Coimbatore: We might be thinking that business born out of classrooms will happen only in the Western world. However, born as an idea from the classrooms of PSG group of colleges, Coimbatore based E-Caps computers is a humble, yet strong establishment that proves even Indian establishments can sustain forever. It might not be an exaggeration to tell that despite having a love for technology and desire for disruption, in early 90s E-Caps had not received its due credit only because of a reason- being from a market like Coimbatore. The technology distribution and manufacturing firm that was started by a bunch of classmates complete 25 years of being in the business after many ups and downs. In an exclusive chat with Cell IT, G Suresh and K Gunasegharan, Directors of the company speak on their 25 years of the journey and the way Indian distribution network works. Edited excerpts.
25 years in the industry. How is it feeling when you turn back?
We had three main divisions while starting. Mainly we were in data processing and software development and training. While that was the time education was franchised through some bigger name and students were preferring a certificate than education, we decided to move out of it. Also, software development was also not taking a big leap those days as every customer wanted to see something physical with touch-and-feel. Thus we decided we should go with the hardware. Hardware had supported us in a big way right from the beginning. While many partners were behind assembling of PCs, we wanted to be unique and create a niche out of us. We decided networking products would be forever with us and will be a game changer. Right from day one, we always had a passion and love for technology. We might have burnt hands in some cases. However, there has never been any regrets. Be in terms of investments in time, manpower, technology, we had never missed trying new things. There were some technologies which we predicted a big take-off failed drastically. But our attitude towards attempting new things remained the same beyond success and failures. Even after having an OEM on board, we do not simply stock the material to a channel partner. We do a complete R&D on how the product works and generate the demand from the customers and make the solution easier for the channel to sell it.
What kind of challenges a national distributor like you face today in the entire Eco-system?
There is a gap between a distributor and end-customers. In many cases, there is a lack of effective communication in knowledge transferring. For example, when we tell our partners about a product to the partners when it gets transferred to the customer the channel is able to convey only 50%. Even today Indian channel partners are reluctant to unveil their customer information to a distributor. From their point of view also, there is some valid point. Some distributors reach out directly to the customers. At E-Caps, we had made a point that other than Coimbatore, we do not reach out to the end customer directly. In Coimbatore being our home, we have few accounts who are with us even before the concept of a channel has evolved. We have made a strict practice in place to avoid this overlap. However, from the point of view of the channel also it is right. Some distributors try bypassing the channel which might also be a reason for them think this way. Over the period of time these things will change and when the market matures, there will be streamlined.
How is the VAD business outside India?
In fact, most of the countries are behind us. In India, at least we distributors know the technology of what we sell. In our experience, in most of the countries, technology handled by a distributor is just a commodity. It is only the money muscle that decides the market. That way, I see India is a matured market in the value-added distribution space. However, what the channel community here lack is the focus. The channel should decide their role in the Eco-system. Whether they are going to be a retailer, dealers or distributors and more. Many want to own multiple hats which end up in lack of specialization. They should start telling no for irrelevant deals which, simultaneously will help them bag the best deal immediately. The market is huge and has potential. Partners can define their roles and can think beyond their wafer margins.
How is the reception from the market for being a non-metro and having the role of a national distributor?
Today we had grown length and breadth where the location is not a problem. However, in the early 90s, when we were new to the market, many did not understand us only because we are from a tier-2 city. Even channel partners did not accept us initially. In fact, many asked if Coimbatore is in Kerala or Tamil Nadu. Believe us, we have to answer such questions. Needless to say, OEMs will agree to meet us provided that we go and meet them either in Chennai or Bengaluru. We ignored such negative mindsets and went ahead with building the brand and in course of time, we established offices across India. Those biased perceptions towards a non-metro started fading slowly and now we had proved us to the market and of course, OEMs now fly to Coimbatore chasing our appointments.
What is the average age of your colleagues in the organization? Is it that you make sure you have youngsters to ensure fresh ideas come.
No. We do not have any such policies. Close to 40% of our employees have crossed 40. Be it an employee or channel
partner or OEM, we value the relationships. Even after establishing branches, we do not get into the day-to-day activities. We trust people. What we value is their efforts for innovation and the efforts they put. Even if they fail, we do not take it personally. We will consider it one more learning.
If I ask the two major trends in the last 25 years?
GST which makes any transaction compulsory with billing. Even though like VAT, I see GST as a process. We thought everything will fall in place in 6 months. However, it seems it will take one more year to streamline.
Another is the use of original software. Today, that is coming as a silent revolution. Even the smallest organization wants to have original software. It doesn’t come out of fear of raids. They started understanding the importance of having a licensed software and the manufacturers had also made it affordable. Till 2000, it will be rare to find people asking for the original software.
Moving forward what is the road ahead for E-Caps?
For the last few years, our focus has been in the data security. We will be tracking technology closely and we will go ahead with the way technology is moving ahead. We feel that for the next 6 more years, data security will be the game changer.
How do you see the new entrants in the VAD space in India? Any suggestions for them?
We see less number of new entrants in distribution space. My suggestion would be, even though they are in distribution space, not facing the customer, they should have complete knowledge of the technology. Among Indian channels, the best thing is, as a distributor rather than selling, if we speak technology, channels will start billing with us. Also, when you start an organization, you will be having your own set of rules. At any cost, please stick on to that.
Finally, what was the best gossip you had listened about E-Caps in this 25 years?
There was a talk in the market we were to acquire Dax networks. We admire them very much in terms of product and technology. It was a proud moment, the market escalated us to that level.
Wishes and Testimonials:
N.K.Mehta, Secure Network Solutions: My congratulations for E-Caps for reaching this milestone. Few companies have the privilege to survive for 25 years with good standing in the market. E-Caps has built a loyal customer base of partners over the years. Personally, it was a pleasure dealing with E-Caps.
Manasi Saha, Macaws infotech: Guna is more like MS. Dhoni. A cool, composed, calculative and an organized person, who believes in ethical practice. Congratulations to the team for their 25th Anniversary of E-Caps and mark my words, with exceptional qualities, they will be standing as one of the pioneer companies in India.
Krishnakumar Anandan, Phalgune Infotech: Personally I know E-Caps for the past 20 years and had been working with them for a long time. They are channel friendly in terms of commitments, deliverables and price. Being from a market from Coimbatore, I can understand their challenges well. With humble beginnings, they are not playing the role of national distributors for many products. I am sure they will reach further heights.
Tushar Parekh, Silicon Netsecure: I had been working with them for a long time and I find them professional and well-organized. The deliverables from E-Caps has always been on time and I wish the entire team of E-Caps to reach further heights in the days ahead. I am sure with the level of professionalism they have, E-Caps will reach their destination.
Devender Kumar Bajaj, DM Systems: Even though my interactions had been limited, I know the company for a long time. The organization has been known well in the market and has gathered high reputation. I wish the entire team of E-Caps to celebrate reach further heights in the coming years also. Advance wishes for Golden Jubilee too.