Navigating the course smoothly
With its sharp focus on earnings in foreign currency, Buoyancy Consultants a Goan design and engineering services firm is making waves in the Indian shipbuilding industry, reports Shoma Patnaik
While shipping companies continue to face choppy waters, local firm Buoyancy Consultants is navigating the cross-currents smoothly. Established in 2013, the ITES firm is into design, engineering and consultancy services in shipbuilding and off-shore marine projects.
It is a highly regulated sector where not many Indian firms are present. But the consultancy headed by three, startup entrepreneurs is steering through bouncy waters skillfully.
Recently the firm’s achievements in the overseas market was recognized by the Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) wherein it received the SIDBI-ET exporter of the year (2018) award in the micro and small enterprises (MSE) sector.
It was a major achievement since competition was tough with over 4,700 units participating for the awards. The results came as a major surprise to the entrepreneurs who were skeptical whether they would be able to go through the rigorous screening process and emerge as toppers.
Speaking to the young, startup owners is interesting. Ramniwas Mourya, chief technology officer and co-founder, says that, the SIDBI team from Mumbai which was looking for MSEs to participate in the pan-India competition reached out to the company. The selection itself was demanding as it involved several rounds of screening and shortlisting. But the fact that the consultancy catered to the international market with niche services worked in its favour.
“The jury was looking for businesses which are sustainable. Besides revenues they were more interested in companies that have a high percentage of exports in the total income and those that offered specialized services. The fact that we earn 98 per cent of our income from exports and compete as well as cater to European maritime companies was the clinching factor,” says Mourya.
He informs that, soon after the launch of their startup the Goan shipping industry went nearly aground due to mining closure. “We were questioned on the wisdom of starting an ocean vessel design firm in view of the industry slump. But local or domestic market was never our focus. We always had the international market in mind when we started our company, says Mourya.
Since its launch, the consultancy firm is continuously growing. It started out with six-seven people and now comprises of 50 employee team. The firm headquarters are in Panaji and three offices are in other cities of India. Besides there is one representative office each in Norway, Middle East, and Netherlands. The engineering team are from fields such as shipbuilding, structural, mechanical, and electrical engineering. They use advanced software packages to cater to design, model and give solution-based services.
Pratibha P Sawant, chief financial officer and co-founder, adds, “Since starting up the company’s revenues faced ups and down. But the overall trend is good, and we continue to be in the position of acquiring expensive software to carry out our business.”
The firm’s first project was for Chowgule Shipyards, Loutolim for 2,600 DWT cargo vessel. The Buoyancy team detailed each and every part of the vessel layout and executed the project in the zero-green mode. “Having a local firm doing the production design helped Chowgule’s save on costs and the time,” point out the co-founder.
They add that, within one-and half year of executing their first project and after taking on several orders for Indian shipping companies the company moved on the export orders and never looked back.
“Currently our firm has completed projects in over 10 countries worldwide. Our core clients are the Norwegian shipbuilding companies but in future we are looking to expand in newer markets such as eastern Europe and Asia,” says Prasad Prabhakar Sawant, chief operating officer and managing partner.
As first-generation entrepreneurs, the trio are upbeat on future. They reveal that, the shipping industry is cyclical and in the last decade the industry cycle has become longer. However, within the cycle there is opportunity which their consultancy is smartly tapped.
“In 2017-18 we crossed the million-dollar revenue milestone and we are a zero-debt company,” reveals Sawant. He discloses that, one of the reasons for consistent growth is because of ploughing back profits into the business.
“In the past we never went for bank funding and used our own earnings to expand but since the SIDBI award carries a prize of concessional finance we will be tapping institutional funding in future,” he says.
The three startup entrepreneurs have rather conventional backgrounds. Mourya is a pass-out of GEC, Farmagudi, while Sawant is from the Shipbuilding Institute, Vasco. Pratibha studied engineering from a Mumbai college. Post technical studies, the trio acquired additional educational qualifications and worked together in the shipping engineering division of Rolta India where they first met.
“The idea of a starting up their own venture came in Rolta. But after that we worked in different international companies before starting up,” discloses Pratibha.
Adds Maurya, “Metro cities like Bangalore and Hyderabad are considered the hub for ITES companies but for us it was only Goa from the first because of being Goans. The state also offers us locational advantages due to the presence of a local shipbuilding industry.”
One of the few Indian ITES firm in shipbuilding, Buoyancy complies with global standards of engineering. It is the only entity in India affiliated with RINA, which provides a wide range of services across the energy, marine, certification, transport and infrastructure industries. The services include basic and detailed designs, class drawings, production supervision and information, marine CAD/ CAM/CAE, 3D modelling and laser scanning, among other.
One of the prize of the SIDBI award is short, skill upgradation course with IIM, Lucknow which will be attended by Prasad Sawant. The other prize includes mentorship from India’s leading industrialist’s. The threesome from Buoyancy plan to utilize their SIDBI-ET winnings wisely and use it to grow further.