Thursday, July 18, 2024

“Discipline, To Me, Is Respect For The Other Person”

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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!

Vinod Sharma, Deki Electronics
Vinod Sharma, Deki Electronics

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.”

Rafting on Nile river
Rafting on Nile river

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.

Deki bonsai
Deki bonsai

“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.

Sharma relishes Korean and Italian cuisines
Sharma 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.


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