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Ashwin Dani: Painting a legacy in innovation and leadership

Ashwin Dani
Ashwin Dani

Summary

Ashwin Dani pioneered the idea of computerized colour matching in India

NEW DELHI : Ashwin Dani, a prominent figure in the storeyed legacy of Asian Paints, which was founded by his father, has passed away at the age of 81 after a short illness. He served as a non-executive director of the firm.

Dani played a pivotal role in developing India’s paints industry, capitalizing on increasing demand from the country’s emerging middle class.

Asian Paints was co-founded by Suryakant Dani in 1942 in partnership with Champaklal Choksey and Chimanlal Choksi and Arvind Vakil.

Dani, a practitioner of Iyengar Yoga, embarked on his professional journey in 1967 as a development chemist with industrial coatings firm Inmont Corp. (formerly BASF). In 1968, Dani joined Asian Paints as a senior executive, subsequently rising to the position of vice chairman, and then managing director between 1998 and 2009. Post-2009, he continued to contribute as a non-executive director and vice chairman of the board of the company. From 2018 to 2021, he was both the chairman of the board as well as the company.

During his tenure at Asian Paints, Dani initiated international joint ventures, diversification, and a strategic push into rural markets.He also held independent directorships on the boards of several leading listed companies.

According to the 2022 Forbes listing of India's 100 richest, Dani's net worth was estimated at 67,841.77 crore, making him the 20th richest Indian.

In FY23, Asian Paints reported revenues of 29,953 crore with a net profit of 4,100.2 crore, making it the largest paints company in India.

Dani pioneered the idea of computerized colour matching in the Indian industry, which is now widely used across industries, including paints, plastics, printing ink and textiles. Asian Paints was the first paint company in India, and Asia, to implement this concept in 1975. Dani was also instrumental in shifting the packaging of water-thinnable paints for decorative purposes from metal to plastic containers.

In 1997, Dani led the setting up of the 50:50 joint venture with PPG Industries Inc., US, for industrial coatings. He was the founder director on the board of the joint venture, PPG Asian Paints Pvt. Ltd. He was also the founder-promoter of Loctite India Pvt. Ltd (now Henkel Adhesive Technologies India).

“I have been with the paint industry for almost 55 years. I eat paints, I drink paints, I dream paints. Ever since I graduated from UDCT in paint technology, I devoted my whole life to paints," Dani said in an interview with CNBC TV18 in May. Commenting on increasing competition in the paints industry he said paints was always a competitive sector. “When we became leader in 1968, the remaining 5-6 paint firms were of foreign origin—British paint companies mostly. We have seen competitive businesses still we kept marching with innovation in technology and business processes," he added.

Business interests aside, he was a follower and practitioner of Iyengar Yoga, which he embraced after an episode of slip disc led him to discover yoga in 1980. "Right away, I got 75% relief and never saw a physiotherapist again. I began to practice three-four asanas daily and began to reap the benefits," Dani said in a 2007 interview with Mint.

“Ashwin bhai" as he was fondly referred to had the knack for surprising senior figures in the company inquiring about the cost of resin, a crucial raw material in paint production. Dani had an intimate understanding of resin pricing and would engage employees with questions, aiming to provide valuable cost context.

Dani was a disciple of B.K.S. Iyengar for several years. In 1998, Dani and his wife set up the Iyengar Yoga Centre on the first floor of their residence, Home Villa.

Dani was also associated with various government and trade associations throughout his professional career. He was part of President's Advisory Council of The University of Akron, Akron, Ohio, USA; the Central Board of Trustees-Employees Provident Fund of the government of India; vice president of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry; Board of governors of the U.D.C.T. (currently Institute of Chemical Technology) Alumni Association; and Board of Management of the Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai.

Dani had a BSc (Hons) from the Institute of Science, University of Bombay, as well as a BSc (Tech) (pigments, paints and varnishes) from U.D.C.T, University of Bombay. He pursued a Master’s in Polymer Science from The University of Akron and a diploma in colour science from Ren Rensellaer Polytechnic, Troy, New York.

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