Sanjay Choudhary: Every crisis presents an opportunity
A high-performance protective coating offered by Berger Paints, Protecton has been a forerunner in the industrial business line even during the COVID lockdown period. Continuous interaction with stakeholders such as architects, contractors and dealers has played a key role in keeping the business active and connected with customers. An alumnus of IIT, Kharagpur with an M Tech (Polymer Technology), Sanjay Choudhary, Business Head - Protecton, Berger Paints, was previously a certified Coating Inspector- Level-2 (CIP 17311) from NACE USA. In this interview, he explains how the team applied the 4Cs – collaboration , communication, cocreation and commitment – to incorporate innovative measures to drive growth after the pandemic. Give us a brief overview of Berger Paints India and your expertise as business head. Berger Paints is the second largest decorative paints company in India. It is the top 14th paints and coatings company in the world; the seventh largest paint company globally in terms of market cap; and the fourth largest company in Asia. In the Protecton segment, we are number one. High-performance protective coatings come under the flagship division of Protecton. Berger is one of the distinct leaders in protective coatings in India and has a product line to handle the most aggressive industrial conditions. As business head, my responsibility is to lead this division in its pan India operations and lend my expertise to the overseas establishment of our group companies in Russia and Bangladesh. The most important contribution since taking this role has been the expansion of our product basket to cater to newer segments like pipeline coating, passive fireproofing, can coatings, antifouling paints and marine coatings, which have gained much deserved acceptance and penetration. Our mission is to catapult growth and conquer challenges. Every crisis presents an opportunity. While COVID-19 was far more pervasive than any other crisis experienced in our lifetime, it has prompted companies and organisations world over to focus on the fundamentals of their business and do what they must to survive and thrive. As world ecomonies move from the ‘respond’ to ‘recover’ phase, businesses have entered a new period of innovation and improvement in productivity, performance and resilience, which will enable them to thrive in the ‘Next Normal’. At Berger, we understood the need to convert challenges into opportunities. We realised the need to evolve core products and service offerings as we redesign our business models and adapt internal and external processes to provide customers with sustainable solutions and build enduring values for our stakeholders. How do you tackle the most challenging aspects of your role? As the business head of the division, it is a fundamental responsibility to demonstrate both topline and bottomline growth. Proof is the outstanding contribution in this segment, far surpassing market averages. We command a distinct leader advantage and are the most preferred brand in high-performance protective coatings. The challenging aspect is to keep growing despite the steep price increases seen in the past 18 months in raw materials with starving supplies. Our commitments were met owing to the efficient planning of supply-chain systems. Production was increased to keep pace with the unprecedented sales growth. New products were launched with certifications from international bodies that augmented the expansion of the new business segments. The sales figures of the current quarter have averaged Rs 85 crore per month, with a growth of 30-40 per cent from the previous year while maintaining a CAGR of over 17 per cent during the pandemic period. Please share your expertise in the paint industry and how you are driving growth. This business has been brought to the limelight not just by marketing strategies but my sound technological acumen. I am an R&D man who further went through business development and sales management experience over the years. With a specialisation in supply chain management, I could guide all spheres of activity, right from decisions pertaining to timely material sourcing and sharing an R&D vision in developing innovative products to marketing new products. A major input that spearheaded the success of this division was the careful insight that led the business development team to draw coating recommendations and guide specifications for consultants in projects and maintenance. What are some milestones in your professional journey? And what is your guiding leadership philosophy? There have been many milestones in this tenure as business head. To name a few, the expansion of the product portfolio with pipeline coatings, PFP, marine coatings and floor coatings, and select technology tie-ups making unique products in line with international product trends. Many new innovative products were launched under the Make in India initiative. We offered some of our prestigious clients a supportive hand in coating project management –beneficiaries include the Railways, oil and gas installers, refineries, chemical and pharma units and landmark infrastructure projects – making us a company who can walk the talk when putting performance standards into practice. As a leader in this segment, we have the responsibility to lead the industry with quality products, assured timely supply, supportive after-sales technical service and offer newer cost-effective technologies with better performing products offering longer durability. With efficient forward planning, we can tide over the steep raw material price increases with tolerable price revisions and stabilising prices for critical project jobs, thereby making realistic propositions to all stakeholders to jointly handle this crisis. How do you keep yourself abreast of the latest developments and technology? We are always a part of conferences and industry meets within the coating circle as well as leading industry-oriented roundtable meets. We innovate and place ourselves as a solution provider having closely associated with technology houses and the research fraternity and can bridge the gap between the user and the innovator and make ourselves a supportive technologist who converts scientific developments into well-adapted coating formulations. These coatings are tested under aggressive service conditions in the lab and field – the synergistic effort of our R&D, technology development and coating service teams – which reinforces our business development wing to offer viable solutions to consultants and users. What would you tell young aspirants who aspire to become business leaders and entrepreneurs in the future? This field is strongly guided by the scientific research community. One has to be sound in chemistry and coating formulations with sufficient clarity on industry engineering, environment challenges and process dynamics that fuel corrosion. The clarity of business conversion and demand forecasting needs to be learnt with a customer-centric approach. This industry is unique and has professionals with unique subject matter expertise who innovate newer techniques of business management despite the ever-changing market dynamics. This industry will always keep growing due to its varied demands and challenges, which will fuel the ever-enthusiatic professional, be it an employee or an entrepreneur, to a life of career fulfillment.