1. Firepro has experienced exponential growth in the last couple of years. Can you share some of the factors for this growth?
I attribute Firepro’s phenomenal growth to strategic initiatives we invested in. Our geographical expansion within India and overseas has powered us immensely. As has our decision to evolve our service offerings by acquiring more capabilities, and offering wider, more technological solutions to our customers. Our focus on building capabilities grew from our intent to meet customer needs by paying attention to detailed design and engineering methodologies, procurement efficiencies and implementation mechanisms. Today, we are able to offer quality solutions to our targeted customers, across locations, in spite of fierce competition.
Our offerings today, include not just safety and security solutions but also include network infrastructure - the backbone of any Building Management System (BMS). We have made immense progress in developing home automation solutions as well. Diversification for us was the most natural route to consider being a solutions provider! Most importantly, the contributions of our highly committed and motivated team have powered us to be one of the most sought after companies in the industry.
2. What were the key growth drivers for business – both internal and external?
Vast development and growth in the infrastructure market has invariably accelerated the business. The knowledge and awareness of potential safety and security solutions in the market have also broadened Firepro’s horizons. Our focus on quality, our scale of operations and our ability to envision and implement newer initiatives in the infrastructure space are among the internal growth drivers. The formation ?? and the research done by our internal focus groups have helped us to further enhance our expertise. I would consider our ability to attract talent across various levels as one of our biggest internal growth drivers.
3. What were the kind of responses that you got from different stakeholders in this journey ?
Our reliability and commitment towards customer needs has helped us retain customers. They know we have the ability to understand their business environment – this has enabled us to offer better and effective solutions to them. Our clients have a great deal of confidence and faith in the way we operate!
Our biggest asset has been our employee strength – strength is the word to be used to describe the mighty workforce that we have! They are a committed team, always willing to take up challenges and ensure successful completion of projects before moving on to the next one. They are happy and excited to be part of this high-growth environment though have to constantly deal with change. We instill an understanding in the new joinees that it’s a tough place to work, and they have to deal with high pressure situations frequently! I remember sometime back meeting two promising boys from Hubli who came looking for a job with us. They were among the first entrants in the instrumentation department, and I’ve seen them toil and burn the midnight oil time and again to ensure that everything went right at the client location. They have worked diligently and today have a fulfilling career, with a potential to move up the ladder!
We have been able to attract industry’s best and highly experienced senior and middle management talent who want to be a part of our ambitious and high-growth environment! Apart from this, our association with business partners dates back from the time of inception. Firepro’s stability and the platform that we provide for their growth has resulted in long-term and viable relationships!
4. Firepro recently won the Best Company of the Year 2007 - Fire Systems Integration at the Frost and Sullivan Building Technology Excellence Awards? What were the main criteria that led to Firepro winning?
This award recognized the company’s effort and commitment to continuously evolve and remain a leading participant in our industry segment. The award acknowledges the leadership position Firepro retains and its ability to:
- Proactively cater to changing customer needs
- Adopt latest technology
- Continuously deliver exceptional customer service and
- To take advantage of market opportunities through the execution of innovative strategies
5. You are operating across international locations. Can you share your experience of setting up the infrastructure business in these locations?
It’s been an eventful journey expanding our operations. In Australia, we were fortunate to hire the right leadership team and they provided a great deal of support from the day we began operations. The Victorian TC government was very helpful and we were able to set up operations in Melbourne within 3 days. The Information and Broadcasting Minister of the state launched the company which further enhanced our credibility in the market. We were able to meet our all our targets, owing to the team’s efficiency. We plan to expand further to Sydney and Brisbane soon. Middle East was all about speed and scale of operations! Although it took us longer to establish operations there, we have successfully entered the market and are providing solutions to many large-scale projects. Within a year of establishing operations, we have today 135 committed team members. In Singapore we started operations in a day’s time - the Government was very supportive again.
We intend to leverage the learning from our overseas experiences into the Indian business, further strengthen our process efficiencies, enhance our ability to tackle contingencies, and also increase our speed and scale of operations!
6. Firepro is highly customer focused. What would “Customer focus” mean in the context of Firepro’s business?
We believe that one of our biggest strengths against any other competition is our ability to be committed to our clients from day one of our association with them. The solutions offered are customized to meet their needs and are of world-class quality. We are in a position today to complete the entire project as per the specified deadline. This ensures that the customer’s plans are completed well within their project timelines as well. We center our service offerings and operations on customers’ evolving needs which further enrich the “customer experience”.
7. How have you instilled customer orientation among all employees?
We believe that communication is the backbone of any project association. We ensure that the team understands the customer requirements and that from the start it is focused on delivering what was promised to the customer. There is constant reinforcement from management on the customer orientation. We, as a senior management team ensure that our commitment levels are visible to the team. This further guarantees a positive response from the project teams as they are aware that their management team is just as much accountable and focused on delivering customer value. .
8. Firepro has been growing at a scorching pace. What may slow the pace of growth in the short term?
The infrastructure market may undergo rapid variations. I wouldn’t necessarily say that this change would slow down Firepro’s pace of growth. Our focus on consistent evolution into different service offerings would enable us to sustain the growth. Economic conditions may not adversely affect business growth, but a certain element of precaution would be taken to face the inevitable.
9. Can you share some of the interesting experiences that you’ve had during this successful journey at Firepro?
Yes, there are many such experiences that have changed our business outlook and had an impact on the Firepro’s management team. One such exulting experience was when we received the 2004 ICICI-CNBC Crisil Award in Delhi. We were among 25 companies short-listed. In the management team, we did not pay too much attention to the award among pressing client demands and operations. We were not even remotely aware of the impact the award would have on the entire team. When we (Naren and I) returned from Delhi, the sight was exhilarating! We were completely overwhelmed by the warmth, excitement and celebration at the Bangalore office. We then understood that this award would trigger a greater sense of commitment and passion within the Firepro team. They were proud of the achievement and were proud to be part of this venture!!
Another one is how the Firepro team came together to deal with a very tight schedule for a client. The base for us to set up operations was Uttaranchal. Tough terrain conditions required us to focus on details and take into consideration many other complexities. We only had a weekend to work on the requirements-too short a timeframe for us to complete it! Within no time, the word spread. Many volunteers came forth to help, although they did not have the required skills or the background. They rapidly put together the necessary documentation to kick start the assignment. 13 other team members flew to Delhi and worked the whole weekend, hour on hour, to complete the project. To this day, I admire the courage, passion and pride that drove my team to finish an unfeasible assignment on time!
10. Is there anything you would have done differently looking back?
I personally feel focusing on building efficient people processes and holding a number of employee engagement activities, which we began only in 2005, would have added value and accelerated Firepro’s growth.