It was an era of license-raj and multiple windows when one sought to start a company. The right to information often met with a premature death at the hands of the peons of powerful bureaucrats- the tables and shelves of whom were the graveyards of many entrepreneurial ambitions as the inertia of babudom took years to move these applications from one table to another.
So what prompted Rajiv to start his own company when serving lifetime in an organization was still an accepted norm in 80s'?
"Well, the above-mentioned challenges spawned opportunities too," reminisces Rajiv who started his career in 1985 as a mechanical engineer with Fluid Air Pvt. Ltd. "My job was to service the technical requirements of cement production plants. Interfacing with customers taught me the nuances of marketing, customer service and addressing the grievances of our clients."
In those days all big manufacturing plants in India were set up with the collaboration of European countries. However, maintenance of these plants was an issue as engineers found it difficult to service the huge machines due to lack of proper equipment and tools, which were available only in the west. Manufacturers had to procure an import license to bring in such equipment. "It was a long winding procedure due to the license-raj and a restrictive foreign exchange policy. There was a huge need gap and I decided to offer a single window solution to all the manufacturers," says Rajiv.
He set up Gemini Marketing Services (now called Gemini Power Hydraulics Pvt Ltd) in 1988 with Rs5000. The company offered to import the technical products, look after the foreign exchange, deliver the machines to the manufacturer and commission it to the plant. "There was no company offering such kind of service," adds Rajiv who focused on pvt sector, which was coming up in a big way post the liberalisation of the early 90s'. Soon, Tata Power hired them for their maintenance services and that set the ball rolling.
In 2003 Rajiv established Fagioli PSC India Pvt Ltd. an Anglo-Italian joint venture specializing in the niche area of Heavy Lifting. "I also saw an excellent opportunity in the equipment rental business due to the huge infrastructure costs in our Indian economy. In 2007, Rajiv set up Gemini Equipment and Rentals Pvt. Limited (GEAR), to acquire, plan, monitor, maintain and provide a comprehensive fleet of equipment to meet the industry's rising demand for equipment and resources in an endeavor to generate maximum value for its customers.
The investment commitment in GEAR is US$15 mn. Private Equity firms, Berggruen Holdings and Cycladic Capital LLP have co-invested as strategic financial partners along with Rajiv.
"We have an asset fleet of 262 as of now and would scale-up to 500 by the end of financial year 2009-10," asserts Rajiv who counts L&T and Reliance as some of their major clients. The company employs 800 people and has regional presence in strategic locations of Ahmedabad, Bhopal, Bhubaneshwar, Lucknow, New Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata and Secunderabad."
"Most of the equipment rental companies are service offshoots of big manufacturing companies and they don't have many choices. GEAR buys the best equipment in the market and is emerging as India's leading provider of the most comprehensive and diverse range of construction and allied equipment. They are the premiere providers of equipment needed by the infrastructure and construction sectors through innovative and cost effective financial structuring methods," adds Rajiv.
Buoyed by the success of GEAR, Rajiv now plans to manufacture the equipment as well. "Talks are already in the advance stage. I have got some overseas partners on board and we will start plant construction activities in next six months."
Rajiv's tips for budding entrepreneurs are execution and perseverance. "We all have ideas but how you execute it decides the fate of the venture. It's important to do detailing and then persevere over the years rather than giving up all after a few setbacks."