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Interview

with Sminu Jindal , Managing Director, Jindal SAW

17.12.2010 / Energyboardroom

Jindal SAW has some impressive features to present. It is the largest SAW producer of India, being a core member of India’s 4th biggest industrial group, with revenues of around $1.5 billion in 2010. With many achievements and an impressive record, is there one success in particular that makes you the most proud of?

One of the many challenging jobs that Jindal SAW has undertaken is successfully supplying insulated pipelines to Cairn Energy.

By undertaking this challenge and successfully completing the task Jindal SAW Ltd. proved its technical competence and execution capabilities to take on technologically challenging projects and accomplish their execution to meet the Project requirement. We were running on full capacity and to fulfill the requirement we had to set up new Thermal Insulation Coating Facility, new Liquid Epoxy Coating Facility, new Hydrotesting Facility for Seamless tubes and Sect Tube Welding Facility involving complicated welding process – all from scratch. We did this and we also manufactured and supplied 590 Kms. of Thermal Insulated Coated Pipes all within 11 months – a record nowhere in the world accomplished before.

I am proud of my team for being able to pull off a project of this magnitude. We beat the deadline by a few weeks to spare. Meticulous management and running of this project ensured profitability of this venture.

Why did you decide to be part of this project even when you were sure the profit margin was low?

Jindal SAW Ltd’s DNA is such that the company does not shy away from charting unchartered territories. In fact when the whole country depended on imported pipelines Jindal SAW Ltd. was the first one to set up a submerged arc welded pipes facility in India thereby reducing dependence on imports and become self-reliant. The products that we started manufacturing in our own country were being imported by the government at three times the price-level and sometimes even six times or more.

Obviously competition does come in with time and one does not remain a monopoly for very long, which we believe is healthy for one’s growth.

This strategy requires very bold investment decisions. For instance, in 2006 you divested from non-core American businesses to invest more aggressively in India. How would you define your geographic growth strategy?

Even though there are more opportunities in developing nations as compared to developed nations, I wouldn’t write them off completely since there is a constant market in developed nations which cannot be ignored. Pipes need to be replaced ever 25-30 years not only due to wear and tear but because environmental norms are updated every few years. Therefore, developed markets still represent a good opportunity for Jindal SAW.

I feel we need to concentrate in India and the Middle East since there is a high demand in the Middle East. Our international markets already represent around 50% of Jindal SAW’s revenues and we intend to continue expanding in fast growing markets, especially through greenfield investments and of course if any good acquisition opportunity comes along anywhere else we will take advantage of it.

How financially beneficial has it been to Jindal SAW to be listed in Bombay Stock Exchange and in New York Stock Exchange (NYSE)?

If one’s credentials are like ours then funding is never really a problem because otherwise no amount of listings on any stock exchange can bring funds for one.

Indian products still suffer from a perception of low-price/low quality in international markets. How did Jindal Saw manage to overcome this?

This is a perception that we had to fight initially but eventually our products spoke for themselves. Our experience in USA speaks volumes of how we managed to gain the confidence of our international customers. Jindal SAW products faired exceptionally well and were in fact much above their prequalification criteria after which we didn’t have to fight for recognition. We were perceived for what we are – leaders in both quality and efficiency.

It’s important to highlight that Jindal SAW was the first of its kind to go not only for ISO 9000, but also 18000 and 14000. Jindal SAW has always been very conscious of the safety of the environment and its employees

In such a fast changing industry where R&D and innovation are paramount, how does Jindal Saw manage to stay always in the technological forefront?

We try and remain in touch with the latest technology and processes in the industry and constantly try and adopt them so as to modernize our operations and thereby the ultimate output.

Our people too are constantly innovating and improving by way of operating the latest machinery and by being abreast of the latest technical know-how. We invest enough time and resources in training our employees so that they are up-to-date with the latest in the industry.

We have started programs where, for instance, the plant operators are also doing a PHD in their areas of expertise. We give opportunities to our employees to present scientific papers not only nationally but internationally. Jindal SAW conducts various seminars inside the company to disseminate information and is constantly endeavouring to familiarize its employees with the global picture of the products they are producing so that they understand the products and their use better.

Everything has to be system-oriented. People don’t have to reinvent the wheel if they go through well thought procedures. Jindal SAW nurtures its people to be innovative, add to the knowledge base of the organization and thereby become mentors of the company’s success.

As a final message, what would you highlight as your main ambitions and expectations for Jindal SAW in the coming years?

In an age when an obsession to outgrow others is paramount, Jindal SAW wants to focus on being the best. We want to be perceived as both an environment and people friendly company.

This is the reason why Jindal SAW has diversified into areas that have given us an entire spectrum of environmental-friendly solutions. We are committed to reducing the carbon footprints and have decided to use recycled water in our facilities as well as to build our own power-plants that use flu gases from our gas furnaces to generate electricity at subsidized rates. We are also looking at harnessing windmill energy to generate electricity.

As a company, we believe that we should have a good education system to provide fair and wide opportunities to children, especially in such a socially challenging country like ours.

Since I am on a wheelchair I am aware of the challenges faced by the disabled and I am committed to provide wings to people with reduced mobility by making all public infrastructure accessible to all.

Jindal SAW is a very open-minded organization and this is evident since it has women like me working in a male-dominated industry. But when I’m asked about how I gain the respect from my colleagues and clients, I say I just use my brain and my heart. If both of them are in the right place, you can achieve almost anything you want.

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