Our Leader’s Vision Directs Our Progress
Bengaluru-headquartered Bharat Fritz Werner (BFW), which started in the year 1961 as a manufacturer of Milling Machines, has evolved over the years to emerge as a leading machine tools company with a major impetus on research and development. In the recent few years, BFW has launched a series of initiatives such as organizing an annual Manufacturing Day, opening Dr Kalam’s Centre for Innovation and suchlike that have positioned the company as not only as one of the industry’s knowledge leaders, but also an industry champion that seeks to put India’s manufacturing industry on the global map. Dynamic Manufacturing got the opportunity to speak with Ravi Raghavan, CEO, BFW who has had a key role in shaping this vision and translating it into reality. The interview contains unmissable takeaways for manufacturing industry stakeholders, particularly for those aspiring to don leadership roles in the industry.
A Mechanical Engineer by training, you now lead as CEO one of the leading Indian machine tools company. Can you share with our readers your ascent from the initial days of career to the current position – with important lessons and takeaways from your career for MEs who aspire to be CEOs one day?
One tenet that I have always followed is that hard work pays. It may not pay immediately -- one has to have patience. I strongly believe that success is 99 percent hard work and 1 percent luck. You won’t get your share of luck unless you put in hard work. At the same time, you need that 1 percent of luck to be a Centurion. To give you another example of how that one percent of luck matters: You work very hard and get into the IIT but you have to be lucky to get a professor who can make a huge amount of difference to your life. I have been very fortunate along the way to have got the chance to work with some excellent bosses. I worked very hard to get a role with Crompton Greaves and I was lucky to work with a very demanding boss, a perfectionist to the core.
Can you share his name with us?
Mr SM Trehan (Sudhir Mohan Trehan, exMD, Crompton Greaves, now Chairman, Avantha Power and Infrastructure Ltd).
What are the top learnings you remember from the time that you worked with him?
I have learned a lot from him and I’ve tried to practice some of those things. One is the amount of importance that he gave to youngsters, how he would challenge them and make them do tough tasks that would help them realize their true potential. He never made you feel bad for the failures. All the people who have worked with him have gone on to have really successful careers. Two, you can’t only preach – you have to practice it too. If you say that you need people to be punctual, you have to come to the meetings in time. You can’t be coming late to the meetings and expect the customer to believe that you can deliver the product to him on time. Most importantly, you can only become a leader if you have integrity.
How would you define integrity?
Integrity is the courage to do what you believe in even when nobody is watching you.
After Crompton Greaves, you joined GEC Alsthom and then Tecumseh.
GEC Alstom is where I learned how to manage expectations in a way that is a winwin for everyone – there I had an Indian boss and a French boss each of whom had different expectation but one learned to meet the demand in the best possible way. From there I moved to Tecumseh Products Company. I joined in 97 and I left in 2013. It was a long and memorable journey that spanned 16 years. I joined as a senior manager and rose to the position of the MD. When I started, a couple of people told me that there is a big difference between the other places where you have worked and Tecumseh. You were making a few machines a month there, and we make a product every second – you can’t succeed here. One of the things I learned is something that I also share with people in my current organisation – relearning is an important skill. A strategy that has proved successful once may not prove successful again. You have keep on relearning and improving. At Tecumseh, as an MD, I used to do this exercise where I would put a youngster in charge of a cross-functional team of which I would be a part. The idea was the youngsters in the organization should not accept everything that you say. One of the reasons that it made it a great organization was the fact that you could not become a functional head unless you have a cross-functional experience under your belt.
There is an impression or refrain in the industry that a CEO has to come from a customer-facing function such as sales or marketing. As a Mechanical Engineer donning the mantle of CEO of a large organization, what is your message to other CEO aspirants from your function?
i believe that a CEO needs to have the whole range of functional experiences. I have [not only] spent a lot of time in manufacturing operations, I have also headed IT and have been a global director for business processes, which is a totally different experience – my team had 29 members from different parts of the world. In addition, I have also have headed sales and marketing, business development, handled projects, was head of engineering, and so on. This has all been the part of the grooming I have got being a part of all these organizations. That said, at the end of the day, a CEO has to work for the customer. He/she has to be able to help the customer solve his problem, and earn his respect. A customer expects from you a longterm value proposition – is the CEO a person who can build and manage his organization that will help our partnership to grow? That is something I also expect as a customer – not that the CEO has to be very strong in sales and marketing.
Last year, you organized Manufacturing Day in Pune and have also held the eminent position of Chairman, CII Karnataka State Council for 2016-17. Can you share with us your vision for India’s manufacturing industry – from the perspectives of Karnataka’s role in the growth of Indian’s manufacturing industry as well as Mission Make in India?
I believe Make in India is one of the key initiatives introduced and driven by the Honourable PM. I think it’s very important for us to realise as citizens that the manufacturing sector’s contribution to GDP is abysmally low at 16-17 percent. The biggest imperative that Make in India is going to address is that of providing gainful employment to our youth. If we don’t address that objective in time, we may have social issues at hand due to unemployment. We need to realize that Indians have a natural ability to excel at mathematics and IT. We can leverage this strength of ours to take the manufacturing industry to the next level. Our country needs a huge boost in manufacturing, and we already have this ready army with you to help us realize that goal. I am very bullish about this initiative. Combining these two elements – the IT savvy of our youth and the dynamism and strength of our manufacturing industry – can put us on a fast-track to attaining the status of ‘smart manufacturing’ or industry 4.0 as it is popularly called.
What you’ve shared is a simple yet a great idea which should be considered at the policy level – I wonder why more leaders haven’t figured it out yet.
To be fair, industry associations such as CII and industry leaders including CEOs have started to talk about it. Achieving it may take time, but people have started to realize that the aspiration is attainable with the strengths that we have. That brings me to your question about Karnataka’s role in Mission Make in India. Karnataka has been a leading force in manufacturing that has given birth to highly respected entities such as ISRO and HAL. Yet, over the last decade the spotlight moved to IT. However, thanks to government’s intensified efforts to promote manufacturing in the state, the sector has started to attract talent. With the dual advantage of IT leadership and the strong culture of manufacturing, Karnataka is well poised to become India’s leading manufacturing hub.
What is the thought behind Manufacturing Day, the event that you organize every year?
Personally, I .am passionate about manufacturing, and as a company, BFW has been passionate about manufacturing for over 55 years, evident from the fact that it has introduced newer technologies every year. Manufacturing Day is our way of contributing to the growth of industry in terms of increased awareness, dissemination of knowledge of new ideas and sharing of best practices. Just to be clear, it is not a marketing event for us – we see it as a day of celebration for the entire industry. This year, we organized Manufacturing Day in Gurgaon were we had the presence of Mr Sonam Wangchuk (who inspired thecharacter of Phunshukh Wangdu of 3 Idiots). Mr Wangchuk is a Ladakhi engineer, innovator, and education reformist. Along with him, we had leaders of renowned companies such as Rolls Royce’s Mr Kishore Jayaraman
Bharat Fritz Werner (BFW), that started in the year 1961 as a manufacturer of Milling Machines, has evolved over the years to a leading provider of integrated automation solutions with a major impetus on R&D – can you share with us a summary of the companies evolution from your perspective and the its vision in the near and long term?
I have been fortunate to be associated with this brand. BFW has always stayed ahead of the curve. From 1964 onwards, right from the time of the Fritz Werner JV, BFW has always been respected for its engineering skills and products. This is the paradigm of excellence that we want to continue with. We want to continue being a company that works with customers as a partner and helps in the growth of the customer. To give you an example in how we ensure that, we have a cross-functional team working with a Japanese manufacturing leader. As part of the collaboration, we conduct monthly discussions, wherein we learn more about how to make a better product and they learn more about how to use the machine more effectively.
BFW, has announced a major facility expansion recently for its Hosur and Bangalore locations to attain the enhanced market demand. Can you share with us the requirement and the objective of the expansion?
We have been strong in milling technologies. A lot of clients came to ask us about turning machines as they were using our Machine Centres. So three years ago we ventured into turning machines because we wanted to give a complete solution to the customers. We believe that now with the current portfolio, we are going to grow much faster. With the government’s drive to increase Manufacturing from the current 17 percent of GDP to 24 percent, we see a huge demand for machines in the next five years, Plus, newly opened sectors such as aerospace and defence are also going to take off. We want to double our capacity which will be sufficient for us for the next 3-4 years.
In 2016, BFW established Dr Kalam’s Centre for Innovation. Can you share with us its objective and role in the expansion of your company?
Dr Kalam’s Centre for Innovation is a big step towards putting a structure to our research and innovation endeavours. The mandate of the Centre is to do applied research which we can use in the development and application of the machines. We have been big admirers of Late Dr Kalam – we got in touch with the family and they were kind enough to allow us to use the name. They were present at the launch of the centre.
India’s manufacturing industry faces a perpetual challenge in the area of Talent Management particularly in the areas of finding and retaining the right talent. What are your views on this issue?
The paucity of skilled talent is a big challenge for manufacturing companies. During the last decade, the best talent was drawn to the IT and financial sectors. You will see a lot of companies in the manufacturing sector, where you will see a gap in the middle management. The good news is that now that trend is reversed – a lot of new talent is joining the manufacturing industry. Typically, manufacturing companies are conservative in approach – it is a good thing that they are now attracting youngsters who are brimming with new ideas and think differently. People in the senior management have a lot to learn from the young people and vice versa. Organisation that can manage this balance will grow fast. At BFW, our aim is to democratise knowledge so that everyone, including the youngsters, is able to add maximum value to their work and therefore the organization.
- Ravi Raghavan - MD, BFW
Courtesy : All images and content have been taken from Dynamic Manufacturing