Resolve of Steel

To ensure growth, Sonish plans to venture into renewable and defence sector in the nearby future

The company stretched over a huge expanse of land at the Madkaim Industrial Estate is unique in its own way. Sonish Equi-Chem Industries is a leading name in Goan manufacturing. The company has grown exponentially over the years in the stainless steel fabrication sector. Having started in difficult times when industrial growth was slow, they have played a pivotal role in Goan manufacturing scene for over 35 years.

Edible Oil Filter

Sonish has completed over 20000+ projects in fabrication and manufacturing. Sonish manufactures storage vessels and pressure equipment for pharmaceutical and other industrial requirements. Its manufacturing product line includes storage tanks, pressure reactors, crystallisers, heat exchangers, pressure vessels etc.

Over the years, Sonish Equi-Chem Industries has achieved several industrial milestones by housing engineering, equipment, manufacturing and field service capabilities under one roof. In house facilities includes hydraulic shearing, hydraulic press break, lathe machine, drilling machines, bandsaw machine, plasma cutting, argon welding machines, rectifiers, mig welding and all modern tool room facilities.

Nagesh Shirwant, Founder & CEO of Sonish Equi-Chem Industries, soon after his graduation got an opportunity from State Bank of India, which had started a programme for local entrepreneurs in Goa, considering the nascent industrial canvas in the state back then. SBI had selected 25 people and had trained them on many applications that were required to be an entrepreneur. The programme which lasted for a month included lectures from industry experts.

Upon completion of the same, they started financing the shortlisted companies. The SBI programme was crucial for the birth of Sonish. “After the training, they financed us almost 100% in the initial stage. Further they provided Rs 50,000 additional amount of interest free loans which were to be paid after 5 years. Although the training was started in 1979, getting all the permission for the unit and other setup took time. After two years, in 1981 Sonish was inaugurated in Ponda,” Nagesh reflects on the initial journey of his manufacturing unit.

The Chemical Reactor

Sonish Equi-Chem Industries had started manufacturing mild steel and stainless steel fabrication. Elaborating on the breakthrough contract, Shirwant says, “Immediately after starting of the unit, I was fortunate enough to be introduced to the CMM group, a big business house back then in Ponda. They used to get jobs done from Bombay and they approached us due to our unit being located in Goa. CMM had 5-6 big companies under them and we used to supply to them as per their needs.” During that phase, Goa Antibiotics and Pharmaceutical Ltd made an entry into Goan industry. They had required several structures where Sonish heavily banked upon. Sonish was able to capitalise and get many clients, as around that time nobody was manufacturing stainless steel products in Goa. When Shirwant entered this sector, it was a bold project to start with, as he had sensed the need that was generating for the same kind of industry.

Apart from CMM, Sonish used to frequently bag orders for mild steel structure from construction companies from Ponda. As business expanded, Sonish started moving towards the Pharmaceutical sector which had massive demand back then. The pharmaceutical client list started growing with an instant pace due to the quality work which Sonish provided.

Nagesh Shirwant is on advisory board of Goa Polytechnic Panaji. Before starting the business, Shirwant had joined profession as the college professor where he worked for short period of 6 months. Shirwant says, he was always determined to start something on his own, hence he gave up on the teaching profession and jumped on the business journey. From his early years, Shirwant was into the process of finding out what is lacking in Goan industry. According to his findings, he thought stainless steel was deserved to be experimented with. Also around that time, his brother Mahesh Shirwant had started a shop in Ponda which was dealing with stainless steel items. Hence he was contemplating to start something on similar lines.

Back then, industrial estates in Goa were not developed, hence Nagesh Shirwant started the unit in his backyard in Yashwantnagar, Ponda. Sonish was functioning in the Ponda unit for more than 30 years; however, when the need was felt to expand further, the unit was shifted to a mega complex in Madkaim IDC.

Speaking on the turning point, Nagesh says, “We got a big break in 1989 when we began supply to Syngenta, for whom we used to cater to in huge quantities. We were flooded with jobs after that. We did not look back ever since. Our main client today is Deccan Chemicals (Syngenta then), other major clients are Duraline and Finolex.”

Anish Shirwant, Executive Operations at Sonish reveals on the aggressive strategies adopted in the recent past. He says, “We identified where the vessels were required. We scouted for new customers in the pharmaceutical, food and beverages industries and other food industries. Chemical industries gave us the huge break. Now it’s Deccan. For 5 years we have had huge production in reactors, heat exchangers and filters.”

Sonish are well known for their new generation of filters and they supply it to companies in Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai. Sonish is the second biggest supplier of new generation filters in Asia.

When it comes to marketing, Sonish believes that they have earned clients mostly from word of mouth. However Anish Shirwant, has tried experimenting with new marketing techniques, Anish elaborates “We have started account based marketing – where we keep communicating with different companies through letters or emails and building a bridge with them. We keep them updated about our company and the products that we manufacture.” When the company was started in the 80s, getting raw materials in Goa was a difficult task. Due to which, Shirwant had to make frequent trips to Mumbai and other commercial centres. That he describes as the initial difficulties faced during the start of the company. Although Goa still lacks availability of those raw materials, but with improved technology and logistics this has bolstered the business for many like Shirwant.

Sonish mostly deals in B2B clients and they don’t see the size of the jobs. Team Sonish which houses more than 50 workers consider even a small job as important as the mega assignments. In the nearby future, Sonish would enter into the consumer market with its own product portfolio. The company would also spread its arms through marketing branches in some other states. “Our plant is huge in scale and is sufficient for any future upscaling. We are also expanding with a new facility in the neighbourhood. That will be in operation by August this year. We don’t feel the need to go to any other IDC as we have enough work area here,” Shirwant informs.

Under the leadership of Nagesh Shirwant, the company also believes in utmost honesty in the business – which is one big reason why Shirwant feels rewarded on many occasions due to maintaining it strictly. He says, “Credibility is an important factor for many businessmen when they choose to do business with you on a long term basis. And honesty always pays you.”

Fearless attitude towards challenging jobs and completing them in a record time with complete client satisfaction is what Sonish considers the company’s strong point. “We don’t fear to take up any challenge from any client. Suppose there’s emergency breakdown with any of our clients, then we run for the rescue. Client’s priorities are our top priority. We have to deliver to clients on a timely basis. Even if the company is suffering from loss, we go out of our way to solve the problem,” Shirwant says. He adds, “For big companies, breakdown happen on a routine basis. In those times, they trust us to be there and repair on an urgent basis. We put our full manpower in such cases and get it resolved.”

Team Sonish also engages in CSR activities for the people in the neighbourhood. “If there are any social or educational institutions where there’s a requirement of stainless steel jobs to be done. There we do it for them without any cost. Even if the job is not viable for us to do or there are time constraints, we make it a point to complete them in the best way possible for us. Because we believe in giving back to the community,” says Shirwant.

Fulfilling the requirements of the client and doing continuous innovation drives the team at Sonish. Many who know Nagesh Shirwant believes he is a close industry watcher and always comes out with products that are required by the industry in Goa.

As most of the industries feared the demonetisation, it’s an opposite story for Sonish. Anish Shirwant elucidates, “As a company, we were happy with the move as we always believed in doing legal business.” Further the company is optimistic about the new GST regime. Anish explains, “GST will be the biggest advantage for our company because the current tax system is very much complicated. If we can further leverage it, then it will be great for us in terms of profitability in the long run. Initially there will be lot of problems due to understanding of the structure. However, much of the rough edges will be smoothened in days to come. Some of our buyers were rejecting the bill concept earlier. Now with the GST in force, they will have to come into the formal channel.”

According to Anish Shirwant, the government has failed to facilitate the Ease of Doing business in the state due to which no big company has entered the Goan industry in the last 10 years. “What people do in Goa is that they buy land, keep it for few years and then sell it for profit. That is the sad reality of the IDCs in Goa,” laments Anish.

Sonish plans to venture into renewable and defence sector because there is lot of potential that they as a company see in terms of future growth. Sonish is also in talks with Indian Institute of Welding to have its branch in state and become its founding member.

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