Electrochem, Inc.: Energy for a Clean Planet

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Radha Jalan took over management of ElectroChem, a struggling company that researched and developed fuel cell technology, after the sudden death of her husband Vinod Jalan in 1992. She did so because she was intrigued by the possibility of participating in the early stages of a growth industry, and she looked forward to the intellectual stimulation and challenge. The biggest challenge she faced early on was funding, mostly because the company was not profitable and the government grants that had been keeping it afloat were quickly coming to an end.

When looking at ElectroChem from a SWOT analysis perspective we would like to start when Jalan was first faced with the decision to sell the business or continue as its president. There were many aspects of the company that Jalan was not familiar with, she was inexperienced in the technical side of the business and was unaware of company’s financial condition. However, having been raised in the Marwari community in India that believes in order to be a success a person must be practical, good in business and thrifty gave Jalan a strong desire to be successful in business as her father was.

When analyzing Jalans decision we wanted to weigh out the internal strengths and weaknesses of the company and then compare them to the external opportunities and threats to the company. When considering strengths the most obvious one is that ElectroChem was in a revolutionary industry developing new energy through fuel cells, and while not profitable they remained a major competitor in the market. Another one of the obvious strengths would be the forecasted increased demand for fuel cells, meaning continued government interest and a steady flow of grants for fuel cell research and development.

The fact that many of the research companies in the fuel cell industry relied on government grants was an obvious weakness. Having to remain on the cutting edge of research in order to obtain government grants, means that a company...
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