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Exclusive Interview with Dr. Mahesh Gupta Chairman & Founder Kent Ro Systems Ltd.

We’ve got a chance to interact with one of the most successful entrepreneurs of India, Dr. Mahesh Gupta – founder of Kent Ro Systems Ltd.  Mahesh Gupta is the first generation entrepreneur of India who built the Kent Ro System to purify the water quality. This technology purifies the water based upon the process of reverse osmosis purification. Kent Ro System was found in the late 90s. The company headquarter is located in Noida UP. Over the year, Dr. Mahesh Gupta has diversified into other products like a Vegetable Cleaner, Vacuum Cleaner, water softener, air purifiers and many more. Today Mahesh Gupta is providing services like Bangladesh, Nepal, the Middle East, and Kenya.

Mr. Mahesh Gupta –the founder of Kent RO Systems Ltd. has the distinct credit to shape up India’s unorganized Water Purifier market to a fastest-growing over Rs. 3500/- crore industries. The story of Mr. Gupta started in 1985, from a small room in his house, with nothing but dreams and self-belief. He had a mere Rs.20,000/- his savings from his job with IOCL to invest. His first invention was in the field of Petroleum conservation instruments, where he earned fame and half a dozen patents to his credit.

We thank Dr. Mahesh to answer our questions. This is how the interaction went:

1. There is a very inspiring story behind the brand Kent. Please tell us about it.

In the 1990s, I was on a vacation with my family when both my kids suddenly fell ill. The children drank some contaminated water and were diagnosed with jaundice.

The kids recovered but I could not forget the incident. Then I started doing research on water purification and found that the commonly-used Ultra Violet (UV) system purifiers were not good enough to remove dissolved impurities from water.​ ​The UV system is a water purification method that uses UV rays to disinfect the bacteria in the water. However, the system is not enough to render water completely safe for drinking.

At that time, I was running my oil conservation products company SS Engineering. Before that, I worked with Indian Oil as an engineer. Despite all my expertise in oil engineering, I began doing a lot of research and experiments on water purification.

The process of Reverse Osmosis (RO) caught my attention.​ ​RO is a process of water purification that uses a partially permeable membrane to remove ions, unwanted molecules, and large particles from water. It can remove different types of dissolved and suspended chemical and biological contaminants from water.

In those days, no one in India was using RO to make water safe for people to drink. I decided to test it out, and imported a membrane and a pump from the US. At home, I built his first RO water purifier.​ ​I decided to make more water purifiers using RO technology.

“In 1998, I put in a seed capital of about Rs 5 lakh to procure equipment for these RO systems. In a small room in my house, I started building water purifiers with a four-pronged controller that used RO, UV, UF (Ultra Filter) and TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) processes. ​​We patented the technology, and in 1999, launched the brand Kent ROin Noida to sell the first commercially available RO purifiers.​

2. Could you please share the vision and mission behind Kent RO?

To be a socially responsible brand making a difference in people’s lives by affecting all-pervasive areas of their existence- water, food and air. Our fundamental vision is defined by producing innovative healthcare products that purify the water we drink, the food we eat and the air we breathe and thus help people live healthier.

To be a master class in inventive brilliance. We strive to bring to fruition for our customers, the freedom from water-related problems and peace of mind for good health through our wide range of healthcare products that deliver impeccable standards of quality and service.

3. From the year 1999, much has changed in the Indian market. What makes Kent RO people’s favorite brand?

Well, the story is different actually. It was the late 90s when KENT started its voyage and there was no such industry existed in India by the name of WATER PURIFIERS. Handful brands were trying their fate in this sector by selling very conventional purifiers through door-to-door marketing. Who would have thought that in a couple of years, the Indian water purifier industry will become one of the most lucrative sectors for national and international consumer durable brands to peep in and have a pie of over 3500 crore industry?

As of today, people in the country have easy access to RO water purifiers equipped with multiple purification techniques. KENT basically designed RO water purifier with a combination of 3 technologies to make it suitable for treating every type of water irrespective of source.

Currently, Kent is positioned as India’s leading water Purifier Company. Also, over the years the company has evolved and transformed. The transformation has been in terms of technology and new product range which is in sync with the brand’s philosophy; The Company is working from day one on a mission Drink Pure, Eat Pure and Breathe Pure. Hence, each and every product of Kent RO is designed and sold to fulfill these 3 objectives. At present, the products in the Kent RO Family are Air Purifiers, Cold Press Juicer, Vacuum / Bed Cleaners and Vegetable purifiers.

The company has also forayed into the smart kitchen appliance segment with a whole new innovative range of products. This includes Noodle & Pasta Makers, Dosa Maker, Pizza & Omelette Maker, Turbo Blenders, Rice Cookers, Atta & Bread Maker and many more.

Another revolutionary product by Kent is a low-cost water purifier Kent Gold AS which is capable of removing arsenic from water. Arsenic is the most harmful poison dissolved in the water and a route cause of cancer. So far only RO purifiers were able to remove dissolved arsenic from water, but Kent Gold AS, which costs just Rs 3,500 is capable of removing this dissolved poison from drinking water.

The company has last year also ventured into the artificial intelligence segment.

Our biggest USP has been our rapid product development cycle from idea to go-to-Market and the in-house development of software platforms, which is a core of our solution. Tight control on this aspect has resulted in delivering a superior customer experience and driving the solution adoption faster.

4. Please throw some light on Kent Cam Attendance? What technology does it use?

Well in today’s fast-paced life and looking at the consumer needs, we stepped into the artificial intelligence segment. We felt the time was right and that we as a company felt the need to step up to ensure safety at all levels. The company had first launched KENTCamEye, a next-gen car camera for ensuring the security of your loved ones and your car last year. And recently in wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, we launched a Next-Gen Touchless Attendance Management System based on face recognition.

Also, in terms of evolution, we look at the growth that is holistic, and not in isolation leaving behind our environment and society. We may cause more harm than a short-term solution. If we want to build a brand and make a footprint, we need to offer an all-inclusive solution! And this is the underlying principle that the brand has been working on.

It is the leading next-gen touchless face attendance management solution and is a flexible offering, coming in multiple formats – devices with a cloud app, mobile app, devices in standalone mode, and terminal app with cloud app. Fast and powerful Android-based attendance capturing devices for use in offices and factories. Available in 8” and 5” variants to deliver next-gen employee experience aligned with the changing organisational needs. Fast, intelligent and foolproof, these devices eliminate the need for RFID cards and fingerprint solutions.

5. What will be the company’s strategies to penetrate deeper in India and the global market?

We plan to revolutionize the Indian market by launching some more IoT products, which will be centered around solving consumer’s pain points and making life simpler and safer for them. Our products are based on deep consumer insights and go through rapid development from ideation to launch. We will be entering into many newer segments, where we can leverage our brand’s equity and deliver an attractive consumer value proposition.

6. Ken Air Purifier is making a buzz in the markets with its unique UV Disinfection technology. Please tell us more about the product and what according to you is the scope of the product in the Indian market?

Water purifiers have become a very serious need for the people. It is literally difficult for one to survive without water purifiers in such a polluted world of today. Water purifiers help in maintaining a healthy life by protecting people from several water-borne diseases.

UV has the ability to control all sorts of bacteria. It is considered to be one of the effective technology used for water treatment.

With COVID-19 infections on the rise in India, especially second wave UV disinfection is gaining more ground. We have various products in this category like Kent ozone air disinfectant, Kent ultra-water purifier, KENT Ozone Disinfection Box, Kent grand plus, KENT ALPS – PLUS Air Purifiers etc. The market is flooded with several new products that guarantee to make not only surfaces but the entire atmosphere virus-free. Today, health security has become a priority for everyone. There is an increased need for a product that would sanitise anything that has been brought home from external environments.

7. Last year was a partial washout. This year was equally bad after the second wave. How has it impacted the consumer durable business and how did Kent as a brand navigate during these tough times?

The two years have been a roller coaster for our entire country. Our world has been turned upside down and things will likely never be quite the same. Although doing business during a pandemic has been challenging, some of the changes taking place may ultimately force businesses to be more adaptable which not a bad thing is.

Now with the pandemic, we as an industry remain unaffected since we are in a kind of segment that continues to thrive as health was and will always remain a priority.

However, we do understand that the consumer sentiments are varied. While yes, most vertical brands and companies have been impacted by the pandemic but now there is a paradigm change as they have found alternative ways to reach their consumers.

Digital space has picked up immensely. Online sales as a channel is fast growing and will continue to witness more growth; as most brands have innovated and transformed the changing demands of the consumers. Also, those who have transformed and innovated are the ones who have survived and also on expansion mode those who have not been able to transform have been left out.

So, we have given the digital front a push to be up to date with the current demand and for a strong consumer connection. We will come with more ad campaigns and videos as they have always been a great connecting point with our consumers.

8. Kent RO Systems is also aiming for 20% growth in FY 21. What’s your growth strategy and where is the growth expected from?

We are expecting a 20 per cent growth in turnover at Rs 1,200 crore this fiscal despite coronavirus-related disruptions in the market.  The company, primarily getting revenue from the water purifier business, has diversified its product portfolio by launching technology products like artificial intelligence-based touchless face attendance system, Kent cam eye& many others in the loop.

The company would grow by 20 per cent from products like CamAttendance. The growth would not come from the existing products but from the new products which we are introducing.”

The tech industry is to grow and we have created a department into that. We are going to come with some more exciting solutions for our camera-based products tech area for offices & homes. Some exciting products are on cards now.

9. What are some of the new products you plan to introduce? I believe you have recently entered the automotive security space. Can you elaborate on this further and what’s the strategy behind entering this domain that is not part of your core business?

Our products are a result of a thorough R&D and in-depth understanding of the needs of consumers and we have a firm roadmap to launch a couple of new exciting products in the coming year.

Recently we have forayed into artificial intelligence & sanitization products. Products like Kent cam attendance, Kent fruit and vegetable cleaner, Kent touchless sanitizer & dispensers & some new products are in loop related to safety, hygiene, and security domain.

Also, we are a consumer centric brand which focuses on adding value to its offering. We will be adding new products with added features and innovative technology and that is how we will be moving along.

With the ever increasing incidences of crime against women & children we felt this need of the hour to enter into this segment. We felt the time was right and that we as a company felt the need to step up to ensure safety at all levels.

10. Hema Malini has been your trusted brand ambassador for your products on water purification etc. What was the thinking behind roping in Shah Rukh Khan for your new venture on security business?

We are a very consumer centric brand and our brand ambassador to our Marketing strategy is to develop a strong consumer connect; we chose Shah Rukh Khan owing to his mature and responsible image.

11. The second wave of covid has partially come down. What’s the future going to look like, especially in the next 6 months? How are you gearing up for this festival season to bounce back and generate sales?

Although the last few months were not very encouraging for the industry, manufacturers are bullish about the ensuing festive season sales we expect to have double-digit growth during the festive season sales, despite concerns of economic slowdown. Growth is led by factors like good monsoon and steps taken by the government such as reduction in corporate tax. The company is increasing its retail investment & marketing budgets to increase sales. Every crisis

is an opportunity for unexpected growth and learning, and the pandemic has encouraged more companies to reinvent and evolve.

12. You plan to give a boost to your export market. What kind of strategy are you planning to push your products in the export market and are you looking at any particular products and targeting any chosen markets?

The company is planning to double its exports. The company exports products to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Kuwait, Nepal and has also entered GCC Market. There is immense demand for our product both within the country and outside. And with an effective supply chain, we are able to meet this demand. We are targeting all the products.