Oswin D’Souza: Changing Turnover
“Having a strong global presence in more than 50 countries the world over is how I want to see Osworld as a company,” says Oswin D’Souza, Director, Osworld Scientific Equipments Pvt Ltd. who heads the production and R&D portfolios in the family-run business. He has a sharp and focused vision for the next decade. “I want to see it [Osworld] INVENTING all the time rather than being an organization striving on innovation. We must manufacture equipment that isunique, and which can be identified as Osworld. For this we need to earmark a higher budget (at least 5 per cent) for R&D. We must look at diversifying into businesses that have larger potential to scale-up. Also, with an eye on the future of the business, we must be prepared with multiple verticals for the next generation of family entrepreneurs to take over and expand the Osworld brand to different continents. The pharma and the medical divisions have already been initiated as separate verticals as a step in this direction,” he says, dynamism and ambition evident in his demeanour.
Back in the 1990s though, the tone was slightly less forward thinking. Back then, Joseph D’Souza’s youngest son did not find his dads venture appealing at all! He joined and left his father’s company not once, but three times. The first time was in 1989, soon after completing his electronics engineering. “It was for a brief spell. However, I found no space in the office since both my brothers were in the business and we had a small office. I thought it wise to take a job then and gain some experience,” says Oswin.
In 1990, he re-joined after gaining a year’s experience in a computer firm where he had learnt everything about computer hardware. “Once again the business didn’t appeal to me and I found myself to be a misfit. I was angry with my father when he substituted me for a delivery boy to collect something from a supplier and bring it in the luggage compartment of a local train. I was too proud and egoistic and felt it was better to move out,” he admits. The chapter would’ve been closed had it not been for his mother, Angeline. “Much more than my father, my mother believed in my abilities and always felt that I would bring up the family business,” he says, with more than a hint of respect.
In 1995, after gaining four years of experience in installing, supporting and selling ATMs, and also simultaneously completing his Business Management studies, Oswin stepped into Osworld again. His agenda was clear: Help out with the marketing, take the company to a certain level and migrate to either Canada or the US for better climatic/health reasons.
“I did not wish to stay in India. I had set myself a target of taking our turnover to a respectable level in five years thus making the required money to sustain a life abroad and then move out,” he confesses. This time he remained at Osworld and became a vital component of the company. “It was fate. I got deeply involved in the business and began believing in the potential of Osworld. Within a year’s time, I realized that here is whereas a family we could create something big of our own,” he says. He decided to focus only on manufacturing and developing the Osworld brand with an emphasis on indigenous production.
“I have great belief in the potential of Indian manufacturing, vis-à-vis technological brilliance (hardware/ software), provided we are able to channel it properly. Also, we need to change our mindset in giving equal importance to aesthetics, workmanship and packaging of our products,” he points out. A few quick changes happened in the next couple of years-–the trademark of the Osworld brand was registered in 1996. That year Osworld’s turnover doubled, coinciding with the company’s first participation in the Labtech exhibition held in Mumbai, India.
After he joined, low-value equipment such as the pH Meter, Melting Point Apparatus, Karl Fischer Titrator, among others, were discontinued on advice received by the company’s ISO consultant. This move was taken to standardize and avoid items which are low-priced, complicated, non-voluminous and non-growth orientated. “We took a conscious decision at that time to be an equipment company manufacturing electro-mechanical equipment and to discontinue the instrumentation products.”
Like all top R&D leaders, some of Oswin’s ideas backfired, but he embraced the learning curve he was on. “The idea of having a showroom in the heart of the dealer market area in Mumbai flopped and it had to close down within a year of operation. However, an important lesson was learned; it paved the way for Osworld to focus on the consumer market rather than the dealer market realizing more profits and better after-sales service and coordination with customers,” he says.
Asked if family businesses are more challenging compared to corporate ventures, Oswin offers a studied insight. “It gets very challenging, since eight out of 10 ideas get thrown out of the window. The risk-taking appetite is at the bare minimum and therefore growth is slow. Also, decision-making is very slow to the extent that it’s either too late or one loses interest,” he explains.
In 2008, the brothers exchanged their portfolios and marketing became Osbert’s responsibility while Oswin took charge of production and R&D. Oswin has been instrumental in introducing sophistication to the equipment through GSM Connectivity, Wireless Technology, Ethernet, Internet Software, Oslog Data Storage Device, 21 CFR Part 11 Software and the ISO/CE certification.
The values that their company stands for are its USP, says Oswin. “My father has shown great perseverance in building the organization in the first two decades of its existence. In spite of having four children to look after, my father showed courage in starting the organization and thereafter taking the risky step of leaving his job and surviving in the business. I really admire his perseverance, his ability to take financial pressures, his tenacity to sustain in a competitive environment, his importance to detail and his desire to lead a humble, simple and balanced life without envy, vices and any materialistic expectations. Our company’s tagline reflects that: Experiment with the TRUTH. We are a company that’s trustworthy and truthful. Our products don’t lie.”
And this belief is reflected in the balance sheet as well. Together the two brothers, Oswin and Osbert, have seen the turnover of their company grow manifold, and more importantly lead a company that is respected.
While Osworld has enjoyed considerable growth under the leadership of Oswin and his brother Osbert, competition has played a significant role. Oswin says he understands the way competition can spur companies to perform better, something he took on board with Osworld.
“Every business is competitive. It is competition that keeps us on our toes else we might get complacent. It is completion that is making me envisage Osworld as an organisation that should INVENT rather than INNOVATE. We need to believe in R&D and ear mark at least 5 per cent of the turnover for R&D to be able to explore high value products.”