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New era for company

Atasa Moceituba
Monday, October 30, 2017

AMIT Singh can still recall what his father used to tell him, "never copy others' action, do your own and do it right" and this somehow had a huge impact in his life.

Last week, The Fiji Times managed to get a hold of CBS Power Solutions (Fiji) director and general manager Amit Singh, who shared how the company was established from its early beginnings to what it is today.

This is after the renewable energy services provider and general contractor was named the Best Large Business Operating Internationally during the Prime Minister's International Business awards held at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva on Saturday October 21.

Born and raised in Ba, Mr Singh attended Ba Sangam College during his high school days before he moved to the University of the South Pacific for tertiary studies.

Growing up, he said, his childhood dream was to become a teacher however while in school his dream changed and he wanted to become a chartered accountant instead.

While studying at USP he finally confirmed that his dream was renewable energy.

He said he came from a sugarcane farming background and while studying at USP he would go back home nearly every Friday just to work on the farm to earn enough for his expenses in Suva.

"After graduation most of my university friends opted for teaching but I wanted to work in renewable energy so I waited for a year looking for relevant opportunities and finally joined CBS Power Solutions in 2006. I joined the company as a staff and later became a director and shareholder," Mr Singh said.

"The founder of the company is Ajay Prasad who resides in Australia and is the managing director, I joined the company one month after inception (September 2006) and was appointed director in August 2009. I started as an applications engineer and later promoted to manager and general manager."

He said CBS Power Solutions (Fiji) started off in 2006 with only two staff members.

From that time until now, he said, the company had grown, employing more than 50 permanent Fijian employees as of December 2016, with majority under the age of 35.

With the vision to "Make Basic Power Accessible to all People" Mr Lal said their focus was to help businesses improve their productivity levels and to achieve financial, economic and environmental benefits and to help individuals and the poor improve their living standards.

He said this was to be achieved by working more with renewable energy sources and provide cost effective, highly efficient and affordable power solutions plus help reduce green house gas emissions (GHG).

The company has three offices in Fiji namely Labasa, Ba and Valelevu, which is the head office for the Pacific.

Mr Singh said the business had its ups and downs but despite the challenges they faced they remained positive.

He said the management faced a lot of challenges in the past 11 years especially in maintaining and sustaining the business while focusing on the positive growth of the company.

"Some of the key challenges are affordable project financing for renewable energy projects. "ANZ and FDB bank supported us by providing local and overseas project financing and understood our business nature and activities.

"Sustainable Energy Financing Project (SEFP) under World Bank really assisted us with our financing needs by providing Risk Sharing Facility and 1 per cent less interest rate then the market rate and logistical challenge due to our geographical location, this is one of the biggest challenges that we face in project implementation and delivery."

As one of the most dispersed regions in the world, Mr Singh said the Pacific faces unique challenges in providing affordable and accessible electricity — with a heavy reliance on diesel-fuelled generators in many areas to power homes and businesses.

He said their product and services were aligned to meet the needs of rural communities and their focus was off-grid, unlike other service providers who concentrate on grid connect systems.

"Approximately 40 per cent of Fijians stay in rural areas and are often deprived and have difficulty accessing affordable power systems, we provide them with affordable, economical and sustainable power systems.

"We remain dedicated and focused at all times despite the challenges."

Mr Singh said 2010 and 2012 was a challenging year for the company. This was after they lost a lot of overseas projects to other companies from abroad but this only made them stronger and they continued working hard.

"Despite the slowdown for continuous three years (2010-2012) we still retained all our staffs, in fact we hired more Fijians.

"We continuously informed our workers, 'don't worry your employment is fully secured and it's just a matter of time before we do wonders'.

"We prepared and planned well in those three years and that lead to this year award Best Large Business Operating Internationally."

If there were lessons he had learnt over the years, those were to keep the employees engaged at all times and in all your plans so they better understand and deliver more.

"Don't be penny wise pound foolish, Fiji graduates in electrical and engineering are no less than the overseas but they need to be groomed right and given exposure to realise their full potential, always learn from your mistakes and try not to repeat the same and things are not always in black or white at times they are grey as well but it should be your objective to turn that grey to black or white."

When questioned about the company's secret in running a successful business Mr Singh said "you should be able to trust your products to build trust with your customers".

"In this competitive business world secrets should remain a secret but we are happy to share some of ours.

"Word of mouth is very powerful, one successful project leads to the other, one happy customer gets you another so be customer-focused, invest into your workforce, provide opportunities to young graduates from Fiji and groom them to suit your business instead of hiring overseas experts, quality products that have proven track record in harsh tropical conditions.

"Provide the same quality service to all customers regardless of the size, provide job security to your employees to retain your best to be best and promise what you can deliver and never overpromise and under deliver."

He said nothing can be achieved without hard work and confidence but dedication was the key to success

Mr Singh said scooping this year's Best Large Business Operating Internationally award during the Prime Minister's International Business award marked a new beginning for the company.

He said words could not express how excited and emotional he was that day.

"I literally cried after receiving the business award, all the hard work, sacrifice and dedication finally paid off.

"I sacrificed a lot of family time in the last 10 years to make CBS a successful business in the Pacific," Mr Singh said.

"I would like to thank my wife for her co-operation and understanding, family, employees for their support and most importantly to Mr Ajay Prasad who provided me with this golden opportunity to showcase my proficiencies." He said the award was a well-deserved one for the company and in particular him.

"It was an extremely emotional moment and a huge achievement. Last year we celebrated our 10 years achievement of Excellence, Experience and Expertise and this year we were recognised through the Prime Minister's International Award, it was a timely and much needed award to keep us motivated and continue to help the local economy by getting foreign revenue through Renewable Energy Projects."

Mr Singh said this year would be the second year they applied for the Prime Minsters International Business Award.

"We were confident but not overconfident knowing that a lot of companies will be applying for the 12 awards. We were very optimistic and now we are very proud to be the winners of this prestigious award.

"The only two other people I knew that applied for this award were my wife and our financial controller.

"I would like to thank the organisers, sponsors and not forgetting the staff of Investment Fiji who were very helpful since this year's application was submitted online.

"We would like to thank HFC Bank for sponsoring the "Best Large Business Operating Internationally Award."

He said their growth in the past three years was the key motivation that made them apply for this year's Prime Minsters International Business award. He said they only came to know about the annual award last year through his sales executive Sant Raj, who encouraged them to apply.

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