Sunjay Kapur carries with him the legacy of an Indian automobile component industry that has defined itself. Sunjay Kapur, CEO of Sona Group and MD at Sona BLW, is well aware that he has many eyes watching him.
Entrepreneur India caught up with the heir to one of India’s largest auto component manufacturing companies on the eve of his Father, Surinder Kapur, celebrating his 75th birthday. When you meet him, you will learn more about his vivid life, the leadership style he has inherited from his Father, and his futuristic vision for his company.
The Father’s son
Surinder Kapur, a young man in Bombay at the time, had founded a company named Bharat Gears. At that time, owning a car was considered a luxury. Sunjay Kapur, a young boy at the time, fondly recalls his factory visits to Thane. Sona Steering was founded in the 1990s to fill a market gap left by Maruti.
Kapur graduated from college in 1996 and returned to India to establish the HR department at Sona Koyo. Kapur stated that, at the time, businesses were based solely on what was required by the market. In a cost-priced economy, the companies produced what was needed for the market.
Kapur recalls his visits to the factory as a child. “We ran our business from the factory. There was no culture in the head office. “I vividly recall my father would make this presentation to every employee about what competition was and what we could expect as a company – how to reorient ourselves with a strong focus on quality,” he said.
Kapur repeated the exercise many years later for 3,500 employees. “I was doing it because we had a failure in quality. It was certainly managed, but because production was high, the importance of quality wasn’t stressed. “I did the presentation from plant to plant for all of our employees,” he said.
Certain traditions started by his Father have been passed down to him, such as the weekly Monday meetings where the whole company would gather. We put a lot of emphasis on quality. Kapur said that for us, the journey is important. It sounds cliche, but it’s about reaching that level of quality where we want to be.
Managing Industrial Changes
The Indian automotive industry has undergone a number of changes over the years. This has also had a noticeable impact on component manufacturers. Innovation is sweeping the automotive industry, from PAS cars to today’s electrification. Kapur also identifies the changes and says that the industry is highly disruptive with digitization. “Over the years, there has been a paradigm change from what it used to be. What took 30 years to achieve will be achieved in 10 years. Safety, lightweight, and connectivity were all major concerns in the past. “Today, we have added autonomous and electrification,” said he.
The consumer’s mindset has also changed. The price was the main concern of an Indian car buyer in the past. The new Indian is more concerned with the details. “Pricing was more important than ease of use. This has changed. “But safety is still a very important factor,” he said.
Is it difficult to cater to all segments of the Indian car market, from utility cars to luxury models? Our business is made up of 40 percent PAS cars and 40 percent trucks. “Catering to needs depends a lot on what the OEM or end-user wants from the product,” said he.
Sona Group has become a global leader in forging. Their offering is global. Kapur says that while tolerances and specifications for OEMs may be different, they are pretty standard when it comes to what goes into a German or Indian truck. Kapur says that dials are the key to their business, and they stand out from other companies even on a global scale.
Kapur is looking at other ways to forge. The idea is to see where we can expand. He said, “I see farm equipments as a great choice.”
The Reign of Electrification
Electric Vehicles are a growing market for automobile companies. The new EVs have been gaining global attention. Kapur’s Sona Group, one of India’s largest car component manufacturers and international players in the industry has also been a major player in the EV revolution. They invest continuously in R&D, and because they have a European business, they are able to identify trends very early. “We developed parts for EVs. We developed an electrical axle. “We saw the market needed it, so we put in a lot of R&D effort and invested heavily,” said he.
Is India ready to switch over to electric vehicles? Kapur says it depends on infrastructure. Kapur believes that the introduction of EVs to two-wheelers will start with three-wheelers. Then, it will move on to people carriers and then to PAS vehicles.
Kapur, when discussing innovation in the business world, said that today’s industry is highly disruptive in terms of both products and services. You have to be ahead of the curve and know what’s coming next. He said that we need to consider what our product’s requirements will be and how to cater to them.
Leading by Example
Kapur’s legacy was handed to him as if it were a gift. Kapur admits he had a platform, but he also faced challenges in growing it. It isn’t easy to build upon a platform already in place. “It’s not easy to fill someone else’s shoes and all the expectations from both the employees and consumers,” he said.
He acknowledges that he has an advantage but reiterates the fact that the challenge is to take the business to the next stage. He said: “I tell entrepreneurs all the time that the challenge is to grow the business while keeping its core intact.”
It isn’t easy to manage a company that has become a household name, one that thousands of people look up to. How can one deal with the pressure? You’ve got to stay focused. You must identify your goals. I will achieve them. I believe in building a solid foundation by putting the correct people in the appropriate places to develop the best strategy. 90% of business is planning, and 10% is execution. Many companies waste a lot of time on execution because they redo things that they hadn’t prepared properly,” he said.
What is Sunjay Kapur’s business style? Kapur is a firm believer in systems, procedures, and delegating. He relies on his team at the end of the day. Kapur is a factory worker, and according to his Twitter bio, that makes him a team player.