"Subservience doesn't pay "

Chandran Kymal, better known as Chad Kymal, chairman and CEO of international quality systems consultancy, Omnex Inc, has a prescription for an Indian auto industry looking to go global. By Venkatachari Jagannathan

Chandran KymalChennai: On his first day at a General Motors plant near 'motor city' Detroit, Michigan, in the US, 17-year-old rookie worker Chandran Kymal — now better known as Chad Kymal, chairman and CEO of Omnex Inc — accidentally stepped into an oil can.

"My father had just bought me a new pair of shoes that would look suitable for an automobile plant," he recalls. "I don't know how I put my leg into that oil. At the time, I was a student at the General Motors Institute, where students were alternated between the classroom and the shop floor every 12 weeks."

Perhaps the incident helped this Chennai lad get a firm hold of shop floor activities and later go on to advise global automobile vehicle manufacturers like the Ford Motor Company, component suppliers and other industries on quality systems.

Many years ago, his father, K P C Nair, a professor in the Chennai veterinary college, got an assignment in the US and took his family along. Young Kymal was then studying in the MCC High School. As happens to many other Indian names in America, Chandran was soon corrupted to Chad. That's the name he now prefers, reasoning, "It has its own brand equity."

After completing his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, Kymal went on to do his master's in Industrial and Operations Engineering, followed by an MBA at the University of Michigan. "I joined KPMG. After some time, clients started asking for me specifically. That gave me the confidence to start my own consultancy," he recounts. At 28, soon after his marriage to Ajitha, a chemical engineer, Kymal promoted Omnex, a consultancy organisation.

Now a $50-million company, Omnex operates in 18 countries and has 400 employees on its rolls. The company offers consultancy and training courses for large corporate houses on lean and Six Sigma initiatives for industries like automobiles, healthcare, semi-conductors, telecom, aerospace, transportation, construction and environmental engineering. Sister company Omnex Systems provides software solutions.

Omnex's growth has come essentially because of its association with the Ford Motor Company and its vendors. Kymal helped the auto major rewrite its 'quality operating system (QOS)' methodology and was instrumental in formulating the its QS-9000 requirements. "We were making around $80,000 per week in training and consulting," he remembers.