The Power Of I 2018

Learning Machine

This Aurangabad SME lords over machine tools

Photographs by Soumik Kar

It’s a feat that even big companies will possibly be envious of. The Kelkar family from Aurangabad has created India’s leading machine tool exporter in an industry which is import-dependent. Despite being a small enterprise, Grind Master has developed an edge in the microfinishing business thanks to its 60-member dedicated engineering team and a penchant for leveraging collaborations with global leaders. With more than 50% of its revenue coming from exports, Grind Master is now focusing on robotics and automation even as it makes inroads into the next big automotive opportunity — electric vehicles. By thwarting the Japanese and Germans in a market like China and establishing an absolute monopoly back home, Grind Master has emerged as an unlikely poster boy of Indian manufacturing.

It’s hard to miss the mathematical expression painted on a red and white metal board on the shop floor of what is arguably India’s most innovative metal tools company based out of Aurangabad. Explaining the context of the expression, Milind Kelkar, who co-founded the company along with his spouse Mohini, says, “If an individual puts in 99% effort daily for 365 days, at the end of the year, he would have improved by 3%. But with an additional 1% effort every day, the outcome at the end of the year is phenomenal.” It’s this philosophy that the production engineers from VJTI embraced to create a pioneer in special purpose machines for metal finishing, deburring, microfinishing and robotic automation. What makes the journey of the $25 million company fascinating is the sheer grit of the founders when they ventured out on their own in 1984.

It was during a chance conversation with the Bhogale family, owners of Nirlep Appliances that the Kelkars came to know of the trouble Nirlep was facing in getting the right finishing for its cookware. Milind, who was then working with Telco (now Tata Motors), and Mohini, who was employed with Traub India, took a vacation and spent the time building a polishing machine prototype at a rented garage. Buoyed by the fact that they could create a machine from scr

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