`Our target at O/E/N is quality growth’ – Interview with Ms Pamela Anna Mathew, managing director, O/E/N
O/E/N in 1973 to O/E/N in 2013. What has been the journey like? Any particular highs or lows that you would like to comment upon?
From 1973 (when I joined O/E/N) to 1983 was a huge learning curve for me. It was hands on learning under the able leadership of the founder of O/E/N, my father K A Mathew. He was best known for his disciplined approach, in depth involvement, infectious commitment, ability to galvanise positive energy; this was the corner stone on which my foundation in O/E/N was built.
Three years down the line, I stepped into his big shoes with fear of the shoes remaining loose all the time. However, I was determined not to bring shame to the image and reputation of the company by my initiatives. When efforts were made to change adversities into favourable situations, it was very challenging to take hard decisions and calculated risks. I had only one prayer, that I may be granted the courage to face any odds.
My third decade at O/E/N began in 1993 and I rejoiced in every significant milestone achieved but simultaneously accepted and corrected mistakes that were made. Humbled by the success of the risks taken in the previous decade, I had renewed strength and reinforced confidence to stay focused in the activities that were undertaken for business growth/progress.
Since 2003, I have concentrated on enhancing the basket of “Precision Electomechanical Electronics Products”. We continue to excel in providing solutions, tailor-made to customer requirements. Handling slow down, exercising timely and appropriate controls to emerge successfully through the crunch times, without setbacks, has been some of our recent challenges.
To what would you attribute OEN’s success? What is your management mantra?
Our most valuable resource and significant contributor to OEN success is the concerted efforts taken by stakeholders behind all activities. I enjoy every bit of the pivotal role I am privileged to play. As a “trustee” entrusted with the task of steering the ship and an “enabler” for the success of the organization, I have followed a style of capturing the present spirit to provide a road map for the future. I never have nor want to take things for granted. It is my firm belief that the definition of strength and stability is CHANGE and ability to manage uncertainty is the most important agenda. Developing skills across the organisation to Rethink, Redesign , Rebuild and then to connect the dots to make a ‘purposeful large picture’ is the acceptable ongoing process. In short we give emphasis to Principles of Accomplishment Management.
Where do you see the company a decade from now?
We will be a significant player in what we state in our logo “We make electronics work.” In the process, we would navigate through the path from component manufacturer to value added solution provider. Using our strength and competence, we wish to remain in this niche market we presently cater to, by expanding the application of the products we build. Our target is quality growth rather than counting or measuring in quantitative terms.
As an industry leader, how would you analyse Kerala’s changing business environment? Is there a greater acceptance of entrepreneurship among the younger generation?
Basically people from Kerala like to be leaders rather than be followers. This basic aptitude fits the bill of entrepreneurship provided we are prepared to take risks and be innovative. Unlike the past, competition is the way of life and the younger generation is attuned or conditioned to this scenario. In order that the younger generation contribute to the state’s economy, it is absolutely necessary that the appropriate climate is created. We can ill afford them to be only part time friends or turn to be foes of the state. They have to be strategic allies of the state.
KSIDC has played a major role in encouraging Kerala industry. How has your experience with KSIDC been vis-a-vis O/E/N?
O/E/N has received very appreciable support right from the start up in 1968. KSIDC has proved over the years the developmental role it plays. Its policy of lending a free hand to the entrepreneur without interference is most commendable.
As a woman entrepreneur, have you had to adapt yourself in order to get greater acceptance from your industry peers?
I have not felt out of place among male peers. I firmly believe that the male peers with whom I have interacted have felt comfortable with me too. More often, I forget my gender when I am handling business matters and have never exploited the advantageous positions I had as a woman. Once when I was gifted an “electric shaver” by a Japanese business contact, he was embarrassed. However, I said I would be pleased to gift it to my husband, and that the salutation “San” did all the trick. He was much relieved and we enjoyed a good laugh.
A woman who made it in what is often regarded as` a man’s world’, a non-engineer who was able to crack the precision engineering code, … tell us what makes you tick?
I am for ever, a learner. I do not hesitate or have any reservation in admitting what I do not know. If you have a knowledge halo around you, continuing to learn is hard. In the process of my technical learning, few basic questions raised by me, sometimes idiotic, have kindled fresh thinking! It is difficult for me to say what makes me tick. Is it “not mincing words” style? The ability to harness the energy of people? Being passionate about O/E/N? Being simple? I really do not know!