I was a member of their team and never felt that I am an outsider. They permitted me to express my opinion in several R&D meetings since they too did not consider me an outsider. We were educating each other by sharing our strengths and weaknesses. 

I thought that it would be a good idea if we could introduce the IR remote control concept in Air conditioners. Although I approached various big OEMs in this business, VOLTAS came forward to try out the concept. We tried the idea and its market acceptability by retrofitting old air-conditioners that came for service. The trials proved successful and led VOLTAS management to incorporate it in the production line as well. So, VOLTAS introduced the remote-controlled air conditioner for the first in our country. 

Seeing a significant jump in sales for VOLTAS, other OEMs who did not entertain my BBI in the beginning also started approaching PRESEVI for incorporating it in their machine. Introduction of cellular phones and heat removal system from LSCs located anywhere in the country and monitoring from identified MSCs, the introduction of free-cooling with the ambient air if it is conducive for cooling, varieties of controllers for package air conditioners/chillers were developed in our R&D and manufactured. Many MNC companies approached PRESEVI for design work alone apart from buying the controllers. Our company started growing as a successful enterprise with DSIR recognized R&D and two factories. Over the period of existence of about 35 years, PRESEVI could take up many overseas responsibilities and complete them successfully. Our customers and product base started growing very well. We could build and operate from our own R&D center and factories instead of operating from rented premises.  

Presevi Industries Pvt. Ltd could provide reliable, cost-effective electronic controllers to most of the Indian OEMs in HVAC business. We are at an advanced stage of developing scalable bio-medical equipment for a USA customer. It, as a promoter, also gave me good courage to face challenging problems in profession & life, provided financial security with a positive feeling, helped to acquire calculated risk-taking ability, give proper direction with a purpose in life, and finally a mental make-up to remain active even at the age of 70.

Presevi is diversifying into Agri-business. This venture will be functioning at our native village Pazhayannur, in Trichur Dist., Kerala. The outlook of people, communication & transport facilities have changed significantly over the period of 36 years. I am sure that this time our attempt with Agriculture products will not fall into problems since we are proceeding with proper business plans, ideas with a matured, good, experienced, and energetic team.  

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