Parth Jindal, heir to the $13-billion JSW Group, believes in his ability to create great companies, much like his father, group promoter Sajjan Jindal, did. But he wants to face consumers and build retail empires—be it in sports, cement, or now paints. He says his success, or failure, will depend on how these companies grow. Edited excerpts from an interview:
In the last year, JSW has spoken of entering the electric vehicles space (now shelved), steel furniture and now paints. Can you explain the shift to consumer-facing business from being a thorough industrials company?
At the core of JSW, we realize that steel is our main business and we focus on how to continue to remain the leading steel company in India. Over the last 20-25 years, the company has been able to stand for something, and more and more people recognize us. My personal interest is in sales and marketing, so that’s why the businesses I look after—whether it’s cement or paints or even sports—have a big consumer element to them.
What do you think will be the challenges in making this change? You’re also entering businesses that face formidable competition.
It’s very clear that my father and his core team are focused on steel, power and infrastructure, which are the bedrock of the group in the last 30 years. We’re not deviating talent from there into the other businesses. These are fresh businesses that we have started. The one dabble we did with auto has been called off and I am all for that decision to call it off because I felt it was a distraction. The onus is on me to set up my own team and management. My companies are completely separate and whether I am successful or not will depend on how these companies grow.
Here, the culture is different. An FMCG company like paints or quasi-FMCG like cement requires a different culture than a steel or power company. I’ve been trying to create this culture within the confines of the group, making sure our culture, our incentives, our policies mirror those of FMCG companies and not large B2B companies. I don’t think any industry player fazes us. If we are bringing a value proposition, then we can succeed. It doesn’t matter whether we are fighting Tata Steel or UltraTech Cement or Asian Paints. These are all great companies and we also have the right to be a great company. I’m only 28. I can take time to build these businesses.
The launch of the paints business was expected last year.
We had challenges in completing our factories. We were planning on launching last November and we have been pushed back by six months. The paint industry is highly prone to fire, so there are lots of safety regulations to conform with, lots of intricacies in putting up the plant and there are very few skilled contractors to set up paints plants and they were busy commissioning Asian Paints’ plants in Vizag and Mysore. We used that time instead to increase our network penetration.
What’s the game plan with paints?
We have two plants, at Vasind for industrials with 25,000 kilolitre (kl) per annum capacity and Vijayanagar for decorative paints with 100,000 kl but it has been built for 200,000 kl. We looked at inorganic opportunities to enter the industry but given the valuations in paint and the earnings multiple that they command, the build-versus-buy decision was very simple. Buying is extremely expensive. Once we have critical mass, if an acquisition looks attractive, then we will think of buying something. There’s ₹250 crore of equity and about ₹350 crore of debt. Axis Bank is the sole banker. The investment is for 125,000 kl capacity. We will need another investment of ₹400 crore to increase this to 225,000 kl. We have launched now in Hubli and Bengaluru and every month from now, we will launch in a southern city. This year we are targeting revenue of ₹600 crore, next year we want to double it and then reach ₹2,000 crore by FY22.