How Jothish Kumar led Luker India to the top with the mantra ‘Why Not?’
Quitting a lucrative corporate career at the prime of your career to go the entrepreneurial way comes with a lot of risks. But Jothish Kumar, Managing Director, Luker India, turned those risks into opportunities. Speaking at The Success Edition, an initiative by Kotak Mahindra Bank and YourStory, Jothish gave a sneak peek into his growth and the success of Luker India. Under his guidance, in just seven years, Luker became not just the leader in LED lighting, but they are touching a turnover of Rs 350 crore and looking at a thousand crores by 2025.
How did a boy from Thiruvananthapuram become a leader in the electrical space? Why did he quit a thriving career to launch his own venture? What made him launch a US company in India? The answer to each question is ‘Why not’?
For Jothish Kumar, the question has stayed with him throughout his growth trajectory – right from the time he was at Finolex to his stint at Havells, and finally at Luker. “The title of my book is ‘Ask Why, Think Why Not’. ‘Ask Why’ means that whenever something is happening, the first question is ‘why is it happening?’ and then you look at the next part, which is ‘why not something different?’,” he explained.
Jothish mentioned that ‘why not’ can be applied to various situations, such as wanting to do a job better or in a different manner. In his book, he explained that by writing, ‘In Rome, don’t do like the Romans’. This just means that one can go against the flow and look at situations with a different lens. Jothish believes that differentiation is important in a market that is so crowded. They put this thought to test at Luker and saw the impact.
The aspiration to be Number 1
Jothish’s desire to always be Number 1 is reflected in his professional journey. When he was the Global Operations Chief of Havells, the team registered a record hike in their turnover with a jump from Rs 200 crore in 2001 to a whopping Rs 6,000 crore in 2011. The momentous event made the industry finally sit up and take notice of the leadership and grit of Jothish Kumar. But just as the limelight fell on him, he decided to quit the fast-growing company and start his own venture.
His expertise in the electrical sector led Jothish to bring the brand name Luker from the parent company and launch it in India. Luker India’s growth has only accelerated since its launch, and today it can be named among the leaders in the country.
Jothish has been known to be a risk-taker throughout his career. “In a company that is already performing well, sometimes you do not get an opportunity to perform in it. But in a company that isn’t doing well, the opportunity levels are high. So I always look at the opportunity available if it could be in a phase of risk,” he said.
This thought has also helped the team overcome challenges. Jothish believes that opportunities and challenges go together. “The most important factor as far as growth is concerned today is the speed at which you are able to do things. The entire business industry has become highly volatile in which speed is a key factor and the first one to convert this opportunity naturally becomes a leader in the market. So irrespective of the country or products we pitch, we ensure that the strategies in connection to speed are well focused and can be converted into business,” he explained.
Scaling with Kotak Mahindra Bank
As a brand that was growing rapidly, Luker India needed a partner who was able to catch up with speed. Kotak Mahindra Bank became one for Luker. “If the business is like a car, fuel is the working capital,” explained Jothish. Unlike many banks which are ridden with bureaucracy, Kotak has a flat structure, so Jothish feels that the process is smoother and easier. “Financial support from the bank is extremely important and more importantly, on a timely basis. So that is a great advantage of working with Kotak,” he added.
Eye on growth
Luker India is eyeing a turnover of Rs 1,000 crore by 2025, and Jothish believes that the road ahead is paved with opportunities. The government has been promoting local manufacturing over foreign companies, and looking at these trends, Luker recently opened one of the largest LED manufacturing plants in the country.
“We are moving into the second phase of putting up one of the most modern manufacturing units in Coimbatore,” Jothish revealed. As the team looks at their dream turnover in 2025, he explained that they have already started planning their next steps, be it manufacturing or distribution. “We don't see any hiccups as far as achieving these numbers go. There was a break because of the pandemic, but now it has become a part of the business so we don't see a problem which we can come across in achieving our numbers,” he added.
Jothish calls business a sustained profitable growth (SPG). Growth has to be profitable and sustainable, he said. This has roots in the physics formula, where force is equal to mass into acceleration. “So mass in business is turnover and acceleration is the percentage of profit. If you are able to create value for the company, which is derived from this formula, that is how we grow in business. You cannot be stagnant in business - it has to either go down or go up so the opportunity is always to grow up,” he said, adding, “The speed at which you grow depends upon how fast you are able to implement strategies, and that is the key factor in Luker's growth.”