How Virtuoso Optoelectronics (VOEPL) Built A Rs. 550 Crore Manufacturing Business

After attending BITS Pilani, most graduates with entrepreneurial ambitions end up creating a tech startup — they approach VCs to raise money, build a tech product, and then look to exit through an acquisition or IPO. But Sukrit Bharati has trod a different — and equally interesting — path.

Over the last 9 years, Sukrit Bharati’s Virtuoso Optoelectronics, or VOEPL, has built itself into a Rs. 550 crore company. It manufactures products including ACs, geysers, and lighting products, and is aiming to enter several other verticals. It listed on the stock exchanges in 2021, and now commands a market cap of Rs. 550 crore ($70 million).

But the journey to creating a manufacturing company wasn’t straightforward. Like other graduates from premier engineering colleges, Bharati too was enamoured with the technology and startup space. He had completed a degree in Engineering Technology from BITS Pilani in 2011, and then founded an e-commerce company. But he found the going to be tough. “Back then, e-commerce was in the initial stages of growth. This was pre-Jio, and consumer confidence in an online shop was low. Delivery costs were also very high. It was also a cultural shock for me when I realized investors were asking me to commit to undoable figures — they wanted growth to be faster than was realistically possible,” Bharati said in an interview.

At that point, he decided to set up Virtuoso Optoelectronics. “There was an opening in the manufacturing space. There wasn’t too much electronic circuit board manufacturing in Nashik, which was my hometown. Also the investment required wasn’t very high — you could get into manufacturing low-end circuit boards with a minimal amount of investment, around 1-1.5 crore,” he says. “And I come from a family background in manufacturing, so manufacturing came naturally to me.”

Virtuoso Optoelectronics had humble beginnings. In 2015, the company started off by making circuit boards, and then moved to producing lighting products. By 2018, Virtuoso Optoelectronics was supplying emergency lamps to Panasonic, earlier known as Anchor Electricals. But the company’s big break came the following year, when it snagged Tata Group’s Voltas as a customer, and began manufacturing Air conditioners for them. In 2020, Virtuoso Optoelectronics expanded further, and began its third product vertical, which was water heaters.

Cut to now, the company has 6 manufacturing facilities in and around Nashik in Maharashtra. Through these plants, Virtuoso Optoelectronics manufactures 1,400 AC outdoor units and 3,500 indoor AC units a day for Voltas. It makes 400 water dispensers a day under the Eco Breeze brand. It also manufactures LED lamps, street lights and emergency lights, and is the only supplier of bulbs to Panasonic. By August this year, the company plans to have a plant ready which will manufacture commercial refrigerators with a capacity of 1.5 lakh units a year. Virtuoso Optoelectronics is also eyeing the deep freezers and invertor PCB space.

All this has led up to some impressive financial results. Virtuoso Optoelectronics had a total revenue of Rs. 49 crore in FY18, primarily from lighting products, but has now grown it to Rs. 338 crore in FY23. The company, unlike most startups, has been consistently profitable, and reported a net profit of Rs. 7.8 crore in FY23. The company has also managed to garner the attention of ace investor Ashish Kacholia, who holds a stake in the company.

Virtuoso Optoelectronics has benefited from the government’s PLI (Production Linked Incentive) scheme, which aims to encourage firms to manufacture all manner of goods in India. Bharati himself is bullish on the manufacturing space. “Manufacturing creates jobs and brings stability to a region like few other things,” he says. “In the last few years, a lot of things have aligned which could help India’s manufacturing ambitions — covid has had an impact on spurring domestic manufacturing, there are geopolitical reasons why manufacturing has become vital, and there has been a stable government for several years,” he says. “The opportunity for India is here.”