Friday, 1 April 2011

I came into being in the year 1990, more by default than by design, since my founders Krishna and Malhotra had lost their jobs as successful sales professionals, as the company they then worked for had suddenly wound up, leaving them both jobless! To add to their woes, Krishna had just become a father and Malhotra's wedding was on the anvil.
It was under these trying circumstances that an enterprise in the name and style of KAM ASSOCIATES was formed in Pune with a meager paid up capital of Rupees 501 and a huge desire to succeed.

It all began when TTG Industries Ltd., a Chennai based Engineering company, agreed to offer us the marketing rights for their manual drain cleaners, then called the 'Krait' and a portable high pressure water jet system called the 'Magnum Mini'.
Rearing to go we went all out, demonstration after demonstration followed, and within a span of 6 months, we had received orders from many a leading industries, hospitals, hotels, garrison engineers in and around Pune.

Sales for the first year ending March-1991 was around Rs. 8 lakhs, followed by a sales of Rs. 20 lakhs in the subsequent year.This initial success gave us the courage to expand our operations to Mumbai and thereafter to the whole of Maharashtra and Western India

To ensure further credibility and continuity, KAM ASSOCIATES was dissolved and KAM MARKETING PRIVATE LIMITED incorporated on February 16, 1993 with a paid-up capital of Rupees 8 lakhs. I knew I was growing, and was experiencing the pangs of this journey.

Our sales team grew from 2 to 4. Malhotra moved to Mumbai. We hired our first car, a second hand Maruti Omni for him to travel and make sales calls.
Our sales began to gradually increase and we closed 1994 with sales of Rs. 41 lakhs and crossed a crore in 1995.

TTG by then had allowed us to sell their range of chassis mounted drain cleaners meant for Civic Bodies. Malhotra handled this operation and we soon got our first break from Aurangabad Municipal Corporation, followed by a 10 machine order from M/s Cidco, New Mumbai with a 5 year Operational Maintenance Contract. This was a World Bank funded International competitive bid which exposed us to the art of tendering in Civic Bodies.

We divisionalized our operations with Malhotra heading the Vehicle Mounted Systems Division (VMSD) to sell chassis mounted sewer cleaning equipment and Krishna  the Pressure Power Division (PPD) to sell high pressure water jet systems and manual drain cleaners besides overseeing accounts and other back end operations.
It was then that one Mrs. Ganesan joined to form our one-member back end team to handle accounts, office administration, logistics & sales support. True to her name, she single handedly overcame all forms of obstacles (Vighnaharta) that we so often faced in our infancy. Some of the process she initiated are still followed today.
Our sales continued to grow from 1.16 crores in 1996 to 2.13 crores in 1997 and 1.85 in 1998, and alongside our list of customers grew, to include the leading Municipal Corporations in Western India such as Mumbai, Pune, PCMC, Baroda in VMSD and leading companies such as Bajaj Auto, Telco, The Venkateshwara Group, Padamjee Pulp and Paper, Railways, The TAJ group of hotels etc in PPD.

It was then that we articulated our corporate philosophy  DRAIN CLEANING WITH EASE AND DIGNITY in line with our conviction of bringing about mechanization to this daunting task.  We thus wound up PPD and focused on the sales of truck-mounted sewer cleaning equipment only for TTG.

As all this was happening at KAM MARKETING, we genuinely felt the need to put up our own back-end outfit for the manufacturing of a range of drain-cleaning machines for the Commercial markets of India.
It was then through a common friend, by the name of Vivek Bhide, that we joined hands with Avinash Bhende and Porus Dadachanji, two Marine Engineers who after having weathered the sea for over two decades, were looking for a shore-based assignment. Thus, a new entity in the name and style of KAM-AVIDA Enviro Engineers Pvt. Ltd. was incorporated on April 19, 1995, with a paid-up capital of Rs. 50 lakhs. A new chapter unfolded, from being only a sales and marketing company, we ventured into manufacturing with Porus in-charge of this operation. Porus thus rightfully being called the Father of all machines.

The first product to be launched was the Retriever, which was in fact made in the car park of Dadachanji's residence with most of his neighbours yelling at us for the noise and ruckus that we created. It was indeed a new high to conceive, design, manufacture and sell one's own product.

This was soon followed by the launch of India's first trolley-mounted motorised cable spinner model, the Kambore 1075, and then by the Kamrodder, a trolley-mounted cabling-cum-rodding machine, and to be subsequently followed by a range of indoor drain cleaner the Kambore NM, the closet cleaner Kambore CC, and the manhole de-silter Kamgrab.

Armed with these range of drain-cleaners our sales operations grew nation-wide. We had a bunch of highly energised sales guys in Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Baroda, Mumbai and Pune, who were unknowingly defying an age old tradition of cleaning drains manually in India with easy-to-operate and convenient alternative. Our user list read like the who's who of corporate India. Be it a hotel, hospital, PWD, club, industry, railways, we had made inroads all across.
Some of the above sales personnel who made all this possible are in fact still a part of the KAM team, though in different roles. Each of them run their own successful enterprise as our Sales Co-ordinators, to name a few, C B Lachwani- M/s Hitesh Associates Baroda, Vijay Kumar- V K Associates Hyderabad, Amresh Awasthi-Amtech Delhi, T. Nagraj-Sadhna Enviro Engineers Bangalore, Manohar Nair-Venus Enviro Engineers Mumbai.
TTG by then had grown from a mid-sized company to over a 200-crore outfit and had even gone public, but for some reasons best known to them, which on hindsight seems more like a blessing in disguise, they lost complete interest in this SPACE and thus we ventured for the first time in 1997 to manufacture our first-ever truck mounted suction cum jetting unit for sewer cleaning, christened the Kambi. This was a huge leap forward for us as the unit price of this machine was over Rs. 15 lakhs, when our prevailing average unit price then was less than Rs. 50 thousand. This unit in fact represented a complete change/milestone in the history of such equipment in India as unlike other available lesser expensive options, we had sourced all critical components such as the power take-off pumps, etc. from internationally renowned manufacturers. This practice has since then stayed on with almost all tenders specifying the use of such components. Quality for sure paid off. Today we have more than a thousand such machines working nation-wide with majority of them coming as repeat orders.

We notched up a sale of around Rs. 2.24 crores in 1998-99, followed by Rs. 2.4 crores and Rs. 4.2 crores in the subsequent two years.
All this while we had been working out of 500 sq. ft. shed in Kirkee, Pune. With majority of our assembling  activity being carried out outdoor with the sky as our roof.
It was in the year 2000 we put-up a 5000 sq. ft. factory shed in a private industrial estate in Hinjewadi a location that just had acres and acres of open fields man made pathways, tons of fresh air…
Which today is the most happening and fastest growing IT park with all the infrastructure and amenities. This  move was indeed a blessing in disguise.

I was now 7 and had notched up a turnover of Rs. 420 lakh with a highly committed team of 22 members in place; all set to take on the world, with Mr. S. Krishnan leading the back-end operations. The others who have traveled the path me since then are Mr. Satyavan Sakat, Mr. Abraham  George, Mr. Hanumant Adsul, Mr. Sanjay Birangal, Mr. B. Swamy and  Mr. Dhananjay Fattepure  to name a few.
Until now, everything seemed hanky dory. Business was rising, we got ourselves a new premises and we thought life would continue this way until suddenly, one ugly Saturday afternoon mid June 2001 -- the Board fell apart due to major professional differences.
I felt betrayed, down and hopeless – more so for my team members whohad until now unflinchingly upheld our corporate philosophy of Sewer Cleaning and Maintenance with Ease and Dignity

The 5 member Board which had till now, cohesively nurtured me decided to go their ways, leaving Krishna the task of plotting my destiny.                                              In spite of them parting, I believe they are still great friends and Mr. Porus Dadachanji was big hearted enough to come back, join the bandwagon and help the Kam team once again.

Like His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says, “Opposite values are indeed complementary”. One learns to appreciate and relish the good, only when one experiences the bad.

The Kam team showed great resilience. We re-grouped and ensured business was as usual - without a blip and ended 2001-02 with a sale of around Rs. 452 lakh.  
We hired a new engineering chief that year – Mr. P.V. Raibagkar, fondly called PVR, who induced a radical approach to engineering, creating ample space for his team to both challenge and collaborate, bringing out the best in them.

Mr. PVR and team took upon themselves the task of launching a range of rear end loading compactors when faced with an adverse opportunity of having to deliver over 40 such machines within 3 months to Mumbai's leading garbage collection and transportation contractors.  This was our first B2B exposure and we, till date, enjoy their loyalty for our products. These mobile compactors are branded as the Kampac and we have over 700 such machines working across India. 

He also went on to successfully implement the Enterprise Resource Planning Software (ERP) along with Mr. Abraham George, who has taken this to greater heights since then.

We commenced our sales and service operations both in Delhi and Hyderabad that year. Tob be followed by, Bangalore, Chennai and Jaipur the next year.

We ended 2002-03 with sales crossing the Rs. 5 crore mark. We signed our first international association with the World's leading manufacturers of hook-loaders and cranes, M/s Palfinger.

It was during the Dussera of 2003 that the entire Kam team jointly attended the Part 1- Art of Living Course, initiating the commencement of daily yoga and pranayam at the workplace; followed by a weekly Saturday Satsang which continues till date.

The year 2003-04 saw a quantum leap in sales ! We crossed Rs. 750 lakh.

We launched India's first IS compliant sewer cleaning rods called the Kamrod. We sold our first hooklifts to the Nagpur Municipal Corporation, capable of rolling off and on a 20 cubic meter container for the collection and transportation of municipal solid waste.

We deployed for the first time on a Build Own Operate (BOO) basis - 12 units of our suction cum jetting machine – the Kambi 8LC on a 16ton GVW Chassis to M/s Delhi Jal Board.

As I turned 10, the Kam team grew to a size of 30 and team building initiatives such as the Annual Picnic (1st of October), Seva and Sports Day (30th of April) and Thanks Giving Day (25th of January) commenced and have stayed on since then as events that we all look forward to year after year.   All these events have been conceived and carried out by Mrs. Priya Gopujkar and her team from M/s Kam Communication consisting of Mr. Mahendra Lonkar and Mr. Prakash Masalkhamb.

Sales for some reason stagnated until end March 2006. We languished around the 7 crore mark even though we tried every trick in the book to take this further, but in vain. Perhaps it was time to rewrite the rules. This is exactly what we did and sales for the year 2006-07 grew to Rs. 1800 lakh. The Kam team had now grown to a size of 57 members.

Some of the highlights were – the introduction of the Kambi High flow series for the de-silting of trunk sewers through pneumatic conveying and the Kam Sweep 3AT, India's first attachment mechanical sweeper, ideal for sweeping roads of industrial and commercial establishments. We received our ISO accreditation the same year. Our design department moved from 2D drafting to 3D modeling.

We signed an agreement with M/s Johnston Sweepers Ltd, UK to mount their range of vacuum sweepers, the VT series, on Indian chassis for our domestic market. We have sold more than 50 such units till date.

We commenced a new sales vertical called the Large Systems Division (LSD) to address the collection and recovery of industrial spillages such as cement and other bulk, free flowing material and non-volatile hydro carbons resulting in the launch of 2 new machines – the Kamvac IVC and the Kamvac Petro Series. This division is currently headed by Mr. S. Hari Kumar, who, along with his 3 member team of Mr. K. Rangarajan (Chennai), Mr. M.K. Shrinivasan (Bangalore) and Mr. Sudip Bandyopadhya (Kolkatta) and back office support of Mr. Shivaji Aware & Mr. Ashish Patel have painstakingly built this operation to a size of over 10 crores and see a great potential ahead. Mr. Hari is now ramping up his sales force by adding 8 more locations.

Besides the above 2 machines, this division today sells a host of other specials such as High Speed Runway Sweeper and Runway Rubber Remover in association with M/s Beam A/S, Billund, Denmark.

With growth came the pangs of pain – the need for higher working capital, space, infrastructure, improved processes, skilled manpower and so on. We knew this was only possible through higher infusion of funds, as Krishna, as an individual had borrowed to the maximum extent possible from financial institutions. There was not a friend or a relative he knew who had not invested/had an FD in Kam-Avida. This may not have been possible but for the huge contribution made by relatives of Krishna – Mrs. Renuka Krishna, Mrs. Geeta Krishna (Krishna's sister in law), Mr. Chandar Swamy, Mr. Shankar Swamy, Mrs. Dinoo Swamy, Mr. Sundar Swamy, and Mr. Krishna Shivram and friends like Mr. Bharat Gopujkar and family as well as Mr. Uday Godbole. Besides the above, Mr. M.K. Kanade, who joined as a Finance Consultant in the late 90's, who now, is not just our Finance Director but Krishna's mentor and of course my huge well-wisher, also made substantial financial contributions along with his relatives.I remain eternally grateful to all for their timely support.

It was in the middle of 2007 that Mr. M.K. Kanade undertook a major re-structuring program which included changing of our bankers from United Western Bank to Axis Bank, beefing up our Finance team with Mr. S. Suryawanshi as its head and deciding to accept Private Equity by appointing M/s O3 Capital to find an appropriate investor.

Among the options that we had, we chose to walk the path ahead with M/s Peepul Capital, a decision, on hindsight we believe just couldn't have been better, not just for the valuation and equity they brought in but for the vast intangibles they continue to bring ! Thank you Mr. Sandeep Reddy, Mr. Venkat, Mr. Rajgopal and Ms. Payal Goel !
I'm proud to have you on board!

By now our Kam team had grown to 78 and sales for the financial year 2007-2008 crossed Rs. 23 crores.  We thought it fit to introduce some serious HR processes and appointed M/s HR Solutions – Mrs. Vandana Vishnu as our consultant, who along with her associate Mr. Vivek Kaul put in place, a host of internal processes such as a clear organizational structure, a performance management system, a learning and development schedule, a talent management program and so on. Mr. Vivek Kaul has since then continued to offer his expertise, now as an independent consultant, and has taken our HR initiatives miles ahead to say the least. Besides the above we also initiated a personality development program across wherein teachers from the Vedanta Academy, Malavali conduct a one hour session every Monday morning on human values and self development based on Vedanta...

It was half way through this year that some very significant events took place  – 
Mr. R.M. Gupta, ex-CGM of M/s Ordinance Factory, Dehu Road, decided to join us post his retirement, as Director of Operations. There has been no looking back since then, as regards scaling up and stream lining our manufacturing and its allied back-end activities. We have since then created additional work space of over 60,000 sq feet and put in a host of contemporary systems which has increased our throughput significantly. We dispatch more than one machine a day and all this would not been possible but for the continued loyalty and dedication of our vendors. Many of them have stood with us ever since our inception.

Mr. Hemant Ogale, ex-MD of DeLaval, joined us as Vice President, Commercial Sales Division (CSD) to bring back its lost glory as it had completely lost its relevance ever since we entered the Municipal segment.
Happy days of CSD are indeed back again and today CSD offers not just drain cleaning equipment, like in the past, but ride on sweepers, floor scrubbers, commercial vacuum cleaners and a variety of commercial cleaning durables.

With all the above happening, sales continued to grow – we crossed 35 crores in 2008-09 and 55 crores in 2009-10 and the Kam team grew to a size 108 with full fledged branch offices in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata.  Majority of this growth was made possible by the contribution made by the Municipal Sales Team consisting of – Mr. Vijay Dhawan (Delhi), Mr. Shitalkumar Somani (Mumbai), Mr. V.K. Naidu (Kolkata), Mr. Shripad Muley (Pune) and Mr. S Vasudevan (Chennai). This division – MSD – have over a 1000 machines working nationwide which could not have been possible but for the unflinching after sales support that Mr. Mukunnan Nair and team have been consistently providing.