Monday, 17 April 2017

Balancing Objectivity with Subjectivity: Naveed Shaikh of ACS Lead Tech

Naveed Shaikh, the young and dynamic partner at ACS Lead Tech, fondly recalls his childhood conversations with elder brother Assad and says, “All we discussed was dad’s chemical business and how both of us would grow it together. In fact, while we were still at middle school, we had jointly decided that we would become engineers!”  Assad went on to qualify as a mechanical engineer while Naveed graduated as an electronics engineer. Looking back, Naveed feels that the most defining influence on him has been the easy camaraderie and trust the brothers repose in each other. “Assad always wants the very best for me and I feel the same for him. In fact, we are always fighting so that the other gets it a little easy or a little better, be it a car or a holiday.” It is this willingness to sacrifice and this readiness to put the other before oneself which has ensured that the business controlled by their strict father, has grown and diversified ever since the two brothers joined the business.

ACS Lead Tech was established by Shakir Razak Shaikh in 1983-84 and is currently recognized as a leading manufacturer, supplier and exporter of environmentally sound technologies for battery recycling, litharge red lead furnaces, red lead furnaces, lead oxide ball mills and pollution control equipment. A first generation entrepreneur, Shakir Razak Sheikh, started his career as a chemical engineer and spent eight years as an expert in lead oxide and allied products, working for various organisations. It was during his stint in Germany, while working for Napro industries, when he first decided to take up full time consultancy. Soon he found the mismatch between his precise advice and the actual implementation by his clients. He asked himself the question, “Why tell others how to make and see them create the mess? Why not make and give a perfect product to the clients?” This was the turning point in the trajectory of the Shaikh family. Shakir Razak Shaikh soon set up the one man company and took on the different roles ranging from soliciting quotations to acquiring raw material to manufacturing parts to arranging transport and labour for commissioning plants. He had re-invented himself from a consultant to a manufacturer. As the business grew, so did his responsibilities and he became almost an absentee father in the Shaikh household. Naveed, here recognizes the stellar role played by his mother in ensuring that both Naveed and Assad appreciated the hard work of their father and aspired to join him soon. Assad joined the family business immediately on his graduation while Naveed decided to accept the campus placement offer from Siemens.

Looking back, Naveed feels that his decision of not going to the USA to get a master degree was the most profound decision he had taken. Citing the examples of his cousins and friends, he says that none of them came back to India and gave up on their entrepreneurial dreams. He feels that the Family Managed Business course both he and Assad did at SP Jain, has had a defining influence on them as it set their expectations right. They understood the value of sustaining their family managed business and also understood the critical role their emotional maturity and relationship handling would play. So when Naveed decided to resign from his job and join his father and brother in the business, he knew well that he would need to create a role for himself. He knew that since ACS Lead Tech is in the core business of manufacturing machines for the chemical industry, his father and brother would always a pivotal role on account of their domain expertise in chemical and mechanical engineering. Accordingly, Naveed added a new wing to their business and started trading in chemicals and metals. He took on the role of market expansion and diversification and strengthened the core team of his father and brother by pitching in as an expert in business management.

Asked to explain the key component of a successful family managed business, Naveed is forthright in talking about the importance of communication. “It is not that we do not have disagreements, but we never push them under the carpet. We discuss everything out and always take the solution oriented approach. This helps to balance subjectivity with objectivity”, he said. As an explanation of this open communication channel, Naveed spoke of the support of their father on all issues, be it starting a new business vertical, or to invest in additional space for the growing family..  Even between the brothers, the discussions are always marked with candor. “All our finances are controlled by dad. He pays for all household expenses ranging from groceries to school fee. He ensures we never feel short of money but the control remains with him. Sometimes, it gets overwhelming but then Assad and I hear each other out and counsel each other. We understand, it is in the best interest of our business and the case rests there. For me Assad has been a father figure. He is my anchor who keeps me grounded and ensures that we always have a positive work environment”, he said. Coming to his own family, Naveed takes pride in his wife’s technical aptitude and hopes that she would soon set up her own business of technical writing. When asked about the possibility of her joining him in their family business, Naveed feels that the core team of his father, brother and himself are best suited to run ACS Lead Tech. “This is an objective decision and we intend to keep it that way”, he says signing off.
Dr Minu Mehta in collaboration with Naveed Shaikh