Osbert D’Souza: Following the ISO system rigidly
“Over 25 years and I am still learning!” says Osbert D’Souza, Director of Osworld Scientific Equipments Pvt. Ltd. when asked about how long it took him to train about the finer aspects of business. “There is something new to learn every day. I grasped the basics pretty quickly though because I did have a natural flair for business.” Along with his brother Oswin D’Souza and father Joseph D’Souza, also Directors of the company, Osbert D’Souza runs Osworld. Working in India and internationally over the last four decades, the company is among the biggest pharmaceutical instrument manufacturers in the country.
From the days when his father set-up a business focused solely on trading smaller parts and equipment, Osworld has come a long way. Still, this family has always remained grounded. The man on top of it all, founder Joseph D’Souza’s mental makeup has a lot to do with the humility. “Tough, hardworking, honest, sincere and selfless,” is how Osbert describes his father. That value system has filtered down the generations and extends to the company and its employees.
Osbert, an electronics engineer, joined Osworld in 1988. He previously worked for Sony TV, India, as Quality Control engineer, before becoming a service head for a company handling Honeywell Instruments. The shift from the service industry to manufacturing was certainly not easy. “Joining dad’s business was the best decision as I strongly desired to manufacture process control instruments on my own. The digital technology in process control instrumentation was replacing the analogy technology back then in 1988. My exposure with Honeywell instruments helped me to develop our own digital temperature controllers. These controllers were then installed in Osworld products and all our products were digitalized,” says Osbert.
It was easy for the father-son duo to get bogged down with the training and adapting process but Osbert says that his father never really let him know the problems he was facing. “If you ask me who between the two of us was more worked up, it would have to be dad, but he never showed it. Training is difficult and requires a lot of patience, especially when it comes to matters related to accounts and statutory requirements which are integral parts of business and which were completely new to me,” Osbert smiles, reminiscing about his days as a greenhorn.
He has now worked at every level of the organization, from shop floor supervising of production which includes fabrication, wiring and product testing, to domestic and international sales, preparing business plans and implementing them. While transitioning to these different disciplines, the road has not always been smooth.
“It has been extremely tough. We had big dreams but lacked direction. We got exposed to barriers due to a poor business environment and incorrect methods. There were issues dealing with labour, complex taxation laws, complicated statutory requirements and payment defaulters. This was during the pre-reform days of our country. Business was tough back then,” reflects Osbert.
“The second year of joining business taught me a few lessons. To upgrade the Autoclave, I decided to replace the manual air purging cycle with an automated method using solenoid valves and a microprocessor-based controller. This was something new that I thought of and developed on my own. To my surprise, a few months later, our competitor reproduced the same technology in his equipment,” he adds. Another significant limitation to growth was the general disregard for regulations that was widespread in the industry, allowing manufacturers willing to break the rules to offer cheaper solutions.
“There are a lot of local manufacturers in different states and many of them don’t follow any definite standards and also use substandard quality components. This helps them sell at cheaper prices, at times even at 50 per cent of our cost.”
Osbert points out the situation turned around into Osworld’s favour when India introduced GMP compliance regulations that were embraced by the pharmaceutical industry. “It served as a benefit as many non-regular equipment manufacturers lost business to us,” he says. Osworld, being an ISO 9000-certified company with a strong inclination towards providing quality goods, prompt after-sales service, and with credentials of being a true manufacturer, was well placed to establish a strong brand value.
“The strict audits conducted by the FDA and the mandatory data recording of equipment performance put a lot of pressure on our service department. This led to growth and the resulted profits helped our expansion,” he adds. Osbert proudly explains how the company has set a benchmark for quality. “We follow the ISO system rigidly. Customer complaints are treated on priority. New technology is made available from time to time. At present, we are focusing on appointing distributors in all major countries, we have also increased our advertising expenditure and are focusing on the new social media marketing methods as well as the old conventional way,” he says, looking to the future of Osworld.
Customer is king for these three D’Souza men that lead the company. “Our service is prompt, and the results speak,” says Osbert. “The repeat orders we receive from satisfied customers are a compliment. Last year’s sales analysis report indicated that 30 per cent of our business is due to repeat orders from existing clients. When I attend business meetings, I often ask customers if they know Osworld and when they acknowledge that Osworld means reliability to them, it is a nice thing to hear,” he says.
Asked to sum up Osworld’s success, Osbert says, “Being steady and reliable, holding together in difficult times without compromising and remaining customer-centric.” Osbert believes Osworld can be a standard bearer for innovation in India, driving the technology sector with quality products that match up to foreign expectations.
Looking to the future, Osbert detailed his vision for the company:
• To see Osworld at the forefront of innovation, research and development in India.
• Produce high quality products that can withstand foreign competition in terms of price and quality and reach out to the international market as a reliable substitute of European products.
• Collaborate with European or American manufacturers either for technological knowhow or as a joint venture.
• Produce equipment which is 100% compliant to guidelines and FDA specifications.
Osbert is particularly eager to link up with foreign partners in an effort to expand the knowledge and capabilities of the company. A long time admirer of European and American manufacturers, Osbert has been actively seeking manufacturers from the United States and Europe to ensure Osbert’s components are the highest quality. “I firmly believe that different manufacturers specialize in different products; we need to use their resources, capability, and infrastructure to integrate these parts with our products. As part of this strategy and to enhance our product performance we tied up with a Swedish company for HMI, a Japanese company for PLC’s, a German company for hardware , a UK company for door gasket, French company for RH sensors and a Swiss company for temperature sensors.”
Working alongside Oswin, his brother
It took some time for Oswin D’Souza to embrace a career with Osbert, but for the last 25 years Oswin and Osbert have been working in tandem at the forefront of the company. Osbert says the road has not always been smooth, but together the brothers have spurred growth throughout the company.
“Ever since Oswin and I formed the top core management, the responsibility of guiding the company through fierce completion fell on us. It was tough to work our way up from a 100 sq. ft premises in 1988 to 40,000 sq. ft. We have a lot of discussions between us and they have been very helpful. In fact, in the office space that we have shared for the past 20 years there has been no separating wall or partition between us. We interact all the time and our jointly-made decisions have proved to be effective.”