Times may be tough for some businesses that are struggling to stay charged up but a Plano battery company that started in a garage is still generating some serious electricity.
The Raion Group, a family-owned Plano company that provides specialty batteries for devices such as wheelchairs, lawn equipment, emergency lights, and others, has “exponentially doubled” its online retail sales during the coronavirus outbreak, says CEO and founder Surya Moorthi.
“All these carriers are seeing an influx of shipments,” Moorthi says. “Our sales reps for UPS [uninterrupted power source] batteries say they’re seeing volumes higher than they see at Christmas time because everyone’s shifting to online.”
In fact, it’s a very lucrative time for the specialty battery business since more people are working from home.
“It’s been good for us because everyone’s going to need batteries,” Moorthi says. “We’re listed online in markets where previously, they weren’t common. So that’s where we got the most traction in terms of growth.”
Raion started in 2012 as one of his family’s side hustles as he entered college at Southern Methodist University. Moorthi says his father, who has a PhD in material science, worked as a battery designer for his day job and he would sometimes sell the bigger, rarer types of batteries.
Moorthi saw an opportunity to turn his dad’s business into something full time and started the company in his parents’ home garage. Today, the company’s warehouse space is getting too small for its inventory and sales requirements and he says he is very closing to making his first $1 million in revenue. He also wants to make the list of Forbes Magazine’s 30 Under 30 list of young business owners and entrepreneurs.
“When he started this side business, he was acting as a distributor,” Moorthi says. “I listed these products online because I didn’t have much to do and they started selling pretty quickly and we had a viable business option here.”
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The online side of the business has exploded because customers are more cautious about social distancing.
“People are tending to shift their buying patterns from going in person to going online,” Moorthi says. “People are more cautious in terms of contactless purchases.”
The special battery business hasn’t been smooth sailing for Raion in the last eight years. Moorthi says President Donald Trump’s 2019 trade war with China forced them to scramble to find another manufacturer to keep their stock full.
“We used to purchase solely from China,” Moorthi says. “That was kind of an eye-opening experience for us. So we had to find another contract manufacturer outside of China to avoid a 30 percent tariff. We found one in Vietnam and that’s where we’re manufacturing the majority of our batteries and we’re some logistics issues. Instead of one month, it takes three to get the order shipped out.”
The recent travel restrictions also presented some new challenges for the company.
“Typically we would go to our factory and explain to them in person how we want it packaged and manufactured,” Moorthi says. “Now with the travel restrictions put in place, we’re having to do that remotely so it takes a little longer to get the specific products we want out.”
Moorthi says it’s important for business owners to stick with their plans especially during the tough times. He promises that there’s a solution for just about any shocking situation.
“Regardless of what situation you’re in, we’ve faced a lot of adversity with tariffs and COVID but there’s always a way out,” Moorthi says. “You just need to keep pushing through. Don’t just put your hands up and say we can’t do anything more. I feel like there’s always a way out.”