Few businesses will risk a ‘heads I win, tails you lose’ attitude unless, say, they are part of the power conditioning industry in India. In that case, their boldness is justified: They have unending demand in sight.
There is a growing need for power conditioners (devices that improve the quality of power) and uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems because of outages as well as the low quality of power across the country. In both residential and commercial sectors, people are getting accustomed to the comforts of elevators and air conditioners or are investing in technologies that call for high-quality, uninterrupted power. This cycle promises to keep demand up even if India does manage to solve its power shortage problems in the coming years.
As Sriram Ramakrishnan, CEO of Consul Consolidated, likes to point out, total power outage in the US is just three minutes in a year and, yet, it is one of the largest markets for UPS. “This outage doesn’t take place in a stretch. There are 30-40 interruptions that add up to three minutes. But people want uninterrupted power supply. That kind of tells you something about this business,” he says.
The People Behind It
Consul was founded by N Ramesh Sankaran, KN Raja, K Sunder and NP Krishnan back in 1981. The four promoters had built a strong sales and services network across the country, a reputation among its industrial clients.
When Peepul Capital Advisors took a majority stake in Consul in 2012, it zeroed in on Sriram. “When we picked up a stake in Consul, it already had great people, a good reputation as well as a solid sales and service network,” says Venkat Shankar, investment director at Peepul. “What we wanted to do was scale it up.”
He adds, “In Sriram, we saw a happy convergence of the right kind of skill sets in terms of technology, strategy and business development.”
Sriram is an electrical engineer by training and profession. After getting his bachelor’s degree from India, he went to the US to study for a master’s in power electronics. He was subsequently hired by GE where he developed power products for medical imaging systems, aircraft and so on. He was also a part of the team that launched the company’s UPS business; he was, in fact, involved in the presentation of the plan to CEO Jack Welch. He only moved out in 2003 when he followed his boss, Ed Komoski, to Powerware, which was later acquired by Eaton Corporation Inc, a power management major. There, he built the data solutions business from scratch and took it to $120 million in three years.
After 15 years in the US, he moved to India in 2008, joining the Chennai-based Sanmar Group to run its industrial valves business; he helped capture 20 percent of the market share in the first two years.