My father had a small firefighting equipment manufacturing firm Zenith Fire services. Since the age of eight, I started accompanying him to the firm’s manufacturing unit in Mumbai. As I grew, I began managing shifts at the unit during my school and college vacations. But, I was the youngest in the family and my eldest brother inherited the business. I thought about starting my own venture without any help from my family. But I did not have even Rs 20 to start out with.
I took a loan of Rs 500 from some of my friends and started working at a friend’s auto garage. This was in January 1984. By then I had completed a diploma in mechanical engineering. While working with my father, I built useful contacts. One of them was a senior advisor to the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE). He told me about a maintenance contract for fire extinguishers at the department. His recommendation helped me win the contract. This was in April 1984.
The contract required repair and maintenance of firefighting cylinders. DAE would transport the cylinders to the garage where I was working, I would repair the cylinders and they would be transported back. I employed three people to help me with the work. When we started off, I did not have the money to buy trolleys, pulleys or conveyer belts. I improvised with whatever equipment were available. For the rolling machine, we used a part of an old car. It cost me about Rs 1,000. A new rolling machine would have cost around Rs 45,000.
Within 6-7 months, we had saved enough to buy a 1,200 sq. ft space at Ghatkopar for around Rs 20 lakh. The company was named Nitin Fire ProtectionBSE 2.86 % Industry. When we were not repairing power cylinders, we were busy manufacturing extinguishers. Based on our work for the DEA, we got a maintenance contract for ONGCBSE -1.35 % in 1986. It required complete maintenance of hose grills, engines and tanks at their plant. By end-1986, our turnover had crossed Rs 7 crore.
In 1987, we decided to increase our manufacturing capacity and bought a 50,000 sq. ft space at Umargaon in Gujarat for Rs 1 crore. We employed some 25 people for manufacturing firefighting equipment at the facility. The headcount at Mumbai was still five. They were responsible for the DAE and ONGC maintenance contracts. We started offering end-to-end firefighting solutions like designing, manufacturing and maintenance of equipment for firefighting units including Goa fire force and Mumbai fire brigade in 1988. At that time, no company was offering fire detection equipment. We planned on getting into that segment but lacked the expertise.
In 1989, we decided to join hands with someone who had the skill and know-how. We teamed-up with UK-based Apollo Fire Detectors, one of the largest manufacturers of smoke detectors, modules and notification devices. It was an exclusive tie-up and we continue to be the sole distributors of their devices in the country. We expanded from manufacturers of smoke detectors, modules and notification devices. It was an exclusive tie-up and we continue to be the sole distributors of their devices in the country. We expanded from manufacturing to marketing and distribution of firefighting equipment.