Remembering a Leader

Industrialization of our country started with establishment of Steel Plant at Jamshedpur by Jamshetji Tata in 1912. After India got freedom in 1947 from British and thus became a Sovereign nation, the founding fathers of Republic of India adopted the policies favoring the industrialization of country. Government assumed responsibility to produce key industrial items where private enterprise was unable to shore up the resources required. The rest of the field was left free for private enterprise but gave them protection through export import controls. This was in a way initiation of 'Make in India' program.

Risks and hardships to run a manufacturing industry remained plenty; though, there was protection through import export policies. Scarcity of raw materials, manpower, finance and not so easy access to technology - all proved to be big challenges. It was only a man with Vision, True Grit and Determination to succeed would venture into manufacturing industry. Fortunately India remained blessed with Dream and Dare entrepreneurs since the time immemorial. India started its journey on path of industrialization with several people wanting to earn better reward for their talents and resources by starting their own adventures.

Narsinhbhai Kalyanbhai Patel, known as NK to friends in industry, was one such adventurer who decided to venture into manufacturing of then little known Plastics Machinery field in the year 1964, giving up his plush job in managerial position with Greaves Cotton & Co. Always a top ranker in his studies, Gold medalist graduate in Mechanical and Electrical Engineering from University of Pune, followed by Graduation in Mechanical and Electrical Engineering from London University the pursuit of excellence remained his motto.

Narsinhbhai Kalyanbhai Patel
5th March, 1926 - 21st March, 2010

He got R. H. Windsor of UK, then known for best technology in field of Plastics machinery as JV partner and established factory in Thane, near Mumbai in 1964 to manufacture Injection and Extrusion machinery. The period from 1964 to 1977 factory produced machines to parent's technology. During this period he would encourage people going for training to parent not to restrict learning to 'Know How' extend learning to 'Know Why' i.e. logic behind designs or reason for following a process. This developed the capabilities amongst the trainees to develop new products and processes.

He encouraged his team (as well his friends) to challenge traditional ways and create a new. So Windsor became powerhouse of innovation and product development since 1977 and launched new range of Injection Moulding Machines with Direct Drive injection units, Co-rotating Twin Screw Compounding Extruders, Counter-rotating Twin Screw Extruders for PVC Pipes, Tubular quenched film lines for PP film, Multi Layer film plants, Flat film Tape Plants, Blow Moulding machines of 1, 5 and 30 liter capacity and Micro Processor controls for all these machines - all through in-house developments. Later he went on to add Rubber Injection Mouding Machines and Reaction injection moulding machines for Polyurathane from new partners of JV. The Product portfolio range stretches on and on in variety and capacities. He made Plastics Machinery for then known every process and application, which earned him honour and respect as "Pitamaha of Indian Plastics Industry".

My association with NK Saab began in May 1970 when I joined Windsor Thane as Inspection Engineer and it is continuing. Even today, he remains my mentor and guide. When I need any guidance to respond to a situation, I search in my memories and I find it in his actions and his thoughts.

NK Saab was a great teacher while he himself was a ardent learner. He was a voracious reader of contemporary literature - in technology, management, philosophy and social issues. What he learnt, he shared with others over a discourse. He firmly believed that 'Quality is Priority 1' job from CEO to associate on shop- floor. First book we studied and discussed was ' Managerial Breakthrough' by Dr. J M Juran a Quality Guru. Such learning sessions lasting almost two hours were held every week. On some days we will have an outside speaker teaching Management, Behavioral science or Human relations. We were fortunate to learn from then known Gurus - Dr. Sharu Ranganekar- on Improving managerial effectiveness, Dr. KK Anand on Organization Development, Prof. S N Ramachandran of Nitie teaching Materials Management. Books studied included 'Managing for Results' by Peter Drucker, 'Human side of Enterprise' by McGregor, 'In Search Of Excellence' by Tom Peters. Teachings from 'In search of Excellence' - Listen to customers, Do things Differently, Bias for Action (Do something and with speed was NK's add-on) and Team work - became tenets for all of us to practice for self progress and progress of organization. In period of 2000s he advised us to read and learn from 'Fifth Discipline' by Peter Senge (power of continuous learning) and 'Changing the Mindset' by Rohinton Aga of Thermax (Benefits of positive mindset) NK Saab firmly believed that emotional engagement of every employee is essential for growth of the organization. He believed that talented people are the assets of the company. He encouraged people participation in problem solving or improving processes by Small Group Activity (SGA). This was means to encourage creativity as well as means to motivate by making a person feel 'I matter'. Cross-functional 'Taskforce' were created for handling improvement projects and Product Development. In a way modern day 'Kaizens' and 'Concurrent Engineering' were practiced in Windsor in 70's and 80's.

NK Saab had respect for all and made friendship with everyone. He taught us to respect the 'self-respect' of every individual. He respected Bureaucrats not for the position they hold but for the abilities for which they are chosen for the positions they occupy to guide industry. We were asked to get guidance from them and I will not hesitate to say we were benefited by understanding the why's of some government stipulated guidelines. In mid 70's we attempted to manage working capital within Puri Committee guidelines and learnt how to turn around inventory within the supplier credit period!

NK Saab was a great motivator. He would make a person feel important by redefining the role. I had joined Windsor as Inspection Engineer (a image carried was Go-No-Go Role). He transformed me into Quality Assurance Engineer over a period of year by saying quality cannot be inspected into product, it should be built into through design and processes while being produced if one wants to give a quality product.

NK Saab had always remained close to customers, many would respect him as their mentor. He developed his product portfolio to 'wrap around' the customer. At Milacron he advised us to have products with differing value delivery in our product portfolio. Offer choices within your own product range was what he emphasized .

NK Saab respected his competition. He used to say that our customers and our competitors keep us renewing our products and processes and thus assure our future. We were not allowed to compare our product with competitors in our communication to customers (business is between you and your prospect, don’t introduce him to your competitor by bringing in comparison). Sell your product based on your product value.

NK Saab had realized early that Plastics industry needs trained people for it to grow. He encouraged people to visit Educational institutes for sharing industry knowledge thru lectures. Windsor would recruit around 30 trainees from Plastics courses every year. Atleast 15 trainees would be released for industry need. He advised us to repeat fresh recruitment of trainees every year so that message goes to society that people learning Plastics find employment. What a foresight!

Learning and Teaching were subjects dearest to his hearts. His passion for learning and teaching never ceased. After his separation from Windsor he continued to guide we people at Milacron India in the manner in which he built Windsor- with one more focus area added i.e.- innovate to create your future. He devoted his last days to create Educational institute and writing books sharing his knowledge on shaping of attitudes and leadership qualities.

The man was a tech-savvy Technocrat, transformed into Industrialist. But he earned a recognition as Institution Builder for he developed model practices for everyone to follow in industry, he developed talented people to serve him and to meet the industry need.

Narsinhbhai Kalyanbhai Patel left for his heavenly abode five years ago, on 21st March 2010. He was posthumously honoured with Lifetime Achievement Award by IPI on 10th April 2010.

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