Inside the Mind of a 23 Year Old Indian NextGen

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Kanishka Arumugam

Kanishka Arumugam is the perfect example of the kind of NextGen this blog is all about. Young entrepreneurial people with a can do aptitude; an authentic leader that knows what he wants from life and goes for it. In this interview, this young NextGen surprised me with his maturity and wisdom. Kanishka Arumugam shares his family story and hopes for the future. Please, enjoy it!

1. Kanishka Arumugam tell me about you and your family business, Deccan Pumps Group, in India

I am from Coimbatore, an industrial and entrepreneurial city in south India, dubbed as pump city of Asia, known for its world class Pump Manufacturers, Textile Industries, International Educational Institutions, and also an emerging IT hub.

I am fortunate to be a second generation member of the Deccan Pumps Group. I grew up around the business and decided to be an entrepreneur from a very young age and this passion drove me to learn from organizations around the globe. Thanks to my prestigious alma maters of Sheffield, Leeds and Stanford Universities, that groomed me in many ways.

My father P. Arumugam and his uncle K.K. Veluchamy founded Deccan Pumps 32 years ago with a mission to make the life of farmers better by manufacturing superior reliability pumps. Today Deccan is a closely held conservative group with an annual turnover of around Rs 100 core focused on pumps also with its presence on Fluid Handling Distribution, Real Estate and Education. The brand is one among the Top 5 manufacturers of submersible pumps in the country and it remains Asia’s largest producer of vertical open well submersible pumps.

My father is a keen philanthropist. He runs a home for elders, has a desire to turn his ancestry farm into a model agricultural unit, and spends time in upgrading the basic infrastructure of his home village.

He believes not in chasing numbers but in giving back to society in as many ways as possible. Recently, he undertook a not-for-profit initiative and incepted the Info Institute of Engineering, along with his friends, mainly for the first generation learners of the country.

One can have simple living and be content but when it comes to business I believe one should never think twice about making it bigger. And this is what my dad and I often argue about. However such arguments help me evolve and I get to know the perceptions of the previous generation and absorb whatever is suitable in the current scenario.

Last year, after my graduation, I spent time with a few European family owned manufacturers and also had a short stint at Xylem, a non-family owned American company, the world’s largest producer of pumps and systems. Its major competitor was a Danish family owned company.

I was awestruck to learn how a family tradition could bloom into an industry that gives its competitors a tough time.

2. What’s your thoughts on building a Socially Responsible Company?

As mentioned earlier, a few years ago I often wondered why my father started a not- for- profit engineering college, a home for the elderly, rural development programs and similar activities instead of just growing the business. But now I realize that companies which are long lasting have a broader outlook and contribute to society in crucial fields such as education, healthcare, women empowerment and for a lot of other important social causes. The Forbes, Godrej, TATAs, Thermax and Wadias, are all living examples of this in India.

Last month when I was in Germany I visited my friend’s family owned company VIEGA, a fifth generation company which is into pipes and systems. It was interesting to learn how the family and business have involved the small town of Anttendorn in a larger way and how the feeling of goodness has been spread across from the taxi drivers of the company. Also the spirit of entrepreneurship and drive for growth is clearly seen in the fifth generation more than in the previous generations.

It is very essential for all the next generation family members to involve the society and community at large, in which they operate, and also to help the underprivileged and make the world a better place. A company’s purpose is just not to acquire wealth and markets but also to contribute to the society in which they live. This is an important value in creating long lasting organizations.

What do you think about Value system in a family operated company?

Care for the members (employees), humility, simple living with high thinking, involving the society, respect and care for the underprivileged, professional management with family members on board and taking part in participative management are important to the company.

The role of family business leadership can no longer be authoritative; only an all inclusive leadership model with the best value system works in today’s business organization. To put it in a nutshell, the secret behind a successful business is long term thinking, highly ethical practices strong values of family spirit, integrity, value delivery to customers and developing an entrepreneurship attitude in every employee. Keeping the company financially stable and risk-proof, safeguarding and adding value to the business: these must be the goal of a Next Gen member who wishes to grow his company in leaps and bounds.

Kanishka brief me about your opinion on Ownership, Management and Family.

Ownership, Management and Family should be viewed differently among the next generation members.

Your father might have been a great product designer who helped the company grow, but that doesn’t mean the next generation could follow or repeat the same. There is no point in just holding positions, adding value to the business is more important.  Perform else take a back seat.

Family involvement in a company definitely helps it grow at a much faster pace since the outputs are going to benefit their whole generation. More than money, emotions and attachments drive individuals towards better growth.

I believe family owned companies and the next generation should clearly differentiate between ownership, management and families. When these collide it gets complicated outside of the office too. It is simple when said, but I’m sure it is difficult to practice. My father and I might have a disagreement inside the office room, but that should not hinder the father-son relationship. My style of working is different from my dad’s. It doesn’t mean one is right and the other is wrong; we have to find our own strengths and contribute.

Is there any family structure in Deccan Pumps Group? Your group recently announced a Spin off.

Its sad we had to do this, we tried our best but was too late. Also the chief emotional officer my grandfather was no longer there . There was no issues for money or business.

In India sometimes families grow faster than businesses and so we are forced to draw agreements for securing the future of the business and the brand value of what our previous generations have created. We, at the Deccan Pumps Group, are currently working on ownership and brand sharing methods with the next generation members. The ultimate goal is to secure the business, brand value and at the same time allow every member of the family to pursue their interests.

Every next generation family member should be on a stewardship / trustee role. I find myself not as a maverick, but as a star in my own way. Gen-next entrepreneurs are fortunate to be born in privileged families and should be thankful for their education and resources that not many are fortunate to have in a country like India. So we should add value to what the previous generations have created, protect it and pass it on to the next generation.

Brilliant. What’s your future Goals?

I’m just 23 years old and have a long way to go and I am sure my thought process and learning will evolve as I observe, learn and grow. I strongly believe that every next generation member should spend time in at least two companies briefly before joining their family business. It gives one a great learning curve of how business families work across the globe, which elevates the thought processes and enhances entrepreneurial skills.

I’m looking forward to creating a great family owned company with strong values and best practices that I have seen and learnt in the last few years across the globe and act as a trustee to the future generations. One thing I have learnt from the west is that family companies are held by Foundations and work on the model of investing all profits back into the company where the family is allowed only a small percentage of profit. I shall try working out a similar model.

The next ten years is very crucial for the country. I’m sure there can be a lot of globally competitive family owned companies from India across all sectors, if family companies practice the best processes and systems. I hope to put myself to work and add value to what my father has created. I’m sure every next gen member is talented, unique and can contribute in their own way – be it CSR, Marketing or Research.

The internships I went through, systems I worked in, diverse cultures I experienced and talented individuals I met, have left an indelible mark in my life.

I’m currently working on a project setting up a state-of-the-art new plant with the experiences and processes I have seen across the globe. Though not a mega plant, I aim to make it a very efficient one. I found the brand Deccan Pumps strong only in certain segments. So my new Brand extension line would help create a new perception among customers and drive towards growth.

The products are being designed and upgraded to world-class standards with a great emphasis on manufacturing systems and process technology. The new plant is a small test that I’m putting myself to. It will also increase our productivity in one product line up to five times.

My Professors in Stanford and Sheffield have always been good mentors and when I shared this idea they felt that this startup would help me learn quickly all aspects of business and if I perform well I will be ready for a bigger role.

Perform and Preserve, else Perish. Also, if one fails to safeguard the business and grow, it’s a crime. With a strong support of the previous generations and the wide global exposure that we have access to, it’s time we next gens create history!

Kanishka Arumugam

Deccan Pumps Private Limited

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