ZEN TECHNOLOGIES Ltd was founded in Hyderabad in 1993 out of a vision by its founder Ashok Atluri, then a 27-year commerce graduate, with dreams in his eyes and a burning desire to contribute to society. Mr. Atluri started out with a capital of five lakh rupees that included his life’s savings and money borrowed from friends and family. All the convictions of his youth though were soon to be put to the most rigorous test of his life. Defence has never been the friendliest businesses to break into. In the early 90s when bureaucracy still lorded over most businesses and a lack of transparency was the generally accepted state of affairs, a 20-something going out on a limb to build a company from scratch was considered adventurous by some, foolhardy by most.
The going wasn’t easy. Though the company soon realised that there was a huge opportunity for providing safer and more efficient training solutions to the defence and paramilitary forces, convincing the men who controlled the purse strings was a herculean task. The company led by its determined founder, however, dug in its heels and rolled up its sleeves. Zen was in for a long fight and it was more than ready to face the challenge.
In the bureaucracy and paper-heavy business environment of the 90s though, Zen soon realised that no customer would take them on unless they could show some proof of past credentials or testimonials from existing clients, which of course they couldn’t since being new they didn’t have any client. This was a classic Catch-22 situation straight out of a satirical novel. But an entrepreneur cannot afford to complain. As the old adage goes, it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. Thus like a truly entrepreneurial venture, Zen set about finding a solution to what seemed like an impossibly circular problem.
Zen decided that the only way to break through was to install its first simulator free of cost at the National Police Academy in Hyderabad. This entailed further costs and the all too real risk that the company might even go under. However, the gamble paid off. Soon the company bagged its first order in the summer of 1996.
Today Zen Technologies is India’s topmost provider of simulator-based training solutions to defence and paramilitary forces in India and abroad. The company counts among its customers, not just the various regiments of the Indian Army but also major state police forces, ITBP, CRPF besides militaries and police forces of a number of countries in West Asia, South East Asia, Africa, and Latin America. With an annual turnover of Rs. 49 Crores, Zen Technologies is all set to transition to the next level and emerge as a top global player. To this end, the company is focusing on exports and targeting a revenue of Rs 500 Crore over the next few years.
Zen’s Greatest Strength?
Innovation. The company is nothing if not innovative. In a way, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) don’t really have a choice if they have to survive. They need to be agile, fleet-footed and adapt quickly to the vagaries of the market. It’s a brutal environment and most of those who start out with big plans never reach the shore. Only the most innovative survive.
Zen’s commitment to innovation is reflected in the amount of resources the company has invested in research and development. The company develops all its products in-house through its team of highly qualified scientists and engineers, followed by rigorous testing to ensure optimum performance even under the most strenuous circumstances. The company attaches special importance to R&D and its unit is recognised by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India.
As of 2018, the company has over 90 patents filed and 23 have been granted in India and abroad.
The Combat Training Centre – Zen’s Marquee Product
After decades of innovation, Zen has been able to streamline its product offerings so that it offers the most sophisticated solutions to its customers’ requirements. The Zen Combat Training Centre (CTC) is the end result of decades of listening to its customers’ requirements and coming up with innovative solutions.
The Zen CTC is a one-stop training solution for armed forces and state police. The CTC is an integrated training complex configured to improve operational preparedness in both conventional & asymmetric warfare scenarios. It is not only designed to train sub-units and units in conventional warfare but also for asymmetric warfare-Counter Insurgency (CI) and Counter-Terrorism (CT). Additionally, the CTC is flexible enough with a well defined open architecture to integrate training equipment and simulators of various global Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), making it a truly open and customisable training solution.
Some of the salient features of the Zen CTC are:
- Live-fire shooting ranges for Smart Target System (ZEN STS®) and Multi-Functional Target System (MFTS®)
- Jungle and rural settings for ‘live’ force-on-force engagement with simulated laser-fire (Tactical Engagement Simulator—TacSim®)
- Indoor Tracking System (ITS) for training personnel in tackling enemy/terrorist threat inside buildings/rooms by physical intervention
- Shoot House, a bullet-proof facility, to train security personnel involved in operations to eliminate enemy/terrorist threat in a closed environment of a built-up area
- Area for perfecting lobbing and hand grenade drills with HE36S®
- Simulator training (MMG, AGL and Infantry weapons) for improving marksmanship
- Individual marksmanship training with Advanced Weapons Simulator for all small arms with tactical scenarios for judgemental and reflex shooting
The Road Ahead
Having been in the business for 25 years, Zen has seen all the major ups and downs of the industry. Today the business environment has changed considerably as has the mindset of the country’s ruling classes. Creators of wealth are no longer sought to be penalised but rather rewarded for the positive contribution they make to society. Zen Technologies Ltd is looking forward to benefiting from the government’s Make in India policy. Today the company employs close to 200 people at its offices spread across
Hyderabad and Delhi apart from a manufacturing facility close to the Hyderabad international airport. Ashok Atluri, CMD of Zen Technologies feels that the Indian defence sector is poised to end India’s worrisome dependence on foreign arms imports in the next decade. All it needs is a business-friendly environment that values innovation. Since MSMEs are at the core of the innovation ecosystem, it behooves the government to address the most pressing concerns of MSMEs including the age-old problem of prolonged procurement cycles and delayed payments that have been the rock upon which many a promising ship has dashed and sunk.