Innovation with Market Sense and Business Strategy is key to Success
The sheer thirst for knowledge and the proclivity to invent new equipment shaped Mr. Satish Pathak’s life. In a country where engineering and engineers are aplenty and following trends is a norm, he chose to be an innovator, a trendsetter in his own capacity. Right from his childhood, Satish was intensely curious with an inclination to devise new plans of doing things. Machine Maker brings you the incredible tale of a Trailblazer, Satish Pathak, Founder and Managing Director of Pune based Samiep Technology Innovations Private Limited.
Interesting and sometimes funny stories are testimony to his innovative mind right from locking himself up inside a wardrobe to figure out its door close mechanism, to making sword shield from water drum lid during childhood play fencing, to actually making a make-shift helmet for mining workers without even having the preemptive knowledge of existence of such a helmet in reality.
This tendency to generate something new found him a conducive environment when he joined NRC. After completion of engineering studies, Satish joined the firm on a no-pay basis till his college results were declared. It was at NRC where his appetite for innovation received the right fodder. Satish’s immediate boss, Mr. A. S. Bhalode, was interested in R&D, which gave him the right platform.
Though his job role was restricted to maintenance of instrumentation and control, his enthusiasm propelled him to get involved in the repair of analog electronic process equipment at the component level, electro-pneumatic parts, and mechanical parts. His accountability for process control loops honed his abilities about debugging the control loops for all its elements such as sensors, instruments, transmitters, valves, and actuators and the interconnectivity down the line to rectifying a faulty IC, transistor, or some other electronic component. Satish got comprehensive knowledge ranging from sensor concepts to complete process control in a running plant. True to his naturality, he devised some electronic instruments right from a scratch to replace some pneumatic instruments that had become obsolete. In all this efforts Satish had a supportive boss in Mr. Bhalode during this phase.
While he was in NRC during the late eighties and the early nineties, he could not get exposure to new technologies such as microprocessors, digital electronics, and software programming and the usage of all of these in automation. Satish planned to compensate for this drawback by using his time after 4:30 pm when he was on the first shift and up to 3:00 pm when he was on the second shift. Satish joined courses in hardware design, interfacing, and embedded programming in assembly language and C. He was awarded the ‘Proficiency certificate’ by IIT Mumbai for the ‘PC-based Automation and Control’ course. His objective was to become an expert in offering automation systems ‘single-handed’ commanding in each domain of automation. For this, Satish took the hands-on experience of mechanical working, instrumentation, digital electronics, embedded designs and interfacing, assembly language programming in microcontrollers, and user application software code on the PC.
On this solid foundation, he nurtured the idea of starting his own technology business that would offer the industry innovative/ first-of-its-kind systems. Satish knew that this would quench his thirst of invention-based work that could go global on a large scale.
At this juncture, he resigned from NRC and joined ‘Uptime Computer Services Pvt. Ltd.’ in Mumbai while accepting a partial drop in his package. The opportunity to work on PC-based automation and control for an online extrusion of a polyester film manufacturing plant for a client such as Garware was too enticing for him. During the 1.5 years with this company, he developed a complete PC-based automation system with hardware for more than 40 analog outputs and 2 analog inputs and software written in Turbo C right from scratch. Mr. Pathak used color monitors to display real-time graphs of film thickness. The completion of this project coincided with the inception of his proprietary establishment. Satish had planned from the very beginning that his company would not be limited to a specific industry vertical or application but would apply its expertise to everything.
The company’s first project was CInL, an innovative application for an effluent control system. The next venture was PC-based PA systems for the Railways in the Mumbai division. The firm maintained all 54 systems installed in the CR Mumbai division for 2.5 years. Satish applied for a patent and switched over to online LED Display systems required by Railways and industries to display a variety of real-time data. He developed an in-house team and delivered the first-of-the-kind fully automatic PC-based Advanced Timetable Display system for CR Mumbai. The firm’s work encompassed various activities such as conceptualization; segregation of modules in mechanical, instrumentation, digital electronics, software, and proprietary communication protocols; designing and programming; module integration; on-site installation; and commissioning.
He came across a re-establishment project, which consisted of devising a holistic automation solution for a plant that was failing miserably. The existing system was using two separate valves for chemicals for coarse and fine flow-rates. Overall, there were about 500 on-off valves, all of which had flaws. The situation coerced to replace all these 500 valves, which was an exorbitant expense. Satish resolved all problems in this project with the aid of only two technicians. They invented a valve, which halved the number of valves essential for the project. This resulted in the development of Samiep valves.
Mr. Satish Pathak emphasizes that his innovation is less-complex, cost-effective, soothing to use, pain-remover, providing multiple benefits to the users, and requiring lesser efforts to sell.
The society has a definite thought in mind that the person next door cannot be a great innovator who can bring about a global change. So, financial help from society was out of the question. Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) had extended him a grant of 15 lakh INR to build a technology showcase for live demos. He is also eligible for the next level grant of 50 lakh INR. Because his company is a Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP)-recognized startup, there exists a possibility of a collateral-free loan. Under the Startup India initiative, Satish is hopeful of getting tax exemption and funds from the Indian Government. The real boost to his innovations has come through the international awards. Post-awards, industries and eminent organizations such as Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) are taking the initiative of inviting Satish for a demo and then offering him to complete the vendor registration process. Large-scale industries, as well as Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), are finding his innovations beneficial, easy-to-adapt, and assuring an early Return on Investment (RoI).
Satish’s innovative technologies are disruptive and low carbon (green) technologies. These save CapEx, OpEx, and space by minimum 100% each. The accrual of savings results in a high RoI. His technologies can be used in industry verticals, aerospace, defense, and commercial value chain to create a large global impact. Satish believes that commercializing his technologies is not limited to manufacturing in India (under the ‘Make in India’ initiative) but can be extended to benefit the globe, which can be termed as ‘Proudly Make in India’ initiative.
In 2016, Mr. Pathak was honored as the first Indian to win the coveted International Society of Automation (ISA) award. The ISA, founded in 1945, is a not-for-profit organization that sets global automation standards. The ISA award is the most distinguished accolade for an automation veteran, and when it is about recognition of an invention’s global impact, it is akin to adding the Kohinoor to the inventor’s bejeweled crown.
In Mumbai, ISA felicitated Mr. Pathak with the District 14 Asia Pacific award. Another feather in his cap is the Gold medal in the Serbian Exhibition of Inventions in the face of competition of inventions from 118 nations. His Gold medal is embossed with a mugshot of Nicola Tesla, the great Serbian inventor.
In the face of these international awards and the following traction, he garnered confidence to launch a private limited company in May 2017 and named it Samiep. Arranging the capital and expenses was challenging, but Satish overcame the hurdles through some personal savings. He had to face financial setbacks, but Satish eventually could surmount those. As regards innovation efforts, his clarity and rich experience were adequate to prevent any setbacks. Once, Mr. Pathak missed filing a global patent due to incorrect advice. In course of time, he developed new versions of his innovation that would fetch him more global patents. Mr. Pathak was never interested in establishing a small company and running it in traditional fashion.
Samiep has four engineering divisions: Mechanical, Electrical and Electronics, IT, and Instrumentation. The Mechanical division is involved in the design, development, and manufacture of valves, some actuators, and construction of generic machines and standardized systems related to liquid dispensing applications. The Electrical and Electronics division caters to the design, development, and manufacture of some actuators and controllers for automatic control of valves and an automation system’s mechanisms besides monitoring and control of process parameters. The IT division develops software application packages for a person-machine interface. Samiep’s package for Automatic Compounding is useful in Flavor and Fragrance industries, Pharma industry, and some other sectors also. The Instrumentation division determines the feasibility of a system using Samiep’s IP, integrates all components to build the entire solution, and tests and certifies the entire system.
His future plans for Samiep are to do mass production of valves, controllers, and actuators. His software packages would be configurable to select functionality/ modules and would be able to be networked or expanded to support scalability of the client’s production needs. They would support real-time production needs and be connected to enterprise data and operations management. He aims to build generic solutions that can be configured as per the customers’ needs. The company will offer the knowledge-base and design to Application Service Provider (ASP) or Software Project Management (SPM) associates to fabricate a plant, integrate a system, or build a machine locally. The firm will compel them to use Samiep’s authentic products only. The firm can build machines for each potential customer in the international market. To raise funds and mitigate the initial investment of USD 10 million, the firm would offer 3 to 5 licenses while signing the deal. This investment is essential for a robust foundation and elevation of the company to greater heights.
Satish’s company wants to launch a disruptive technology that will have a long-term impact on industries and not a low-potential technology or a product in general. The team wants to penetrate deeper into the international market to ensure long-term presence and market share. Such a market reach will clear the way to more technology innovations. The company wants to own an infrastructure with all quality control and standardization to build confidence in the customers and the B2B network. The objective of this strategy is to apply the technology for more applications, reach the international market, resulting in organic growth, and make the venture sustainable. Mr. Satish continuously strives to make each engineering department self-sustainable to explore more business opportunities. He plans to embark on a new concept, Decentralized Automatic Distribution (DAD), which will be a Service industry to offer bottling/ ex-production services on a decentralized network.
As for his suggestions to budding innovators, Satish advises being clear regarding their abilities and desires. If they cannot arrive at a conclusion regarding these, they must follow their passion, dedicate themselves to their area of interest, and develop a solid foundation for a burgeoning career.
Mr. Pathak says, “If you dream of becoming an innovator, ask yourself—do you have a fire in your belly? do you have the desire for innovation and entrepreneurship?”. An innovator needs to work on several modules and later do some managerial work. The person must be self-driven, self-disciplined, and an enterprising person. One must have outstanding communication skills—interpersonal, written, presentation, body language, receptive. Only his innovation cannot decide the success but his sense of market and business strategy will. The trait of one’s personality that will help you the most is patience! One must be a skillful user of all types of assistance you get, be it in the form of money or personal help.”