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IT can empower managers: Sunil Lalbhai

Sneha Jha | July 16, 2014
Sunil Lalbhai, CMD, Atul, and his team are endeavoring to uphold the tradition of conducting business with a "vision beyond self". Lalbhai was named one of the top 100 CEOs of India by BT-PWC India in 2014 and was felicitated by SBI for his entrepreneurship in 2014.

Sunil Lalbhai, CMD, Atul, and his team are endeavoring to uphold the tradition of conducting business with a "vision beyond self". Lalbhai was named one of the top 100 CEOs of India by BT-PWC India in 2014 and was felicitated by SBI for his entrepreneurship in 2014.

CIO: Could you give us an idea of the scale of Atul's operations?

Sunil Siddharth Lalbhai: Atul (incorporated on September 15, 1947 as The Atul Products) was founded by my legendary grandfather, Kasturbhai Lalbhai, immediately after independence to create wealth in rural India, generate employment on a large-scale and make the country self-sufficient in its requirement of chemicals.

One of his close confidants, Balwantrai Mazumdar, an economist educated in the UK, and my father, Siddharth Kasturbhai, a chemical engineer educated in the USA, shifted to what was then a completely barren 1,200 acres of land and developed the first site of Atul, which has since been transformed into one of the largest and, more importantly, the greenest chemical complexes of its kind in the world.

Though Atul started with the manufacture and marketing of a few dyestuffs (in a way a backward integration of the seven textile mills established by my grandfather), the company now manufactures about 900 products and about 450 formulations falling broadly into two segments: Life science chemicals; and performance and other chemicals and serves about 5,000 customers belonging to diverse industries such as aerospace, agriculture, automobile, composites, construction, defence, electrical and electronics, flavor and fragrance, glass, home care, paint and coatings, personal care, pharmaceutical, textiles, and tyres around the world.

Atul has established subsidiary companies in Brazil, China, the UK and the USA to better serve its customers. It has formed Atul Bioscience to grow APIs and their intermediates; Atul Rajasthan Date Palms, a 74-26 joint venture between Atul and the Government of Rajasthan; has set up, for the first time in India, the largest facility in the world to produce tissue culture raised date palms with the objective of transforming the ecology and economy of arid regions; Atul acquired DPD Ltd, one of the oldest facilities to produce tissue culture raised palms in the UK which markets its plants in different parts of the world. Atul and Rudolf GmbH have formed a 50-50 joint venture, Rudolf Atul Chemicals, to manufacture and market textile chemicals in India.

In 2013-14, Atul achieved (standalone) sales of about Rs 2,300 crore and profit before tax of Rs 297 crore. I may add that there are immense possibilities to grow and contribute meaningfully to the society.

CIO: What's the best advice you've received from your grandfather?

Sunil Lalbhai: My legendary grandfather did not give advice to anyone unless asked. He led an exemplary life which by itself was a message to the many who knew him. Integrity, discipline, excellence, larger purpose and simplicity were the hallmarks of his industrious life. These qualities made his life worthy of emulation, and without speaking about them, he was able to leave an indelible impression on all of us in the family and numerous others.

 

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