A believer of the practices taught in Buddhism, Vinod Sharma as an individual is known for his discipline and dedication in the electronics industry. Studied mostly in military schools and Kendriya Vidyalayas, Sharma is the man behind Deki Electronics making more than four million capacitors a day. He is a loving father, a caring husband, a humble leader, an author, a consultant, and more. This is his story!
I first met Vinod Sharma, the man behind the success of Deki Electronics, at a CEAMA event in 2019. It was one of my first outdoor visits since I had started working with Electronics For You magazine. Hungry for stories that would shape the future of the electronics industry in India, I went to the event and took a seat in a row that was near the round tables meant for CEAMA members and industry professionals. Well ahead of the schedule, I got seated around fifteen minutes before the big electronics industrialists started arriving.
Seated two rows ahead of me on a round table was Vinod Sharma. We had never met or spoken earlier. As I was trying to familiarise myself with the faces seated on those round tables, I and Sharma had an eye contact. He smiled and shook his head as if he knew me. It was probably the Electronics For You polo shirt that I was wearing, but the lighting was probably too dim for anyone even with a perfect eyesight to notice the logo.
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Come today when I approached Vinod Sharma for this story and narrated the incident to him, he simply said, “I have been fortunate in many ways throughout my life. My dad was a part of the Indian Navy, and that meant that we were travelling with him to most of the posts he was transferred to. Getting posted at a new location also meant admission to a new school (six schools in all), and with each new admission I was making new friends. Smiling at everyone I see or meet is nothing but natural to me, and I am more than sure that the same has helped me make very good friends in my education as well as professional career.”
Studied mostly in military schools and Kendriya Vidyalayas, Vinod Sharma is the man behind Deki Electronics making more than four million capacitors a day. This number was ten million per year back in 1993. Sharma now aims to take Deki Electronics to a stage where the company can manufacture ten million in a day, and this is his story!
My father’s life and death taught me the best of lessons
“Academically I was very strong. I would be number one most of the time. It was not because I was really intelligent or something like that, but it was all because of my dad. He was a very tough Indian naval sailor. He would never expect anything less than the best. Even if I stood second, he would not punish me but would at least reprimand me! He was never bothered about what others were doing but was always asking me questions about what I needed to do better,” explains Vinod Sharma with his eyes glowing with utmost respect for his father.
These everyday conversations and habits, notes Sharma, are the ones that have made him what he is today. Everything that his dad taught him while being posted at different locations, in different capacities as an Indian Naval officer, holds great value for him even today.
Sharma’s father passed away in a car accident at the age of 44. That was a time when Sharma’s exams at his hotel management university were going on. What was at stake was a chance for placements, which meant the first job that he would be joining. Realising the responsibility that had fallen upon his shoulders he took the decision to appear for all the exams.
“I was called out of the exam room and informed about the tragedy that had taken my father away from me. I was turning 19 back then, and that incident changed everything for me. It was such a bad accident that nobody back at the civil hospital was able to identify him,” says Sharma with a long pause.
Being the eldest son in the family, Sharma went back and gave exams for the next four days. While his father’s soul had left for heaven, his earthly body continued to remain in a mortuary. It was only after completing all the exams that Sharma was able to cremate his father.
“I had got the campus recruitment already done and I needed that job more than anything else at that point of time. This is what my dad would have expected me to do anyway. We kept his body in a mortuary. My youngest sibling at that time was in primary school. All things apart, I think my father has always been with his family and God has been very kind to me. This incident that one day just changed everything for me,” mentions Sharma with a voice that seemed filled with sadness and pride at the same time.
Sharma moved from Bombay (now Mumbai) to Delhi along with his family following his father’s demise. He recalls how people who were not at all obliged to help the family still helped the family and those he thought would be standing with the family after the incident did not do anything for the family.
He says, “Such people taught me a lot. They taught me to be compassionate. You never know what the other guy’s story is, so never judge him or her, and in any situation give your best. My dad and ma gave me really good values, and these values have really helped me face some of the most difficult situations of my life. These values mixed with the teachings of Buddhism have made me a conscious leader.”
Discipline is defined as respect for the other person
Known as one of the most disciplined people in the electronics industry, Sharma defines discipline as the respect of the other person and the other person’s time. He informs that Deki Electronics has not lost a single customer till date because of any kind of issue in the company’s service and discipline. As a matter of fact, it is mandatory for everyone working at Deki Electronics to be a part of the morning prayer and national anthem recitation ceremony. The morning prayer that Deki Electronics employees recite every morning is written by those very employees.
“I learned the true definition of being disciplined from my father and my father-in-law. My father-in-law, Mr Jai Kumar, who is also the founder of Deki Electronics, used to be an Air Force officer. He was always very certain that the business should be run ethically and with the highest quality of standards. He insisted that all stakeholders be treated with respect. These two gentlemen had a big positive impact on my life,” says Sharma.
He adds, “I would always be grateful for the opportunity that Mr Jai Kumar gave me in the form of an open hand to shape and run Deki to the best of our abilities.”
What also helped Sharma lead a life full of success is his degree in the hotel management industry and work experience of eight years in the same industry. Promoted to the designation of a general manager at the age of 26, Sharma is also one the youngest individuals to be promoted to that designation in India. He is not in favour of the word ‘workaholic’ but prefers being called someone who follows his work religiously.
“I was spending 14 to 16 hours of my daily life at the hotels I was working with. I was ambitious and I think being that paid off. I simply loved and continue to love working,” exclaims Sharma.
“However, one should never rule out the fact that you will be where your destiny wants you to be,” Sharma adds. Being asthmatic, he was told by the doctors to take a break from the city of Bangalore (now Bengaluru). He adds, “I am asthametic and Bangalore was not suiting me at all. Doctors told me to take a break.”
Once, when his father-in-law visited Sharma’s Bangalore house, during a regular family conversation he told Sharma about the liberalisation policy the government of India was introducing. His father-in-law said he had two choices: Either shutting down or selling the operations of Deki Electronics, or making the brand compete on global level with the global giants in capacitor manufacturing. The liberalisation message was clear, that there was no use sailing the global waters anywhere with a small boat.
Had no idea what a capacitor looked like
Sharma took the offer of working with his father-in-law seriously and the news of him quitting the hotel industry was a big surprise for everyone. But before he would say yes to working for Deki Electronics, he engaged in a conversation with one of the general managers at BPL Electronics. He knew this GM because of the hotel industry.
“I asked him about the offer from Deki Electronics and told him I am not sure what I will do there. But before I say yes to them, I would like to know from you about what you feel of Deki Electronics,” narrates Sharma. It is to be noted here that BPL Electronics was one of the customers of Deki Electronics back then.
Though the GM said he was pretty satisfied and happy doing business with Deki Electronics, Sharma wanted to speak to a Deki Electronics’ customer who was not happy with the services, before saying yes to the offer of working with the capacitors making firm.
“I got to know of a purchase officer from BPL dealing with Deki Electronics who was not satisfied about the same. His major complaint included his company not getting capacitors in time. His company was into manufacturing TVs and a TV usually required 32 capacitors to be manufactured completely. His complaint was simple, that Deki Electronics would supply 28 capacitors for a TV and hold the order for the rest four,” explains Sharma.
He further noted that when this purchase manager would call the company to check the status of rest of the capacitors, people at Deki Electronics would in turn inquire about the payment for the first 28 that were already shipped. Sharma then went back to the GM at BPL and asked him what made him happy about Deki Electronics. The GM answered that out of the three companies that manufactured capacitors in India at that time, Deki Electronics was the best.
“Whether good or bad news, out of the three companies we deal with, yours is the best,” were this GM’s exact words, says Sharma. This is where he saw a big opportunity. Remembering what he had learnt in his hotel management degree and experience working at a hotel, he said, “I have been operating on just one principle and that principle is that the guest, or in this case the customer, is always right.”
“If you serve soup in a hotel and the customer says that the soup is not hot, you do not get into an argument with the customer but instead bring him a good hot soup. That’s the background I came from. But here in this industry, everyone followed a different approach. If you were to serve in this industry and the customer would complain about the soup being not hot, someone would probably shove a thermometer in the soup and tell the customer that the specifications say 70 degrees (± two degrees) and this soup is currently at 68 degrees. So, you should be happy at what it is,” explains Sharma about the difference between the two industries.
This was where Sharma realised that there was a huge scope for him joining the Deki Electronics team and saying goodbye to the hotel industry. He was, and is, of firm view that what he learned from his father and from the hotel industry experience would prove to be a milestone in the journey he was embarking upon.
But Sharma has not left behind his days in the hotel industry. He still organises barbecue parties for his staff and cooks himself. Referring to himself as a chef, he enjoys cooking as much as he relishes Korean and Italian cuisines.
Not a big fan of fiction
Not a big fan of fiction, his favourite cartoon series from his childhood days happens to be Asterix. He was so fond of this series that he wanted to start a cartoon series of his own to compete with Asterix. Though he was not able to start sketching on such a big scale, he has written a book which is famous amongst a lot of entrepreneurs. Titled ‘ValueMagics,’ this book, as Sharma explains, is written from a practical point of view for the entrepreneurs in developing countries who are planning to venture into foreign markets.
Recalling his childhood days and habits that have helped him secure a successful life, he mentions about the habit of reading newspaper every day that was instilled in him by his father. He was in the third standard when he got introduced to reading newspaper every day. His father had an interesting way of knowing whether his son was religiously following the activity or not.
“My father would hand me the newspaper in the morning and ask me to underline all the grammatical mistakes that the stories covered. In the evening he would come back and ask me about the mistakes. This also made me ask him about the things I did not understand from the stories. Even today, if I pick up a newspaper, the first thing that pops right in front of me are the grammatical mistakes published in the stories,” Sharma says smiling as if his father is sitting right beside him.
“My mother taught me compassion, unconditional love and the power of faith,” added Sharma.
Deepika Sharma, the better half of Vinod Sharma, mentions, “The dedication of Vinod towards everything and anything that he does is commendable. Whether he is playing a football game in the park, taking dogs for a walk, or handling company matters, he is only dedicated to the task in hand.”
Football happens to be Sharma’s favourite sport. The reason he likes playing and watching this sport over any other concerns the rhythm and teamwork the game demands. “Whether you are the goalkeeper or striker, you are always equally involved in the game all the time,” he notes.
On not liking the fiction part, Sharma has now grown a taste in the same. But the only fiction books he is interested in are the ones that have been narrated or written in nothing less than an excellent manner. And what’s this excellent manner?
“Let me give you an example of the same. I recently picked up a book by Arundhati Roy. The book was titled ‘God of Small Things,’ The reason I loved that book is because it is written impeccably well. The narration of the story is simply mind blowing,” explains Sharma.
He adds, “For getting my dose of fiction, I depend a lot on movies. And when it comes to movies, Naseerudin Shah’s work excites me the most.”
Why I wrote a book
Sharma is a firm believer of life happening as per at least a loose plan. He believes that nothing in life is a coincidence. “There is at least a loose plan for you which God or nature makes for you,” he says.
Revisiting his days of association with a Dutch agency named Centre For Developing Imports From Developing Countries (CBI), he says professionals from this agency came to countries like India and trained industries here to become worthy of exporting their products to countries in Europe. The programme that this Dutch agency runs, as per Sharma, has the potential to open one’s eyes and let one know what the world wants.
This agency, under the programme, helps companies from India and other nations of the world to take part in exhibitions taking place in different parts of Europe, and Sharma was one of the exhibitors at one such big event in Europe. By the time the event ended Sharma was offered the role of a consultant trainer by the same agency. This role required Sharma to travel extensively and train individuals and industries located in other countries.
The association between the Dutch agency and Sharma continued for eight years. As a part of this association, Sharma had to travel outside India for one week every month and train people about the agency’s programme. Rest of the three weeks were dedicated to the expansion of Deki Electronics.
During the mid of these eight years, Sharma was also made the president of ELCINA. Looking after the operations of Deki Electronics, being the president of ELCINA, and a training consultant with the Dutch agency became a bit hectic. It was quite clear that these three roles demanded undivided attention.
“It was then that I decided to close down the chapter of consulting. As I learned a lot from being trained by the agency, and also training there as a consultant, I decided that I was not going to quit without giving back. Hence came the idea of writing this book called ValueMagics,” he explains.
Along with his mentor and co-author, Hans Verhulft, Sharma has trained over two hundred consultants in the practice of Valuemagices. Sharma adds, “I continue to do sessions based on ValueMagics every two or three months. I think I owe a lot to what I learned from my experience with the Dutch agency, and this is my way of giving back and sharing my knowledge with the world.”
ELCINA and Buddhism connection
“Nobody has seen gravity, but we all know that if we throw something up in the air, the force of gravity will definitely pull it down. Same goes with the laws that govern society. Karma, or whatever name we give it, is as simple as that. The teachings of Buddhism make understanding these laws very simple, and that is why I was attracted to it,” says Sharma.
Sharma has been following Buddhism for years now and always remembers to take the name of Nichiren Daishonin whenever the subject comes up. Daishonin is one of the popular monks of Japan who tried to reform Buddhism and Japanese society during the 13th century. He is also referred to as a Budhhist Martin Luther. Remembering him during the conversation, Sharma points out a theory in Buddhism called ‘The Cause and Effect.’ As the name suggests, the theory points towards actions and their results.
“If I am writing in the dark, it does not mean that there’s nothing being written. It’s just that until light appears no one will be able to read it. This is simply cause and effect,” explains Sharma.
He adds, “I can ask many questions to the world, like why did my father die when I was 19, and like why do some people get cancer and some don’t? Both fortunate and unfortunate things happen to people and spirituality helps one understand that there exists a law that governs all the actions we carry out.”
What Sharma likes about Buddhism is the way everyone attached to it follows the practice of faith of Buddhism in their everyday life. He explains that worrying about what would happen in one’s personal or professional life is a waste of time as it is all defined by the actions one takes. Calling it Karma, he notes, “The business of Deki Electronics is not just tied to my Karma but the Karma of 640 people associated with the company.”
“I think collective Karma is far stronger than an individual’s Karma. It is a far better way of protecting yourself from any risk than just being attached to your own Karma,” he says.
It was Sharma’s neighbour Ashok Lal who introduced him to the practice of Buddhism. In fact, his first meeting at ELCINA also contributed towards his development. When Sharma attended a meeting organised by ELCINA for the very first time he found the people there to be very cynical about how the affairs were handled by them.
“A lot of people at ELCINA only complained about how the government does not support them or has no idea how electronics businesses are run. The two meetings I attended at ELCINA were the same in terms of complaints and only complaints. I found these meetings to be keaving me with negative energy. I made up my mind to never go to such meetings again,” he explains.
But right after the second ELCINA meeting, Sharma went to the Sunday practice of Buddhism once again. The Sensei (guru in India) that day was talking about making a change in what one does not like as a part of the practices of Buddhism. This was when Sharma realised that ELCINA had a lot of scope of doing great for the Indian electronics industry.
“Young man, I see that you do not like the way things are run here. Then why do you not do something about changing that,” Sharma recalls the words of his Sensei that day, the day that changed his life and made him start doing things to change whatever Sharma felt was not right.
“In that process I also found out that I was also wrong to some extent about judging ELCINA and its members so quickly. My work at ELCINA quickly got me a place in the executive committee and then I was also made the president of the organisation. In nutshell, the teachings of Buddhism have opened a whole world of opportunities for me and at the same time these have also given me a new way of seeing how things are and what things are,” he adds.
The other practice that Sharma feels Buddhism has empowered him with is the one that helps him cherish mistakes instead of hiding them. Taking tough calls is one of the everyday tasks that all leaders in the world have to accustom themselves to over and over again, and one of these tough decisions includes confronting their team members about mistakes they may have made.
“A lot of people, instead of cherishing mistakes, try to hide them. If not hide, people at least try to pass on the blame or have other team members share the blame for the same. I think the environment that cherishes mistakes is one that in the long run prevents mistakes from happening. If people who work with you learn to confront themselves about the mistakes they have made, they start becoming better human beings,” explains Sharma.
He adds, “But there are also days when bad parts of a bonsai plant have to be cut to make sure that the rest of the bonsai is safe from rotting.” Bonsai is best explained as a miniaturised plant that adheres to the traditions of Japan. A bonsai is seen as a symbol of harmony, peace, an order of thoughts, balance, and all that is good in nature. These thoughts also reflect the teachings of Buddhism. A well grown and maintained bonsai plant reflects the discipline its creator follows.
“A very senior-level professional working at Deki Electronics once bought a very expensive machine as a part of our expansion plans. Now that machine was not at all a match for the task we had intended to fulfil, but the executive himself informed me and the whole management of Deki Electronics about the blunder he had done. We all laughed at it and that mistake has now been preserved as a teaching for all of us at Deki. This is what I will call the power of cherishing mistakes; you are able to create an environment that is unmatchable, honest, and productive,” he says.
Apart from making Deki Electronics venture into new verticals like components used in electric vehicles and more, Sharma right now is busy making succession plan for Deki Electronics. Five to ten years down the line, he sees himself teaching somewhere and sharing knowledge. He often accompanies his son to polo practice and also enjoys playing football with him.
“Happiness is not being joyful and laughing at all times. Happiness, to me, is being able to deal with the setbacks that come in your way every day. It is being able to offer certainty to people around you even in uncertain times,” says Sharma.