Empowering Filipino Heroes

When the Philippine Army needed 500 sets of body armor during the 2017 Marawi siege, MKU Ltd.'s Neeraj Gupta immediately airlifted a 3,400-set order to the Philippines.

For Neeraj Gupta, the managing director of India-based MKU,'Heroes safeguard our freedom and make our world safer. Every offering crafted by MKU is designed to empower them.' The Philippines wants the best and doesn't compromise. Philippines focuses on quality and high performance. It has very ambitious plans for the Armed Forces of the Philippines' (AFP) 15-year modernization program with a $40-billion budget,' he added.

Manoj Gupta, Neeraj's elder brother, said, 'MKU has been part of AFP's modernization program for more than three years by supplying ballistic protection and optronic (night vision) solutions in the last three years.' MKU — a family-owned world-class defense and homeland security firm — is said to be the first company outside the United States and Europe to develop and manufacture lightweight composite armor.

It has delivered 120,00 sets of body armor, 30,000 helmets, and over 1,000 night vision devices to the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP) through state-owned Philippine International Trading Corp. Last year, a PNP-issued bulletproof vest saved a Pasig policeman's life. Inside Staff, Sergeant Adolfo Bruso's vest was a 1.7-kilo Strike Face armor panel that stopped a bullet fired by riding-in-tandem robbers.

'It's my second life,' Bruso said. 'Let us wear our vests for protection on duty, even if it feels hot.' Gupta's first name, Neeraj, literally means 'lotus.' The more metaphorical meaning is something/someone who stands out. A lotus, which only grows in still and murky water, stands out.

Diversification drive

Gupta helped diversify MKU's partnerships and sales to over 100 countries, servicing over 230 armed forces, empowering over 3 million soldiers and armoring over 3,000 platforms in its mission to make the world safer.

Gupta had been looking for Philippine business since 2006. 'Against competitors from Europe and Israel, we passed technical qualifications but we were not the lowest bidders. MKU was invited to take over a winning competitor's contract in 2015 during [President Rodrigo] Duterte's time,' he recalled.

During the Asian Defense and Security exhibition earlier this year, MKU.

showcased new products such as an ultra-compact, lightweight, head or mounted night vision monocular, aviation night vision goggles, and a helmet that can resist five rifle shots.

Slight technology upgrades, said Gupta, are as beneficial as revolutionary innovations to soldiers.

'Confidence is a soldier's best weapon during combat. Our team of engineers assesses real-time combat situations we collect from our growing end-users network. Customers looking for very high quality drive us,' he said.

Neeraj considers his father, Shri Gopal Krishna (GK) Gupta, as his 'biggest guru.' Talking to Boardroom Watch from India, he added that, 'I always sit in front of my father.' Shri GK's picture stands behind Neeraj. Shri GK, who formerly made locks, established M. Kumar Udyog in 1985 to manufacture and supply defense-related items to the Indian Army. It later rebranded to MKU, acquired German expertise in platform protection, and ventured into the helicopter and naval vessel armor protection.

When India moved from steel to fiberglass helmets, Shri GK did not have the funds to buy helmet molding machines. With the help of technicians, he converted their existing machines and told officials, 'Give us the opportunity. We will not let you down.' He won the Army helmet contract in 1992.

During the 1999 Kargil War, meanwhile, M.Kumar Udyog was the only company that agreed to make 80,000 snow shoes at no extra cost. 'It's a small contribution to deliver when India needed it,' Shri GK told the Indian Army. Shri GK, Gupta said, believed in his children's capability to do new things and take risks. 'Father empowered us. If I can't go to the water, how will I know how to swim?'

Father's influence

Gupta follows his father's leadership principles: Be honest with people. Be humble. Honesty is life's biggest asset. Without relationships, the business can't grow. 'Anybody who has the zeal to learn can conquer anything. The human capital is most important, not machines or stocks,' he said.

Family is important to Gupta, who learned team-building while living with three brothers in a house with a big kitchen. When not traveling, Gupta starts the morning talking business and politics with his brothers over tea. 'Without this, I can't live.'

News article source - Manila Times