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Woman entrepreneur spreads wings in aerospace engineering sector

Update: 2022-05-22 01:44 IST
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She is a well-settled woman in the United States of America with a doting husband and two lovely daughters. But, her passion to be on her own made her come back to India after spending about 20 plus years of happily living there to kick start her entrepreneurial journey. And it was not an easy decision. Two daughters Keerti Sri and Annika, 14 and 11 years old now were in school. She did not want to disturb them for her sake.

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Coming back to Hyderabad was a tough choice she made leaving behind two daughters with her very supportive husband. Sarita Rathibandla, a US returned to head as MD of SKM Technologies Pvt Ltd. She goes back to the USA once every quarter to spend time with her husband and two daughters. She is a leading world-class manufacturer of high precision components and assemblies for some of the reputed companies in India and abroad such as Rafael, Pratt & Whitney, Dedienne Aerospace, Dassault Aviation, Magellan Aerospace Corporation, Nuclear Fuel Complex, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, DRDO, BDL and among many others. The B. Tech Graduate in Mechanical Engineering from a college in Bangalore and a Master's in Industrial Engineering from the US, returned to India in 2019 for good to give a shot as an entrepreneur. Though Defence and Aerospace Engineering are new to her, she quickly grasped the trick of the trade, learnt the nitty grittys of the business, and acquired a company.

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She came to know that the company was going through some financial difficulties. As she already had firm plans to foray into Defence and Aerospace she jumped at it and acquired it for some undisclosed sum. Her goal is to make big in Aerospace.

Hasn't she found it difficult as she knew nothing about Aerospace Engineering? Yes but no, she says. "Yes to a certain extent. But no, because I am a quick grasper. I learn things fast. I have been seeing my father GR Surya Raj who was a technocrat in designing and developing industrial components very unique to the industry. I put a lot of effort to learn technical details on par with my most brilliant employees. If face any challenge or someone takes me for a ride, I have my father on whom I fall back," says 43 years old young women entrepreneur Sarita.

My father is my inspiration, His company, which is 26 years old, has many unique products. Its components are exported to 50 plus countries.

SKM Technologies strongly believes in making a contribution to a self-reliant India in the world of Research and Defence Technologies. This is our first step, she says. Sarita spends nearly 15 hours at the plant. Currently, the new facility gives employment to 70 people. Another facility, NeoGen at Shamirpet employs 20 people. It's their parent company, the company her father founded Dynamic Tools Pvt. Ltd employs around 641 employees.

We are three girls to our parents. I am the middle one. My parents never felt that they didn't have sons. They didn't give us an impression of gender disparity. My parents always encouraged me to do what I liked to do. I knew from my very early childhood that one day I would get into entrepreneurship and also join my father. But, for a change, now I have a company of my own.

The aerospace industry in Hyderabad is very big. "Hyderabad is considered to be an aerospace hub. It is one of the very few cities to have an aerospace park. But, I have not seen any women entrepreneurs in any of these companies."

"I have that unique distinction of being probably one of the very few women entrepreneurs in the aerospace sector. It is scattered. There are far too many small-time players. We face tough competition from them, especially in the tender bidding process. Most of them are not quality conscious and are not so professional. Adibatla is not fully developed. It is very difficult to get talented staff to work there as there are not sufficient facilities available for families to shift there. It might take some time," Sarita explains.

Presently Sarita's company, SKMs Technologies has a 9 crore turnover. This year she is aiming for Rs 30core. And she wants to expand further in Hyderabad. In a very short stint, she learned everything about missile technology, spare parts, and aerospace industrial engineering.

Sarita sees excellent growth opportunities for the industry she is in. Added to that, there is an encouraging ecosystem. Further, the Union Government's ban on importing certain defence components also augurs good for the domestic companies such as ours, she says.

The government is also encouraging private companies in the defence components manufacturing sector. Now DRDO is also allowing private industry to access government test systems and facilities and for strengthening Indian defence industries, DRDO has facilitated access to more than 1000 patents with nil royalty.

Defence export has huge potential for our country and in coming years, India is now trying to shift its status from being one of the largest importers of defence products to one of the top exporters of defence items. This will give a boost to indigenization efforts with the active participation of companies like SKM Technologies Pvt. Ltd and other public and private sectors for fulfilling twin objectives of achieving self-reliance & promoting defence exports. SKM Technologies gets a lot of support and handholding from DRDO, said Sarita.

Besides my father, my maternal uncle also inspired me to become an engineer. My husband, who did a master's in Electrical Engineering now works as a Software Professional with ADP in the USA and is a pillar of strength behind my current position. But for him, I would have ventured out on this entrepreneurial journey.

I have been a sports person from early childhood. I always preferred outdoor games. My mother who passed away in 2016 was a great source of inspiration for my love for sports. Sarita shares. I am a good cook. I cook well many vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. I hate eating out or getting outside food. I would like to feed my husband and kids with home-cooked food.

Sarita's life ambition is to become technically very strong and develop some products of unique nature in aerospace engineering, in missile engineering. Whenever she finds some time she spends it with family, sisters, and old friends. She catches up with friends in the USA too. Games and long driving are two things she is passionate about. A lot of girls say they have limitations in doing things. But, I don't agree. I don't want to hear that they being a girl I can't do this, that. Why not, all can do all things. And she says luck favours those who work hard. Without hard work, luck has no meaning. Girls should come out of their comfort zone and try what is hard and not what is easy. She describes herself as an always alert, friendly person with a result-oriented approach.

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