Where is the journey heading, Mr. Kar?
From Delhi to Vienna, from Vienna to Stockholm, from Stockholm to South America, from there to Vietnam and back home. Gautam Kar, Managing Director of FLOVEL Energy Private Limited travels a lot. But what is behind the scenes of countless flights and customer visits? A conversation during a business-trip to Europe with his father Maharaj Kar, Chairman, with station in Vienna.
Gautam Kar is representing the third generation in the Hydropower business of FLOVEL, which was set-up by his grandfather over five decades ago. It has been over 20 years in the sector and he has been personally involved in more than 200 projects. “The segment continues to be challenging and we stay passionate about delivering customer-delight”, that was the answer to my opening question, ´what is the driving force working in this business?´.
Mr. Gautam Kar, you travel a lot. What percentage of your business do you invest in business travel?
Gautam Kar: Majority of FLOVEL’s business is outside India, necessitating significant business travel. On an average 50% of time is invested in business travel. You have to do that if you want to play a global role, despite technological innovations, nothing can substitute the impact of one-to-one meetings, specially in markets with different language & culture. While phone & web-calls (Skype, VC etc.) are useful for operational purposes, personal meetings are helpful in trust-building & developing a personal-rapport with the customer.
Mr. Maharaj Kar, Southeast Asia is considered a growth market, also in the medium and small hydropower sector. How is FLOVEL´s business there?
Maharaj Kar: FLOVEL has the lead position in the SE Asian market, on account of its product-quality & customer-friendly attitude. But the market is also very competitive and requires one to constantly innovate and stay price-competitive.
What developments and opportunities do you see in medium and small hydropower?
Maharaj Kar: Hydropower is the cleanest source of energy and it still untapped in majority of developing world. Tapping unmet potential and creating more opportunities through technological innovations are two key opportunity areas.
What is FLOVEL currently working on, how should the company develop further?
Gautam Kar: Technological changes, communication & speed are the three big changes happening around the world & we are working to keep FLOVEL ahead on all three counts. Customer should not only be delivered the best quality, his/her experience of working with FLOVEL should also be smooth.
Which countries or continents do you know very well and why?
Gautam Kar: Vietnam, Indonesia, Nepal feel like second home as we have strong presence in these markets. Apart from these Turkey and Europe are also very familiar territory. Latin America is our new focus area and I am already beginning to pick Spanish due to frequent travel.
What about Japan? You recently concluded an agreement there, didn’t you?
Gautam Kar: Japan has been using hydroelectric power for over 100 years. Hydro Power plants in Japan are operated on a large scale by big corporations. Nuclear Power Plants make up for a large share of electricity production in Japan. Recent government policies have brought focus on renewable sources of energy including small hydro. Japanese markets are special with special specifications/requirements. FLOVEL is collaborating with SEABELL in the Japanese market. Under this cooperation FLOVEL shall design and build high quality, high performance equipment tailor made for Japanese markets while SEABELL will continue to actively develop sales and support activities in Japan.
Which connections do you have to Vienna, where this series of photos were created?
Gautam Kar: Since 1995 our Company FLOVEL had a Joint Venture with erstwhile Sulzer Hydro GmbH (predecessor to VA Tech Hydro). In 2001 after completing my graduation from Melbourne, Australia, I got the opportunity to work as a Management Trainee for six months at two VA Tech Hydro location i.e. Ravensburg, Germany and Vienna, Austria.
After completing three months of training at Ravensburg it was time to go to Vienna. My first visit to Vienna was in June, 2001 for an assignment for three months as Management Trainee at various departments at the erstwhile VA Tech Hydro, Vienna Headquarters. Vienna was a much larger city compared to Ravensburg. Working style at the two location was very different but what impressed me was the rich cultural heritage and lifestyle of Vienna.
In the year 2006 due to takeover of VA Tech Hydro by Andritz Hydro, FLOVEL was now operating in its new form when the entire world was available for business. At this time FLOVEL had to scout for technology, connection to markets and more importantly understand the beat of small hydro business. At this time my father and myself undertook another visit to Europe including Vienna to meet old colleagues to revive old contacts in small hydro business. Thereafter, I have been visiting Vienna almost every year. More recently in the last few years to Faschingbauer & Schaar for the rebranding initiative.
Austria being the headquarters for small hydro to the world will always remain an important centre for exchange of various aspects of this business.”
For which country does your heart beat especially?
Gautam Kar: This is interesting question, my heart beats for Turkey and Vietnam, while Turkey introduced FLOVEL to global competition Vietnam entrusted us with very important projects.
How does your family deal with traveling so much?
Gautam Kar: Sometimes it is really tough on the family being away from home so much specially on the children. I try to keep up with all family commitments, school commitments. Success is the reward …
What do you take with you on every trip?
Gautam Kar: My laptop, iPad and Phone are the essentials for any trip.
Maharaj Kar: I usually prepare very well for my trips. I like to be briefed in detail about the meetings and have all documentation pertaining to the meetings handy with me. A fresh suite and tie for each day is something I cannot do without.
What do you dislike in traveling?
Gautam Kar: I really dislike long flights, nights in the plane, long waiting times at the airports, long security queues.
Maharaj Kar: I do not have these problems. I can sleep very well on long flights. That’s probably because of my routine.
You cannot always travel. How do you communicate with your customers, who are located worldwide?
Gautam Kar: Videocall is the most preferred medium but WhatsApp is becoming increasingly common due to the immediate connect it provides.
Finally let me ask where do you see FLOVEL in 10 years?
Gautam Kar: Technological & financial goals aside, I want to make FLOVEL synonymous with customer-delight. Currently it is the first choice in its markets, I want it to become the only choice for the customers.
“The hydropower market is very competitive and requires one to constantly innovate and stay price-competitive.”
Maharaj Kar, Chairman
FLOVEL Energy Private Limited
“Personal meetings are helpful in trust-building and developing a personal-rapport with the customer. To sit at the same table with the customer is very important for me.”
Gautam Kar, Managing Director,
FLOVEL Energy Private Limited
Faschingbauer & Schaar GmbH, Austria