When Anjani Prasad raises the topic of innovation in the chemical sector, it inevitably dovetails with sustainability. Both are top priorities for Swiss color and chemicals leader Archroma, where Prasad recently assumed the position of Vice President South Asia Textile Effect.
“All the innovations are toward sustainability, so our offerings are going in that direction. Our teams are constantly working on offering solutions that are more sustainable to our customers,” Prasad tells The CEO Magazine.
“You need to be more innovative in your thinking and be looking for new ways to execute it once you have a plan. Sometimes, the standard ways don’t work.”
Sustainability underpins Archroma’s vision and business practices, including its production of dyes and specialty chemicals, paper products, adhesives and sealants.
“We touch and color people’s lives every day,” according to the company, whose chemicals are incorporated into everything from vivid paints and fine fashions to consumer packaging.
Achieving sustainability means innovating to find more ecologically friendly methods of producing dyes – such as its EarthColors lines, which use leaves, nutshells and non-edible agricultural byproducts. It also means using less water, thinking of the entire life cycle of products and developing “greener chemistries.”
The company’s commitment to sustainability goes beyond chemistry, however. Archroma works closely with its suppliers on sustainability to ensure quality inputs, reliable supply chains and ethical practices.
“We believe it is important to have a win-win partnership with suppliers. Together we can build more of an understanding about the customers and their needs,” Prasad says.
Sustainability with suppliers involves audits of ethical behavior, ecology and safety standards, along with inspections from Archroma staff.
“Operational excellence will only be possible when everyone is aligned,” he explains. “Our business is made up of one part production, one part procurement and one part sales. All three have to be working in tandem.”
Prasad has spent a decade with Archroma, serving initially as Global Head of New Business Development. Based in Mumbai, he guided the company through the COVID-19 pandemic, when raw material and freight availability and prices were going haywire.
The pandemic upended demand as people purchased household items such as linens and towels, but later bought apparel as the crisis waned – with customers wanting formal clothes that were as comfortable as the casual threads they got used to, Prasad says.
A focus on innovation and the company’s agile culture proved invaluable during this time.
“We had to be even more agile to ensure that everything was well communicated,” he explains. “We had a lot of online meetings and created detailed plans to face what was happening then, and what we predicted was to come in the near future.”
The pandemic experience also reinforced the advice Prasad shares with employees on striving for the right work-life balance.
“If you don’t have a good life outside of work, your work is also affected,” he says. “Since pressures keep mounting all the time, we need to find a good balance.”
Prasad encourages colleagues to continuously be learning, and counsels taking a collaborative approach in dealings with customers and vendors.
“Together, it is easier to face the changes happening in the market and adapt to them,” he points out.
The post-pandemic world presents new challenges. Demand is down in Europe and the Americas, while geopolitical conflict has driven up costs, especially for energy.
“That’s where the work is – finding new technologies and processes that can help to reduce our energy usage and carbon footprint,” he says.
Prasad remains steadfast on Archroma’s growth prospects over the rest of the decade, however. The company recently closed its acquisition of Huntsman Textile Effects, which he sees creating synergies for Archroma.
“This will bring in more reach and full offerings to the market. The main thing, going ahead, will be to be more effective and to really learn from each other,” he says of the combination.
It also furthers Archroma’s ultimate goal: sustainability.