I come from a humble background: my father ran a small grocery store at a village in Buldhana district of Maharashtra. After completing class XII, I came to Mumbai in 1989 for further studies. Since I wanted to reduce my father’s financial burden, I decided to start my own venture.
I found that cheaper hardware and electronic goods were available at wholesale prices at Nagdevi street in south Mumbai, and that a particular brand of pressure and temperature gauges were in good demand. So I borrowed Rs 5,000 from a relative on the condition that I would return it in a month. I started taking orders and delivering them to small traders around Mumbai and Thane. I made a profit of Rs 1,000 per month, which took care of my college fees and monthly expenses.
In September 1989, I registered my company, Waaree Instruments. My turnover in the first year was Rs 12,000. After completing my education, I decided to continue with my venture and soon began sourcing gauges from Rajkot and Kolkata. In 1992, I leased a 300 sq ft office space at Andheri to start a manufacturing unit. For this, I took a bank loan of Rs 1.5 lakh, of which Rs 50,000 went as deposit for the office. I registered a separate company for manufacturing, Mahaveer Thermo Equipments. The rest of the money was used to purchase lath machines, which were procured locally.
I also hired two people and we started by manufacturing thermometers. The turnover for the year was Rs 5 lakh from both the companies. Two years later, we purchased a 700 sq ft space at Vasai for Rs 2.4 lakh and hired more people for marketing.
In 1997, we started making pressure gauges as well and began adding more products to the repertoire every year. The profit was reinvested for procuring new machines and technology. By 2010, we were manufacturing nearly 20 products, which included process control instruments, gas station equipment and industrial valves.
Then, in February 2011, we sold the manufacturing unit for nearly Rs 85 crore to the Switzerland-based Baumer Group. In 2000-1, we began trading in solar power equipment — water pumps, water heaters, cookers, home lighting and lanterns — because of its potential in the domestic and global markets. Currently, our range includes solar mobile charger, solar bags, lights and lamps.
We started manufacturing solar equipment in 2007, in Surat. It is still operational and our primary solar manufacturing unit in India. To promote solar instruments, we organised exhibitions and even visited the overseas markets. Our first deal was worth Rs 26 lakh to supply 350 units to REN Electron SRL in Italy. The company invested nearly Rs 9 crore for land and machinery. The company was called Waaree Energies, and today, provides all kinds of services, including designing, engineering, supply, installation and commissioning of solar photovoltaic power plants.
We entered into a joint venture with Zucatti of Italy in 2010 for manufacturing solar panels and other equipment in that country and marketing them in Europe. We will soon have a similar contract in the US for our entire range of solar equipment.
Besides the solar solutions, we have also supplied LED lighting fixtures in 126 jails in Madhya Pradesh. Till date, we have invested Rs 25 crore in machines and have expanded our value business.
In 2013, we acquired a 100 per cent stake in Cesare Bonetti SpA, Italy, a world leader in the manufacture of level gauges and valves. With this acquisition, our staff strength has increased to 200 employees in the value business in India and Italy. The group collectively employs around 700 people. Our headquarters are in Mumbai, but have 26 sales offices in different parts of the country, and five offices in the US, Asia, Middle East, Australia and Europe. We have more than 100 distributers, who market our products.
The solar business has grown at a CAGR of over 91 per cent in the past five years and we are planning to expand through internal generation, while the working capital will be raised from private equity funding. We are finalising an overseas PE funding for Rs 150 crore, based on the equity dilution of 10-15 per cent.
While we see a huge potential for solar power in India, the biggest challenge for us is that the banks are still very wary of financing solar power projects as they are worried about their commercial viability.
In January 2014, we launched a portal Waareemall.in with the aim to provide an online platform for selling our solar products. Through this, we will be able to offer a larger range of our products, such as solar mobile charger, solar bag, solar battery charger, solar camping light and other portable products, directly to our customers.
Our turnover last year was around Rs 700 crore and, as a group, we are looking at growing by 25 per cent by the end of this financial year. Our target now is to become a Rs 2,000 crore group in the next three years.