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The 40-year-old start-up adapting to the changing world

Kanishka Arumugam (MSc Engineering Business Management, 2015) is co-CEO of EKKI Water Technologies, a leading family business based in Coimbatore, India who pump and transport water in an efficient and sustainable way for agriculture, building services, industrial and public utilities. Kanishka set up India’s first Wastewater Pump joint venture alliance with HOMA of Germany, a world leader in wastewater technology. Discover how the people he met at WMG influenced his career, his views on sustainable business challenges in India, and how sustainability is embedded in his company’s core values.

Your family business has been successful for a long time. How do you develop new thinking in a business that’s already thriving?
The world is rapidly changing, so we must adapt. It’s survival of the fittest. We’re pivoting from an agricultural pump company into a deep tech water technology company with the mentality of a 40-year-old start up. One of the key growth areas for us is advanced water technologies and pumps and how we can utilise technology to improve water sustainability in the planet.

At Warwick, we're embedding sustainability across the curriculum. How have you embedded sustainable business practice at EKKI?
For EKKI It’s not just about making sustainable products. It’s the welfare of your employees, their working conditions and ensuring all our customers receive good quality, ethically made products, whether they’re one customer buying one pump or a multinational organisation. The very nature of our products means we’re addressing one of world’s greatest sustainability issues - access to clean water. We’re also investing in our local community to provide education and care for the elderly, we also provide free food and accommodation to many of our employees, and support for vulnerable people, all of which aligns to the UN sustainability goals.

What do you think are the biggest challenges to sustainable business growth specifically in India?
Education and awareness on sustainability is so important in India. Many people don’t know what sustainability is or why it’s so important. At EKKI we try to overcome this by educating our employees and community about the importance of sustainability and how to live and work more sustainably.

What made you choose to study at WMG?
I was excited by Warwick’s reputation as an elite UK university combined with the flexible modules on the Engineering Business Management course. The module format meant I could study whilst still being involved in growing the family business. Some of the most successful manufacturing business leaders in India are WMG alumni and I wanted to be a part of that network.

How did your course provide you with the skills and knowledge to progress your career?
It almost felt like an MBA for manufacturing professionals, covering aspects like finance, logistics, and manufacturing systems. All these things were so useful and would be beneficial for anyone working in the engineering, operational or industrial ecosystem.

How did your time with Professor Lord Bhattacharya and Professor Sujit Banerji at WMG influence you?
Professor Lord Bhattacharya taught me how important it is to create good quality products despite India being a cost competitive market. He encouraged me to “make quality [products] in India and sell to the world”. That’s a value I’ve incorporated into my business. Product quality and R+D is key. It also speaks volumes that some of the most influential manufacturing business leaders in the world went to him for advice.

Professor Banerji was my personal tutor and is a phenomenal human being. He visited one of my factories in Indi and was a guest speaker at our college graduation ceremony which EKKI supports. He advised me on many projects and how to structure our joint venture with German wastewater company HOMA Pumpenfabrik GmbH . He has been recently appointed Chief Advisor of my business.

What are your plans for the future?
I’m currently completing an MBA to further develop my leadership skills. I’ve undertaken a lot of formal education over the past decade, so need to implement that within my business. With EKKI, I would like to continue growing the company whilst still manufacturing globally competitive, high-quality products. Personally, I need to refine the number of projects I’m working on so that I can focus more of my attention on a smaller number of projects, doing them well and having a greater impact. Strategy is nothing but specialisation and focus. To make EKKI one of the most respected and sustainable water technology company from India is what we aspire for.