Surajit Choudhury, Is a mechanical engineer by profession who worked for an Oil and Gas Company in India right after graduation. He then moved to the UK where he did his Masters in Business Administration and has since been working with Cummins. he worked for 8 years with Cummins in the UK and then 3 years in Dubai before coming to run the Cummins Car and General business for East Africa. The Kenya Engineer team had a sit down with him.
Roles at Cummins Car and General?
I am the General Manager for the organization so am responsible for running the business.
History of Cummins Car and General in the East African Region?
Car and General is a Kenyan Company that has been in existence for over 80 years dealing mainly in Industrial goods and consumer goods. The .They used to represent Cummins product line for East Africa for over 15years.
Cummins on the other hand is a US based organization that is celebrating 100 years of its existence this year. So it is a pretty special year for us. It is primarily a diesel engine manufacturer and power generation equipment manufacturer.
In 2017 the two organizations decided get together so a joint venture was formed and the new entity that came out of that joint venture agreement is called Cummins Car and General. So we are the master distributor in East Africa’s Cummins product line. We represent Cummins and its true product line.
Products, services and solutions offered by Cummins Car and General?
Our main focus here is on power generation equipment. So these are generators going all the way from 17kVA to 3750kVA. Just to give you a sense this are products that are powered by upto 1.78ltr engine upto 95ltr engine. That is only one side which is on the power generation side. The other thing that Cummins does which we also provide to the east Africa market is round engines and after sale services. For us the key aspect is as we say the sales man sales the first unit but it is the after sales support team that goes on to sell the next unit to our customer. That is the combination of things that we bring to the Kenyan market.
How are Cummins Car & General products and services faring in the Kenyan Market
This market is something which I think is on the path to maturity. We’ve seen a lot of investment from the government to stabilize power qualms in the region. A lot of investment is going on to renewable sources. So it seems we are following a trajectory where by the grid stability is going to get better and better.
And we have already seen that in the form of the main requirement for our customers is for a standby power generation rather than something that they will rely on continuously. Of course there would be odd requirements which are for continuous applications but primarily this is a market that is moving towards standby generation.
What challenges have you faced doing business in the region
The sort of projects that we deal in is such that the market is fairly scarcity in nature. And this is not just in Kenya I think this is a trend that we have observed across the globe.
Cummins as a global organization has been able to balance off this by being present across regions and having a broad range of products and services and a broad suite of technologies such that when one aspect of the business is going through a rough patch something else might be at the peak so it helps balance things off. But this more an external factor, If we were to think internally one aspect I would mention is around the fact that we are a joint venture. So whenever two or more organizations come together there is change in the air and change brings anxiety and some elements of challenges. So those are probably the two aspects of challenges that I would mention.
What are some of the lessons local companies can learn from multinationals
The lessons can be learnt both ways if you think about it. Each side of the organization brings their own strength. And I think a successful organization would be one which manages to blend strengths from both sides.
An example is probably a local organization which hasn’t yet appreciated the need for due process. When an organization grows bigger and bigger there is need for due process and this is probably what a multinational would bring to the table. The local organization on the other hand would bring the entrepreneurial spirit and knowledge of the market and relationships which the multinational might not have. So it’s a question of how you blend the two together to make the most of the strength of both parties.
What do you think are the opportunities and expected growth areas for Engineers and technicians in the industry?
As an organization as we try to differentiate ourselves from competition we are always looking out for talented engineers to join the organization and the reason we feel skilled engineers are key to our business is because we are in an engineering world and we are not just buying and selling. We need to add value to our customers and the only way to do that is bringing on board technically competent individuals offering solutions rather than just products.
How is your organization aiding in skills development for Engineers?
The joint venture between Cummins and Car&General allows local engineers to work closely with engineers who have a wider view of the region or globe and utilize their skills to provide solutions to customers and in that process they up skill themselves. Cummins has a project design and implementation team that is based in Dubai. The team has over 50 engineers in different areas and work with all the distributors across the world. So when a problem is presented to us sometimes we are able to deliver a solution but sometimes we work with that group to bring their expertise to provide a solution and that’s where a local Kenyan Engineer who might not have had exposure to do something similar previously could gain from.
Tell us about the recently opened Cummins Car&General workshop
Like I mentioned earlier one of our core offerings is to provide after sales services. So whilst we always had a place where generators and parts were being stored, the feedback we got from the warehouse team is that if we wanted to grow in the market and provide the right support we needed much more space. So when the joint venture happened it was decided that we would take-up a lot more space and it would help with a few things. For starters, the key aspect is having the right stock both for generators and parts available when customer wants them so as to minimize downtime on their equipment. Secondly we needed to ensure our employees are working in a safe working environment. Thirdly, the small workshop used to house Cummins equipment as well as other brands that Car & General used to do distributorship for but currently even with the more space we are only housing Cummins equipment. So basically expansion, safety and the right tools in place is what we’ve done to the workshop.
The workshop has a place we are calling the rebuild center where we have capability to provide Zero hour readings basically meaning our team can take up your used engine and rebuild it to a state where it will be as though you’ve bought it from the factory.