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Despite challenges, this entrepreneur gave up better opportunities to help sustain his family business

November 2, 2018

Settling abroad in the 70s was much easier than it is now. But, the prospects of having better opportunities outside could not lure 60-year-old Nandan Sherlekar to leave the country.

Nandan, who joined his father’s business Servel Engineers in 1977 says,

“I had seen my father work hard and build a business from scratch. I had the option of going abroad like most of my friends. But I wanted to assist my father in growing his business further.”

Nandan Sherlekar’s father MD Sherlekar started Servel Engineers in 1959 in Mangaluru with an investment of Rs 3,000. The company makes metal castings for local industries as well as machinery components for domestic and  imported machines.

The company, which had till then been catering only to small industries, was able to bag orders from state-run public sector units (PSUs) only after Nandan joined the company. Nandan says, his entry helped the company grow from a single manufacturing unit to three units. Today, Servel engineers, with Nandan at the helm, employs 26 people and is seeing a turnover of Rs 1.5 crore.

Team Servel Engineers

The company is currently a leading supplier in Mangaluru for iron & steel castings, copper products and chains & chain link fence fittings, all having a utility as parts of machines used in several industries. Nandan says,

“My father taught me to earn profits, but not to exploit.”

Nandan recalls an incident where his father charged only Rs 7,000 for a part used in a Japanese machine, which the company required urgently, and whose imported substitute from Japan would have costed Rs 2.5 lakh.”

But, as they say, there are no emotions in business and only the fittest survives. Servel has been battling many factors to grow its business. Nandan says, since the government has issued an online tender system, industries are bidding such low costs that it is possible to only supply poor quality products. He says,

“The government should refrain from focusing only on cost while giving tenders to SMEs.”

According to Nandan, the PSUs, to whom his company had been supplying for decades, do not give any consideration to old suppliers while granting tenders. He says, “The decision of granting the order should solely rely on who offers it at the least cost.” This proves counter-productive and hinders the industries’ development, adds Nandan.

If the government-owned enterprises will focus only on cost, then the small scale suppliers will have their profit margins squeezed and will not be encouraged to invest in machinery any further, and this way, the industry will not develop and will dwindles with time, explains Nandan.

Talking about the company's growth, he says, the transportation facilities play a crucial role in the development of industries in a region. Mangaluru, despite having good connectivity with all means of transport such as air, land and water, has not been able to attract industries at a pace it should have. “This is the reason we have limited growth despite working for almost six decades now.”

On talking about what he expects from the government, Nandan says, “Business is a tough job. While the government makes sure that employees are covered by ESI (Employees’ State Insurance Corporation), why is there no such policy to protect business owners?”  

While further explaining his anguish, Nandan says,

“My father worked till he was 81. He served the industry and contributed to the economy for so long. The government should at least provide business owners with medical insurance in their old age.”

In future, Nandan says, “My son will not be joining this business as he has seen me struggle. He will pursue a different business. But, I plan to fight the odds and work till the time my health allows.”

(This story is published in partnership with the MSME Ministry to showcase success stories of SMEs)

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