A fitness freak who likes reading management journals and autobiographies, Vikash Khanvelkar, Founder & Managing Director, DesignTech Systems Pvt Ltd narrates his entrepreneurial journey with Nishant Kashyap. Excerpts…
It was during 1994-95 when the CAD/CAM technology had started taking baby steps into the Indian industry. Conglomerates like TATA, Mahindra and Bajaj among others became the first few to invest in the technology.
“During those days, I was part of HCL Infosystems and was consulting these business giants regarding CAD/CAM technology. I was based in Pune, one of the biggest industrial hubs of Western India, where some of the automotive companies had their manufacturing units,” says Vikash Khanvelkar, Founder & Managing Director, DesignTech Systems Pvt Ltd.
A qualified engineer (Electronics & Telecomm) from College of Engineering Pune, Khanvelkar went on to pursue his Masters in Business Administration and specialized in Marketing.
He was known for his strong domain knowledge and curiosity for the new technologies while he worked as a consultant. “Coming from a manufacturing background, I was able to understand and promote CAD/CAM technology to these engineering companies. As I had the domain understanding my performance during that time exceeded the expectation of my seniors. I was appointed as Country Manager of HCL,” he adds.
Khanvelkar worked on introducing latest technologies in the Indian market right from the beginning, be it CNC Technology; Variable speed DC, AC and Servo Drives; or CAD/CAM. Even before the CAD/CAM technology was introduced in the Indian market, he had managed to gain sound experience in the machine tool industry in terms of the use of conventional as well automated technologies like CNC.
It was during 1997-98 that windows operating system created a strong hold and application vendors started using it significantly. Earlier the technology that was available for Rs 30-35 lakh went down to Rs 4-5 lakh in windows with equally good result. This was the time when Khanvelkar made up his mind to become an entrepreneur. He could see the potential of CAD/CAM in the manufacturing industry. Further, the domain knowledge and expertise gained provided a much needed boost.
“Starting my own venture had always been my dream and I knew if given a chance this technology will be well adopted in India as well. Together with my partner Sachin Chougule, (presently holding the position of Director) started DesignTech in 1998,” avers Khanvelkar.
DesignTech was formed with an initial investment of Rs 2 lakh. Talking about the initial days Khanvelkar says, “I met Sachin Chougule during our HCL days. I told him about my business plan and he agreed. Initially he looked after the technical part and I managed sales & marketing. He was very sound in technical aspects and because of him I never had any technical related issue.”
But it was not easy, DesignTech too faced obstacles during its initial days. Since CAD/CAM was in a very nascent stage, the biggest challenge was to convince people about the technology. “I gave my best to spread awareness about the technology. I also gave lectures in colleges and told students about a good career option i.e CAD/CAM.”
Apart from this, raising money and getting the right people on board was a huge challenge. He adds, “I knew about the lack of awareness about CAD/CAM in the industry and that small players are far away from it. So we chose a different path for our business, instead of just selling, we first started training our customers and showed them the positive result.”
This strategy worked well and even attracted small players. Today almost all the companies have 3D modelling in their design system.
Slowly and steadily the company started making an impact on the industry. “DesignTech’s first customer was Micron Packaging, who were happy with our services and since then we never looked back,” he says.
It was also the time when Indian automotive industry was fast developing and they needed a reliable product with fast delivery. This demand pushed small component vendor/ manufacturer to invest in better technology to cater to their customers.
Khanvelkar says, “Once the industry was mature we introduced customers to other software’s such as plant simulation tool from Siemens, Mathwork for mathematical simulation and Stratsys for rapid prototyping. We put all these technologies in our basket to help organisations design their product better and faster.”
- The company also boosts the complete range of CAD/CAM/PLM/CAE/RPT solutions from some of the global giants like Altair, Stratasys, Mathworks, Siemens Industry Software among others.
- DesignTech was ranked amongst NASCCOM top 50 emerging companies in India in 2010.
- Siemens Industry Software and DesignTech Systems Ltd. signed an MoU with the Government of Gujarat in September 2013 to set-up 5 Siemens Centers of Excellence in various cities in Gujarat. DesignTech Systems is the execution partner for running these centers successfully.
- With more than 2000 satisfied customers and 350+ workforce, DesignTech is looking to expand.
During 2003-04, DesignTech started providing engineering services. Khanvelkar says, “We realised that various companies were having trouble while designing complex parts, so we started providing them engineering solutions as well.”
The first breakthrough in engineering service came from Mahindra when they were developing Scorpio, the iconic SUV. Talking about the engineering services, he says, “We were part of Scorpio’s development team. We worked on complex component development, vehicle integration, etc. We were successfull in doing all the design and simulation work, so we started building this as a conscious activity. Today we have more than 200 people working only on product design services.”
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When all these technologies were put to significant use, it gave rise to a severe need for trained manpower. Various companies faced a challenge to get the right talent.
“Sensing the manpower shortage in the industry, we started training programme for the experienced and freshers. We had the experience, knowledge and right manpower, so we started the CAD Academy,” says Khanvelkar.
The company hired the best known faculty for the training institute. Programmes were planned in a way so that the students not just learned about the design, but also got industry exposure.
DesignTech has come a long way since its inception, providing solutions to various industries such as aerospace & defence, automotive, heavy engineering, consumer goods, industrial machinery and power & energy to name a few. Talking about his journey Khanvelkar says, “We have come this long because of our customers, we have extremely good customer loyalty. The credit also goes to our passionate team members.”
DesignTech operates in three fields today — product distribution, design services and training institute. “We are the largest when it comes to product distribution, now we aim to be the largest in terms of domestic design services and training,” he adds.
Sharing his experience with the new-age entrepreneurs Khanvelkar says, “Entrepreneurs must have a very good clarity of mind on what they want to achieve. If you are honest and put sincere effort you will eventually succeed.