Last month I was on the road reporting for an article that appears in the current issue of Fortune magazine titled Manufacturing Takes Off. My main trip took me to factories and offices in the cities of Mumbai and Pune, but I also did other shorter journeys.
One was to Noida, an industrial and residential satellite city on the eastern edge of Delhi, across the Yamuna River from the capital’s main urban areas. Noida has never been as fashionable as Gurgaon, Delhi’s other satellite city near the international airport where, for several years, stylish office buildings have sprouted that would look good on more famous Asian skylines like Hong Kong and Singapore.
But Noida is catching up fast and has several surprises. One of them is Moser Baer. In my article, I write about it making CD’s and DVD’s and solar panels for international markets in sanitized production areas.
Another surprise, which I did not have space for in my article, is the Triveni group, an old family owned company that has suddenly re-invented itself as a producer of world quality engineering – proving, as I have written before that India’s manufacturing is successfully combining entrepreneurship and design skills, plus high-class production and after-sales service.
Triveni is an old sugar producing company – one of the three biggest in India – that moved into engineering. It has an ultra-modern office in a shiny new building that overlooks the vast spread of the Jamuna and also houses studios producing local CNN tv content. It’s on a pleasant tree-lined but shambolic street, with chaotic car parking areas, that instantly demonstrates the old and new India. Inside the building, all is efficiency.
Now, with a $30 million investment, it has now turned itself into one of the world’s three leading producers of small (up to 18-20MW capacity) power-generation steam turbines that are in high demand as environmentally-sensitive small-scale plants become popular. It has done this in the past four years by focusing on the technology of the turbine blades, which is the key to its success.
Faced with a choice of selling out, joining up with a big player like GE that would never fully share technology, or going it alone, Triveni chose to stay independent. It went to America and hired Impact Technology Consultants of Boston to design a family of ultra fine tapered and twisted turbine blades, working to specifications set by professors from Britain and Indian universities who set milestones and provided general advice.
“You can’t expect to have expertise like that in a small company,” says Dhruv Sawhney, Triveni’s chairman and managing director, who runs the company with his two sons, Nikhil and Tarun.
The turbines have a 75% market share in India and the target for this year is 80%. Abroad it has 20%. That means beating established giants like Siemens and stopping newcomers. “We’ve blocked out Chinese and other competitors from coming in,” says Sawhney.
Turbine sales are growing at 30% a year and make up about a third of the company’s $315m sales. After-sales service includes a guarantee that an engineer will arrive on site within 48 hours of being called, though it usually only takes 24 hours.
Sawhney makes the same point as other Indian companies that his engineers are better than the Chinese at service work and maintenance because they are far more flexible. “Our engineers go to mend something and they also understand how the whole machine works,” he says.
I asked Sawhney why he hadn’t started this ten or more years ago. His answer echoed what many other companies have told me.
“It was a lack of confidence – we didn’t realize India’s potential and I was happy with my small market share,” says Sawhney. “We didn’t realize we could reach global scale.”