“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” If there was a single piece of advice I would have for today’s bright, young entrepreneurs in our country, it would be this.
Despite the turbulent times we are living in, and the fact that many curveballs are thrown our way, entrepreneurs in India and elsewhere who hold on to their vision and work towards it will eventually also see it realised. Gandhar stands testimony to this notion. Our story is the quintessential success story of every enterprising self-made Indian business, of sweat and sacrifice, of instinct and strategy, and humble beginnings.
For corporate India, the 1980s were a time of entrenched red tape and the detrimental ‘License Raj’ prevalent since Independence. Yet we went ahead with founding and setting up our trading business for industrial lubricants because I was fortunate at the very beginning of my career to have the experience of seeing first-hand the immense potential in the industry. The business which started as a proprietary firm, quickly added a logistics arm, initially to meet its own transportation needs, that grew as an independent business, flourishing even today.
Liberalisation in India was initiated in 1991, abolishing the Licence Raj and also incentivising foreign investment and technology advancements while scrapping government interference and supervision in the corporate sector, including public sector companies. It also gave Gandhar the much-needed impetus to leap into an exponential growth trajectory. Looking back at a journey filled as much with uncertainty as with determination, risks as with resilience, I ask myself, what are the five Mantras I would tell my younger self to follow? Without much ado, these would be it:
- Fortune favours the bold and liberalisation gave us the courage: In 1992, Gandhar purchased land in Taloja, Maharashtra for manufacturing. The move impressed and gave confidence to the Company’s customers and well-wishers alike, leading it to forge a JV with its long-time customer Apar Limited that was keen to get into the business of blending industrial oils and lubricants. The JV formed was for a refinery for distilling diesel, naphtha and LNG, thus named Gandhar Oil Refinery India Pvt Ltd., which further expanded into formulating oils and specialities. It was a leap of faith, moving us up the value chain from a trading agent to a manufacturing company, allowing us to add value not just to existing customers but add new industries to our customer portfolio.
- In matters of principle, stand like a rock: Our JV with Apar was growing steadily, but in 1995-96 it reached a crossroad. The liberalisation policy of the government for imports changed our equation with our partner overnight. Apar found it more economically viable to import the material required by them since it was cheaper. Gandhar faced this challenge of fall in demand squarely in the eye because we believed in our product, our brand, and our customers. We decided to continue in the business independently and bought over Apar’s 24% share in the business in due course.
- Build what’s in your control – Your brand: Ours is a family business and so the reputation and performance of our Company is also a reflection of our integrity and credibility. Our brand evokes in customers, trust in our products and reliability in our service. As we grew, we focused on gaining market share for Gandhar’s flagship ‘Divyol’ brand of oils, lubricants and specialities, and made considerable strides. We started a dealership from Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd. for furnace oil. We saw the opportunity to establish ourselves in ancillary products and gain a stronghold in the industry. Thereafter, import and trading in coal have also been an important part of the business, ably administered by the family. In 2001, we set up our second production facility in Silvassa. The combined production capacity of the two units today stands at 3 lakh kl/annum. With the family uniting together behind this venture, we have managed to add more steam to the Company’s momentum.
- Technology is a game-changer for everyone! Technology is an enabler in our business and a lot depends on high quality and consistent delivery of our products. Our state-of-the-art R&D Centre at our Silvassa facility is engaged in R&D activities to meet the stringent requirements of Defence supplies such as engine oils and gear oils for trucks, tanks and other equipment we offer this sector, and the Indian Railways. The Centre has been given the Certificate of Registration of Research Institution by the Department of Scientific & Industrial Research (DSIR), GoI.
- If you fail to prepare, you are preparing to fail. Ever since our inception, Gandhar has rarely looked back. If at all it has, it was only to assess its journey so far and prepare for the next big leap. And so, in 2019, we set up Texol Lubritech FZC, a JV across the Arabian Sea in Sharjah, manufacturing the same range of products as in India, for local and global markets. We have also carved a niche for ourselves in the automotive industry, specifically two-wheelers and will very soon have a separate, fully automated plant at Silvassa for lubricants and greases to meet the growing demand of the automotive market.
By sheer grit and determination, Gandhar is one of the fastest-growing and most innovative oil companies in the country today whose world-class manufacturing plants can offer an extensive product portfolio reaching customers across the world.
The author is Chairman, Gandhar Oil Refinery (India) Limited