J. Mohanasundari’s womanly instincts has taken her pump and electrode manufacturing company to greater heights

The International Women’s Entrepreneurial Challenge (IWEC) award occupies pride of place at her table. J. Mohanasundari, Managing Director, Sharp Electrodes Pvt Ltd and Kayjay Sharp Trendys, is one among 26 globally successful women entrepreneurs. She remembers the special feeling when she received the award at Peru, South Africa. She says: “It was an occasion to showcase India’s strength on a global platform. While most women entrepreneurs from other countries specialised in food industries, I walked up to collect the award for manufacturing pumps and welding electrodes, an engineering industry often associated with men.”

Her company manufactures monobloc, submersible, open-well and centrifugal pumps for homes, hospitals, and hotels for the domestic market, and welding electrodes and dry flux powder, predominantly to the Gulf, Australia, U.S., U.K., and Australia.

Mohanasundari took over the company as managing director after the demise of her husband K. Jaganathan in 2005. She has focussed on cutting costs, saving power, and improving overall efficiency. Asbestos roofs gave way to transparent roofs that let natural daylight in, thereby eschewing use of lights. The industrial turbines ventilators are powered by solar and wind energy. The electric-fired ovens were replaced with gas-fired ones.

Still, her EB penalty for excess power consumption ran up to a lakh. That’s when she introduced a ‘variable speed drive’ for motors. “I visited a unit in Ghaziabad to study the speed drive and installed it at our unit. It worked wonders. Wastages came down and quality improved greatly,” she says. Also, existing manufacturing units were upgraded to achieve double the quality and quantity. This ensured products that were cost-effective. She invested over a crore towards upgradation and says the returns have been gratifying. “From paying a penalty we earned incentives from EB,” she says.

Packing was another department Mohanasundari paid attention to. “Packing is crucial especially for our export market customers. We replaced manual labour with a stretch wrap machine. It improved the quality, added aesthetics and cut costs. I invest on any latest technology that improves quality of the product. It’s our satisfied customers who bring us new customers,” she mentions

The beginning of her journey as a head of an industry was shaky, she says. “All of a sudden I had this huge responsibility. I had a fair knowledge of the working of the industry as I accompanied my husband to work and participated in international exhibitions and visited manufacturing units abroad. When I took over, export orders weren’t easy to come by as they were unsure if a woman could deliver on time. But, till date I have honoured every single commitment. The trust factor gets us a steady flow of orders. We follow the cash and carry business model. There were threats from some quarters and some of them tried to cheat. I put up a brave face and moved on as lives of my employees were at stake. They are my family,” she says, simply.

Quality is priority. She has consistently received awards from the Engineering Export Promotion Council. Both her companies are ISO certified. The 120-strong workforce is her strength, says Mohanasundari. She sets aside two hours at dawn for asanas, stretches, and pranayama and begins her day at work with a prayer at 8.20 a.m., along with her employees. “Anyone is free to meet me. We lunch together at the canteen. I choose the menu every day. My employees’ happiness matters the most to me.”

Over 70 per cent of her workforce is women. She says, “My husband always told me that women have to use their considerable dexterity in tying flowers and making murukkus. Winding coil in motor units was not very different. It was his vision to encourage women; I have implemented it.”

Her advice to upcoming women entrepreneurs is, stay committed and never give up. “Any business involves risk-taking. Don’t look for immediate results. It’s always ‘We’ that counts and not ‘I”.”

It’s been a satisfying journey, says Mohanasundari. “When I participate in international exhibitions in Turkey, Trinidad, Toronto, Dubai and Malaysia, women there ask me excitedly, ‘Are you making this product? My husband is using this.’ Such feedback makes me feel proud. When I took over, I wanted to ensure that there is never a ‘No Work’. I have ensured it.”

A walk through the industry

At the CNC machine operations, women take charge as they oversee the making of stainless steel shafts, rotors, and aluminium body…the vital parts of the motor. “A CNC machine completes a task in just a few minutes and ensures accuracy, and quality,” she says.

At the finishing stage, a ‘Thermal Overload Protector’ is added to protect the coil from power fluctuations. Mohanasundari remembers visiting a unit in the U.S. with her husband to see how the product works. Her husband replaced the sheet metal body of a motor with aluminium, and introduced brass-based components such as forged brass volute and forged brass impellers…all to improve the life of monobloc pumps.

Scholarship

Mohanasundari has instituted Sharp Jaganathan education awards and scholarships in schools and colleges to support the education of the needy. She also takes care of the education of her employees’ children.