We believe in generating ideas internally
Tell us something about some of your most innovative products and solutions for the Indian cement industry?
If you look at quality control part of the Indian cement business, we have come up with a solution that is completely modular. In India, quality control is not given the right kind of importance in terms of allocation of funds. With our solutions even, brownfield projects can implement state-of-the-art quality control in steps. We offer a completely robotised lab. We provide you with sample automation first and sample transportation later. You can integrate parts of the sample at convenience. In the end, what you get is a completely integrated solution. So, you can build up your plant over a period of three years.
What drives innovation at your firm? Is it owing to the fact that you lay strong emphasis on in-house R&D?
Absolutely! In India, we have always had this philosophy of buying steel and converting it into machinery. Or buying computers and writing software for them. But at Insmart we don't outsource anything. We believe in generating ideas internally. Right from the CEO to a fitter in our company, we all work together on ideas. The person who is installing the machines is bound to know a lot more about them than a CEO. And this sort of seamless interaction between employees really helps us a great deal. The second most important part in the chain are our customers. Their feedback goes a long way in showing us the way. We familiarise ourselves with their pain points in terms of both technology and costing and try to create solutions for them, accordingly. We are truly beholden to our customers as they have guided us throughout.
You just mentioned as to how you go about managing things in-house. Does that mean that you have a flat hierarchy?
We have a completely flat hierarchy. Everybody gets to air a fair share of their opinions and suggestions. And that also includes our customers. Innovation can't happen in any other way.
How do you elicit customer feedback?
Every month I try to spend at least 15 days listening to my customers. We visit plants to see how they can best be helped with our solutions. Similarly, employee feedback is equally important. For instance, if a plant manager tells our employee as to where a particular machinery has failed, we resolve the issue accordingly. Since we are not just a hydraulics or machine design company, we integrate across domains. That helps us in unrolling innovative solutions to sometimes improve on hydraulics and at other times, software.
What about your expansion plans?
We are expanding rapidly. Our aim is to generate 50 per cent of our revenues from outside India by 2020. It's a big target. And we have worked on a very different recipe for managing this overseas. Unlike other companies, we are not just appointing dealerships but are establishing technical centres. If on the one hand we are training personnel in Saudi Arabia on how to assemble our machines on the other we are also training personnel in Philippines on servicing our machinery. That's the only way we can truly make our presence felt internationally.
What are some of the important disruptions happening in the Indian cement space?
Take the sample transportation system for instance. It requires 15 people round the clock to collect samples from every part of a cement plant. Moreover, you need to dedicate a person for the clinker sampling system, which means you have to send him to collect a sample every one hour from the most dangerous part of the plant. By automating that, we have provided him with an opportunity to be reassigned to something better in the overall process. So, instead of collecting samples, he would be analysing them. It's like re-tooling the person.
This system alone replaces up to 25 people from some of the most dangerous parts of a cement plant, which is essentially a grinding and furnace operation. What we have done is automate collection, transportation and analysis to make it entirely computer controlled. Although cement production may sound like a 200-year old technology, we are constantly trying to improve every aspect of the production process.
Tell us something about robotic solutions.
Insmart has always been a machine design company. We have always answered to the needs of the nation. In fact, one of our highest years of profitability was immediately after the Pokhran II tests in 1998 when foreign suppliers stopped supporting the Indian industry following the US sanctions. We have now decided to pursue manufacture of bigger robots. The reason we intend to do that is because we see even bigger parts of the operation getting robotised. It's kind of future proofing the company.