Amritsar-based Gurpreet Singh Munjral joined his family’s liquor business in 1979 at the age of 18. It was started by his great-grandfather in 1911. Since his father had no interest in joining the business and instead made a career in law, Gurpreet had to take the responsibility of taking the business forward.“I could not say no to it. I was too young to say that”, he adds.
Gurpreet's stint with electronics, an entirely different industry to liquor, began with a chance conversation with his friend from Delhi. He says, "My friend who owned a computer shop in Delhi's Nehru Place advised me to diversify into electronics industry and make monochrome monitors (computers).” Additionally, to further facilitate my start in this unfamiliar industry, he also arranged some buy back orders for me from Delhi and Ahmedabad, Gurpreet adds.
A new start
Heeding his friend’s advice, and taking advantage of the access to capital from his well-established family business, Gurpreet ventured into electronics. He says, "The only hurdle left to resolve was hiring skilled professionals." But Amritsar did not have many job-ready professionals back then. To tackle this challenge, Gurpreet hired an engineer from Delhi, to whom he tasked to train a number of young diploma holders hired from local colleges in Amritsar. "That's how we established a foundation and made a start in the industry," he adds.
Soon after the business picked up pace, they had to stop in their tracks when a sudden challenge came knocking at their door. He says,
"Samsung and LG launched colour monitors in the market, which subsequently led to the erosion of small black and white screen makers, like us, from the market.”
Embracing the change, Gurpreet made a shift to making IT peripherals like power supply switchboards and other related items associated with the desktop systems. But, soon after, Gurpreet realised that the market was already seeing a gradual shift from desktop systems to laptops, and thus, the feasibility of continuing for long with making computer peripherals seemed less viable to him.
As he further analysed the market situation, it struck Gurpreet that laptops were not going to replace desktop systems in a day. He, therefore, decided to take advantage of the gradual shift and launched UPS -- an apparatus for uninterruptible power supply -- systems for desktop computers in the late 1990s with the name Datavision. Gurpreet says,
“This is where we saw success. Our UPS systems became a hit. From the late 1990s to mid 2000s, we sold, on an average, 3,000 pieces per month, which was considered huge in those times.”
By 2007-08, as the laptops vastly replaced the desktop systems, Gurpreet says that there was also an advancement in the UPS design and technology. “Many new electronic machines, equipped with a computer card, were compatible with the new UPS systems called Online UPS, and not with the conventional ones, called Offline UPS,” Gurpreet explains.
Pivoting to embrace change
Banking on his past experience, Gurpreet took this change head on. He incorporated the new technology and switched to making online UPS systems. He says, “Be it the conventional UPS systems or the new ones, our devices have been able to dominate households and industries in Delhi and Punjab.”
Following the success of Datavision, Gurpreet also ventured into making AC stabilisers under the same brand name. This year, Datavision has launched portable, instant geysers and expects a good response once the winter season kicks in North India. With its UPS systems, AC stabilisers and portable geysers, Datavision is currently clocking a turnover of Rs 5,000-7,000 crore.
Change is the only constant
On talking about his learnings from nearly four-decade-old journey, Gurpreet says, “Electronics is a highly competitive and continuously evolving industry.”
According to Gurpreet, there are already many established giants in the industry, and if a small or medium enterprise has to compete with them, they must ensure that they match their quality and services at a much lesser price.
On how he weathered so many changes, Gurpreet says,
“I feel one should be in sync with the market. One should not remain enclosed in an office. Instead, one should conduct regular field trips and take periodic feedback from customers.”
But it is not only its evolving nature that poses a great challenge for people in the electronics industry. He says, “There is an increasing industry-wide practice of buying in cash and selling on credit, making things worse for the already capital intensive industry.”
For the future, Gurpreet says, “I don’t see a very long life for our AC stabilisers. Five years from now, I see an increase in constant voltage supply across households in India, and a subsequent drop in our sales.” To counter this, Gurpreet says that Datavision will invent a new product. In electronics industry, we must remember that change is the only constant, he concludes.