As a child, Boobalan Pitchamuthu dreamed of having his own company. Born in Indonesia to a low-socioeconomic family, he knew he would face many obstacles to achieving that goal. But he was determined to overcome them.
“Even though there were a lot of hardships in the early stage of my life, because of our family background and all, I held onto my dream,” Boobalan says. He studied hard and took on various jobs, working in textile factories while learning all he could about the business world.
Eventually, he landed a job at a large Indonesian corporation that made synthetics, petrochemicals and fertilisers. This gave him the opportunity to see the inner workings of a major company.
But working for someone else was never going to be enough for Boobalan.
“My dream never went away; it got bigger and bigger,” he says. “I don’t know where it came from. Maybe the reason is that I always wanted to build relationships and friendships, and to help society. I thought that if I worked for someone else, I wouldn’t really be able to make a difference.”
Driven by that urge to be the change, he left the company and started his own with just a small team of around five people. Today, Texcoms Worldwide has grown to employ 400 people and, as the name suggests, establish an international presence.
Texcoms’ main source of revenue comes from selling used machines to factories in the textile industry. The company also trades yarn and has a management consultancy vertical offering its services to companies in the industry.
“We make most of our money from the used textile machines,” Boobalan says. “This business is traditionally done by brokers, agents and word of mouth. It’s a few people here and there trying to connect things, get some commissions.”
The majority of business in the used textile machine trade is still done this way. So Boobalan sees big potential for Texcoms in continuing to professionalise the industry.
“We started this by giving a very good after-sales service to our customers,” he says. “So it’s not just about finding the right machines; we also help them to install these machines and run them. We stand by our commitments in this industry.
“We have created a very good brand for Texcoms,” he adds. “10–15 years back, nobody would have thought this could happen in the used textile machine business.”
The reason it seemed so unlikely is that trust is generally very low in this business; factories buying second hand are often leery of being sold something that might break down by someone who won’t take responsibility if it does.
It’s not just about finding the right machines; we also help them to install these machines and run them. We stand by our commitments in this industry.
“I’m very happy to say that many people in this industry don’t know who the founder is, but they do know our company,” Boobalan says. “They know Texcoms is a good company, and we keep our promises. That’s the brand image we have created, and this is the unique feature of our company. There are many people doing this business, but we are one of a kind.”
Having a strong, trusted brand means Texcoms is well-positioned to increase its share of the market exponentially. Boobalan estimates that the used textile machine business is worth between US$3 billion and US$4 billion. Texcoms currently enjoys about US$70 million of that, meaning there is huge potential to expand.
“Our share of the market is still very small,” Boobalan says. “We can still go a long way, expanding to take a 10 per cent share, for example.”
Those who buy used machines for their factories are often small-scale entrepreneurs who are just starting out in the industry. When Texcoms began, this meant that drumming up business depended on the team mining their contacts and experience in search of such entrepreneurs.
Likewise, they had to put in a lot of work to find opportunities to buy old machines. One factory might have been closing down in a distant corner of the country, and it was up to the team to make sure they had their ears to ground and so they could hear about the closure in time to make an offer. In other cases, a factory might be modernising, which would be even less likely to come up on their radars.
“At the start, we were doing everything basically just with our brains; it was all about making connections,” Boobalan explains. “But as the years went by, we started putting some extra steps in place, just things like Excel spreadsheets and Microsoft Access to keep track of things.”
The next step after that was to dedicate one or two staff towards a team that was responsible for fielding enquiries from buyers and sellers, working out what was available at any given time and matching it with demand, and then figuring out the logistics.
“Whatever we could buy, we would buy and then resell, or sometimes we would match the buyers and sellers directly,” Boobalan says.
After reaching this second stage, the company began developing its own software to help this process become even more efficient. This was initially met with resistance from inside the company, Boobalan says, but today the Smart Trade platform is seen as essential.
“Without that software, the company cannot run,” he declares.
Texcoms is a good company, and we keep our promises. That’s the brand image we have created, and this is the unique feature of our company. There are many people doing this business, but we are one of a kind.
Texcoms also has plans to diversify beyond its current core verticals by creating a global platform to connect different stakeholders throughout the textile industry. “We see the textile industry overall as highly fragmented, despite its importance,” Boobalan says.
“It’s the biggest industry after agriculture in terms of the jobs it provides to people around the world. Governments and industry leaders all invest in this industry because there are relatively low barriers to entry.
“But once they start benefiting from the growth, countries leave the textile industry behind and go into other industries. So the industry has been relocating from one place to another, and companies are always sourcing from new places where the people or raw materials are available at a cheaper price.”
With this in mind, Boobalan and his leadership team set to work on a plan to help add value by unifying a fragmented industry.
“We cannot streamline the entire industry, we cannot standardise everything. That’s not our aim, and it’s not possible either,” he says.
“But we are trying to at least play some role in this industry to see how it can be a little bit more structured. That’s why we want to create a network of all the textile professionals in the world, to bring them under one platform.”
The agile phoenix
After building a unified platform, Boobalan’s aim is to help connect employers with talent across the world. Then, the company will use the platform to develop the industry further by encouraging knowledge sharing.
“This platform will have three major roles to play in the industry: networking for textile professionals, connecting global jobs and learning and development for the textile industry,” he explains.
We want to create a network of all the textile professionals in the world, to bring them under one platform.
“So we have started solidifying our thoughts around this; we have a small team of people working on it, and we are investing some money. Then in maybe three or four years, we’ll come out with a proper product.”
Developing multiple verticals and expanding the company’s global footprint is part of a long-running tradition at Texcoms of remaining agile. The company’s logo, a phoenix, was chosen because Texcoms helps to ‘rebirth’ old machines and give them a new life. But it also has another meaning, representing the multiple changes that Texcoms itself has gone through in each stage of its existence.
“When the industry is moving from one part of the world to another, our team stays agile so that we are able to adapt to new day-to-day requirements,” Boobalan says.
“We move with the requirements of the world.”