Editor's Choice

Personality profile: Shilpa Mehta

27 July 2022 Editor's Choice

Shilpa believes that they are fortunate to live in a time where one can innovate and produce locally but still be a part of the global industry. “What really excites me is the focus on localisation and the push for new innovations in engineering that supports and bolsters the local manufacturing industry.”

Shilpa Mehta, co-owner at Production Logix and President of the Entrepreneur’s Organisation, grew up in Durban in an entrepreneurial family. Upon leaving school, she entered the University of Cape Town where she studied Business Science and Finance, finally ending up with a degree in chartered accounting. Said Shilpa, “I never really imagined I’d end up in the electronics industry. But, in hindsight, I realise that I lacked real passion for the world of auditing and banking – I really wanted to create something and see something come to life from beginning to end but didn’t quite know where or how this would happen!”

Shilpa Mehta.

After graduating Shilpa served articles at KPMG on a mixed bag of industries ranging from manufacturing, to banking and even some NGOS. Although auditing was never her passion, she was exposed to many businesses which operated with slick internal control, operating systems and processes, which helped drive her vision at Production Logix.

After her stint at KPMG, she joined Investec where she worked in structured finance. This role taught her the benefits of using one’s balance sheet as a negotiating tool when applying for funding, which has placed her in good stead in a capital-intensive business where keeping up with technology changes is critical to success.

Upon leaving Investec she joined UniPrint as a Commercial Manager which saw her needing to have a keen understanding of manufacturing and production lifecycles from conception to completion. It was here that she gained invaluable knowledge of how the end result is a combination of production processes and teamwork. Shilpa states, “The role required that we keep our customers happy while balancing quality, price and delivery in a fast-paced competitive industry.”

A joint venture

Coming from an entrepreneurial family as well as a manufacturing background, made her want to manage her own company. Through her business networks she was made aware that ProLogix was up for sale and, although it seemed like a great leap of faith for someone of her background, she, together with her brother Ushir who is her business partner in the venture, felt that it was an exciting opportunity in what is a growing global industry. Says Shilpa, “It was a real learning curve and six years later, there is still so much to learn!”.

As a B2B company, Production Logix specialises in PCB assembly, through-hole assembly prototyping and harnessing. “The wonderful thing about what we do is that we tap into a wide range of industries from metering, telematics, lighting, to IoT. We are AS9100 Military and Space Accredited, so we are very strong on military and defence applications,” she states.

Weathering the storm

Shilpa goes on to comment, “Covid was a serious blow to the manufacturing industry at large – even more so to us because it’s virtually impossible to run our plant remotely, but we believe that one of our strengths is our ability to remain agile and so, through meticulous planning, we were able to push through the worst of the pandemic.”

She elaborates, “As a result of Covid, there are global supply chain challenges, and I don’t think any industry is immune to this. I do, however, believe that tough times are what force innovation and action! In order to mitigate the disruption caused by supply chain issues, we’ve focussed on what we can control and have sharpened up processes in-house. What this means is that we have increased our procurement capacity by having more specialised hands-on-deck, as well as expanding our supply chain network with new suppliers, all the while keeping our customers apprised of developments with transparent feedback and continuous communication.”

Although not peculiar to the electronics manufacturing industry, she is excited by the seemingly limitless prospect of AI, which, coupled with IoT, has the ability to enhance every aspect in our lives. Being involved with the manufacturing of electronic components which help to ‘house’ AI gives her a sense of pride. “I think that the global pandemic has forced a quantum leap when it comes to innovation – necessity has pushed us to innovate like never before while also seeking simple and sustainable solutions. The next few years will also see the industry focussing on smarter designs which translate into products, parts and components which are easier to procure and can go to market quicker,” she says. “Our vision is to be a world-class manufacturing facility which is at ease with competing in the global market but remains very much locally focused.”

Parting with advice

When asked about any advice to prospective youngsters wanting to come into the industry, she mentions that although the electronic engineering field is very broad, she believes a good start would be a suitable qualification in electronic engineering or something similar. Aside from one’s qualification she feels that there is a certain type of personality best suited to this industry. “Manufacturing is detail-oriented, so one needs to naturally possess good attention to detail. Furthermore, we work with large volumes of components and ensuring the data is correct is one of the cornerstones,” she states. “Manufacturing is about processes – what you do at your point of departure affects the end result so the incumbent should be process-driven, structured in their approach and also procedurally strict on themselves and others. Although a seemingly elusive quality, one needs to be innovative.”

And innovation is a great part of the company culture at ProLogix where better solutions to age-old problems are constantly being sought. She concludes, “One needs to be a natural innovator who is open to collaboration, sharing ideas and is bold enough to experiment with new things.”

On a personal note

On a personal level, Shilpa loves the outdoors and, being a Durbanite, enjoys hiking, running and swimming. She thrives on meeting new people and has been fortunate to have been involved with various organisations which has allowed her to do so. In her spare time she also loves reading and thinking about new products and innovations and how they may benefit the unique needs South Africa has.

Shilpa concludes, “I spend a lot of my free time reading and researching new innovations in our industry and more specifically, how electronics can enhance people’s lives in so many ways, be it a drone delivering life-saving medicines to remote rural villages or researching ad hoc personal interests such as what is the best coffee machine, camera or wearable.”


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