He is known for his ability to innovate. He made it possible to run air conditioners during incessant power cuts and he built a Rs 500-crore brand, selling inverters. If you meet Kunwer Sachdev, the founder and managing director of Su-Kam, it is difficult to imagine that he started out selling pens at an early age of 15 or that he plans to revolutionise toasted bread the way he did the innocuous inverter.
Kunwer Sachdev is a compelling speaker. When he talks it is difficult to do anything but listen. Not because he is the owner of a brand but has redefined innovation in the inverter industry or because he is highly knowledgeable. It is not even because he is only person talking in Hindi. It is also because he mocks on as much as he entertains with a shocking irreverence for degrees. It is simply his fascinating story that holds the audience captive.
The credit for noticing him goes to the guru of all management gurus, CK Prahalad, who invited Sachdev to speak at a session three years ago. Despite the lack of any formal management training or education, the 44-year old entrepreneur did not disappoint. As anyone who has heard him speak would know, Sachdev shoots straight from the heart, without any hesitance about speaking in his mother tongue.
He is actually unconscious about lounging around in shorts and T-shirts on a Monday morning at the posh DLF Golf Club in the suburbs of Delhi. Looking at Sachdev so much at ease in his luxurious surroundings, it is difficult to imagine that he started off his career at the age of 15, hawking pens and later installing cable connections. From then has traveled a long distance to build a company that generates Rs500 crore in revenues and champions product innovation. You might not even recognize who he is, even though numerous ads are run by Su-Kam featuring inverters that can power air conditioners.
“We came up with Su-Kam in the college canteen. It does not mean anything special. It just seemed like a nice name to put on the pens that I was going to manufacture,” explains Sachdev of the unusual name.
But his destiny was another writing story. After finishing his graduation from Hindu College in 1985, he fell out with his brother and stopped selling pens. Instead, he enrolled for a law degree for want of anything better and even practiced it for a few months afterwards. Soon after, the salesman in him took over and the next two years he returned to selling, this time for a cable company. By 1990, Sachdev was ready with his own company, manufacturing equipment such as dish antennae, amplifiers and splitters, used to connect cable TV to buildings. “Except for the cable itself, we made everything,” he recalls of the business he built to a turnover of Rs 3-4 crore.
It proved to be a great learning experience. “I was a good sales guy, but had no understanding of technology. A lot of people fooled me. I did not know how to install a connection. I simple knew how to get contracts from hotels. I started reading, my college Physics books once again. I made sure I learnt everything there was to know about the equipment I was selling,” he says.