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THE MOVING LANTERN - By Anupama Gopalakrishnan

Location: Livonia, Michigan

Mr. & Mrs. Nagra an elderly couple in early 70's walk into the corporate terrain of NYX, Inc. At the age when most people retire, this persistent couple enters the work premises looking for a small opportunity to earn their bread and butter to overcome some personal circumstances that demanded their dignity and self-respect. After their tremendous amount of persistence that lasted for three long days, this couple was welcomed into the world of an enterprising and lovable individual. 

Doesn't this sound like a fairytale to you? The answer is obviously a 'Yes', when it comes to the society where money making opportunities abound and human emotions seem to be just "a talk and a say" situation. This is a society burdened with lay-offs and a weak economy. And here is the individual who has literally surpassed many pains that human life could possibly give and has emerged a leader, a winner, and a compassionate human being.


The Man: Mr. Chain Sandhu
The Creation: NYX Inc., Livonia, MI
The Year: 1988

Talking about the above instance, Mr. Chain Sandhu says, "The whole situation for the couple changed from burden (family) to contribution (profession & society)." Mr. & Mrs. Nagra have now retired after 14 years of commitment with NYX, Inc. "I visit them regularly and I strongly believe in the fact that 'respect' should not be compromised at any cost".

Interestingly, the average age of NYX employees who tirelessly work with the machines is somewhere between 45-60. NYX, Inc boasts of being the biggest Indian employer in a Manufacturing industry in Michigan. The company comprises of 2,200 employees out of which 1,200 are Asian Indians.

"90% of my employees may not have any experience using machines. Most of them may be unable to communicate fluently in English. These are some of the hindrances in the initial phase that may tend to slow down productivity, but once they are busy contributing to a common goal, they tend to be happy about their work and their lives. This increases productivity and enhances performance levels," retorts Mr. Sandhu. 
What makes Mr. Sandhu a name to reckon with? What makes this man a success formula? How did Mr. Sandhu who graduated from high school without a Science education come to head this Multi-million dollar engineering related enterprise? Read on…

Mr. Sandhu was born into a not-so academically related farming community in village Purana Scharienh, in Jallandhar. Mr. Sandhu's uneducated mother has always been a constant motivation and inspirational factor in his life. Born with two brothers, the entire responsibility of the family fell on Mr. Sandhu's mother after the passing away of his father (killed during partition in 1947). His mother had to strive for a livelihood making both ends meet but as she was illiterate, she reinforced the fact that "education" is of prime importance. Sandhu's mother countered all odds by sacrificing her energy and sleep by working as a farmer to send her sons to school so that they could be educated and self-sufficient. The whole agony of earning the livelihood, studying under street lamps reiterated Sandhu's confidence and his ambition to succeed. Sandhu excelled in Punjabi and Drawing, the two subjects in his school.

On the insistence of his mother, he joined the Govt. College, Singrur that fortunately proved to be a turning point in Mr. Sandhu's life. His chance meeting (during one of his college-home commute) with Mr. Kushiram, the then chief engineer, Irrigation Dept, Punjab rekindled old relationships. (Mr. Kushiram was a close friend of Mr. Sandhu's father). With this meeting, Mr. Sandhu's life took a new direction. Kushiram strongly urged Sandhu to apply for science and here you have a person with no academic knowledge in science fulfilling all the pre-requisites for engineering through sheer determination and grit while standing second in college. Through hard work and commitment, Mr. Sandhu went on to complete his bachelors at Guru Nanak Engineering College. 

He happily recollects the towering relationship between his principal Mr. Tara Singh and himself. With the constant encouragement of Mr. Tara Singh, Mr. Sandhu excelled in studies and also held records in athletics (800m) and played hockey.

According to Mr. Sandhu, he indulged in other extra curricular activities because he believed that "if people want to change their lives, education is a must. But broadening one's scope, and indulging on other activities gives an individual an inclination to work in a team because it is people who finally build you".

After completing his Graduation, Mr. Sandhu, aged 24 started his teaching career in Punjab Engineering College and worked as an Assistant Professor in the Electrical Engineering department from 1963-1969. While he was completing his Masters in Chandigarh, United States was busy planning an exploration to the moon. This triggered a curiosity in the young professor. He wanted to personally see how people in United States were smart. Being an adventurous young man who always liked taking a risk, he waited for 'the' day when in 1969, the United States of America beckoned him. Resigning his secure teaching job, with one family contact in Michigan, he packed his bags in the hope of fulfilling his quest for knowledge.

Language barrier was the common factor that challenged him. It was hard for him to say that he wanted to go back as he had risked everything that he had to get here. And so, his life journey in an alien land began!

His first job was on the line for General Motors as a technician while in the evenings he worked for $2.80 per hour with Dr. Grenier, Head, Mechanical Engineering, Wayne State University. Mr. Sandhu worked tirelessly in every known classification in General Motors, Fort Street, Springwell plant. He also had a short stint with Ford before jumping back into the GM bandwagon.

While he climbed each step carefully in the corporate ladder, Mr. Sandhu left General Motors in December 1986. He fondly recalls his association with Mr. Philip Zeigler, Divisional manager, GM who was also Mr. Sandhu's godfather.

After 18 years at General Motors he acquired NYX in 1989 and has taken it from $2 million in sales to $180 million in 2002. First started in 1959 as Nylon Extruders, Inc., the company has gone through dramatic changes with Chain Sandhu at the helm since 1989. In 1991 NYX bought out Rebmann Plastic Molding and a series of acquisitions followed to further increase their market share and create a company with multiple talents. In 1993 Cavalier Manufacturing and Service Plastics were acquired. In 1994 NYX completed their state of the art engineering center, and in 1995 they acquired Color Custom Compounding. In 1996 Assemblies International was started in Windsor, Ontario, to compliment NYX assembly capabilities in the United States. 

The success factors for personal and professional development lies in three crucial elements. According to Mr. Chain Sandhu " Adaptability, meaningful ambition and realistic goals" are three significant factors for success.

"Adaptability was never an issue with me. I adapt to change and for a businessman, change is a constant", replied Mr. Sandhu.
He further added, "my ambition was not to come to the United States to make money, my intention was to learn and gather knowledge". My goal was to make my family live better".

Mr.Sandhu has most importantly never been rigid and has been culturally wise from day one accepting the positive and ignoring the negative aspects of the western culture. To quote " Adaptability to change is very important and people who do not accept change can never be successful. Transformations always take place and how you take it lies solely on the individual".

With no formal management education but equipped with the right management and business skills, Mr. Sandhu opined that people are the ones who make a successful icon. "Make your employees happy. This virtue by definition would entail success for your organization. Make them feel like a family. Say your routine hello to whoever you can, establish a personal rapport with each of them and see the sparks rise in your production charts."

Mr. Chain Sandhu has always believed in the fact that "an individual should constantly be looking to learn everyday". According to him, a true professional is one who respects his co-workers, interacts with them, shares his culture and above all, should never compromise on trust, honesty and character. Technology, quality, and people are the cornerstones upon which NYX Inc. operates. 

Asked about the possibility of juggling both home and business, Mr. Sandhu retorts "Business does demand a 24 - hour attention. It is an addiction. But, if your goal and ambition is intact, and if you get that family time at the dinner table where you can explain and communicate your reasons effectively to your family, there is definitely a scope of achieving a balance". The CEO of NYX, Inc. Has always kept his family as the top priority and to him, his goal, his ambition revolves around them.

Mr. Chain Sandhu has maintained close ties with his home country, India. He makes it a point to visit his Alma Mater and also his small village. Mr. Chain Sandhu has established a Design Center in Chandigarh where he gets to pick the best by providing them opportunities via jobs and using their capabilities in making his organization successful. This human quality comes from his commitment to education, emphasized more by his mother.

A simple man, hailing from a simple background, with a simple dream and with a heart of magnanimity in his closing quotes told miindia that, "an individual should give back to his community what he/she has received".

Mr. Chain Sandhu lives in Novi, Michigan with his wife Satwant (HR Coordinator of NYX, Inc.) and two sons Jatinder (President, NYX Inc.) and Jasdeep (Director, NYX Inc.). Mr. Sandhu was instrumental in establishing the Sikh Studies in the University of Michigan and is also the Board member of the Michigan Minority Business Development Council. He is also currently the Chairman of the Sikh Foundation, Michigan.

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