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Prakash Raman joined Silox India as parent company Silox Belgium took the controlling stake in its joint venture partnership with Transpek India. The company was looking for a CEO to reinvigorate its innovation pipeline and to define its next growth engine.
He says he saw a chemical company with a market-leading product line and a strong methodology. “That triggered my interest,” he tells The CEO Magazine, adding that the opportunities he saw in prospects such as electric vehicles (EV) were another spark.
Silox deals in inorganic chemicals and is a major supplier of sodium hydrosulfite in India as well as the largest manufacturer of sodium formaldehyde sulphoxylate (safolite) and zinc formaldehyde sulphoxylate (safolin) in the world. It also offers other chemicals that are used in the manufacture of textiles, paints, pharmaceutical and paper, to name a few.
“This market continues to grow. Especially in India, we are in a market-leading position. To make sure we maintain this position, we need to enhance our capacity to meet market requirements. So, our focus is going to be on operational excellence,” Prakash explains.
Silox also exports its products to more than 65 countries with exports accounting for around a third of its annual revenue.
Prakash says while enhancing Silox’s capacity is the need of the hour, the process has challenges that are unique to the chemical industry. As an energy intensive industry in a world that’s increasingly leaning towards sustainable practices, Silox has to keep innovating on ways to reduce water wastage and to increase productivity with less material and energy use. “Though it’s a chemical plant, we put a lot of focus on biodiversity, making sure the green belt is maintained,” he says.
Managing inventory is another challenge since metals are highly volatile, according to Prakash. “I don’t have the luxury of keeping too much inventory, which means my supply chain has to be really efficient,” he says. “Whenever there’s a lag with either excess inventory of the finished product or in processing material, it can have a significant impact on the bottom line.”
Since Silox’s dependence on the supply chain is high, it’s essential to balance relationships with suppliers of raw materials on one hand and supply to customers on the other. “We depend mostly on critical raw material we buy from our suppliers. We really need to work with our supplier as a partner. It’s not only a supply contract; we also work with them on improving efficiency, and we must go beyond the regular supplier–buyer relationship,” he says.
“We really need to work with our supplier as a partner. It’s not only a supply contract; we also work with them on improving efficiency, and we must go beyond the regular supplier–buyer relationship.”
The same applies to Silox’s packaging contractor – a crucial partner because of the reactive nature of the products. “Packaging is very crucial in our business. We involve our packaging supplier right from when we develop a new product in terms of what material to use for the collection, optimising waste, shape and so on,” he explains.
Talent is another essential element in the business ecosystem, according to Prakash. “As long as you have a good team that can challenge you, the most demanding thing is to make sure they feel comfortable, and that they are being taken care of in the company,” he says.
The final but most critical element in the chain, he says, is the customer base. “As a chemical industry, we need to be more innovative and cater to the continued changing in demands and needs of the customer,” he says. “This forces us to be more innovative than ever without compromising on the fundamentals of health and safety, since we operate with raw chemicals.”
“As a chemical industry, we need to be more innovative and cater to the continued changing in demands and needs of the customer.”
Prakash believes that Silox’s ability to adapt to meet the quality requirements of customers is the brand’s biggest strength. “It requires an in-depth relationship with the customer to understand how the product we supply is being used. Whatever we do must add value to the customer,” he says.
As to the future, Prakash says Silox is working on an exciting new product in the EV mobility field. “We are working on a new product which is completely different from our existing portfolio,” he reveals. “This is presently in an advanced R&D stage, and we expect to make it commercial in the next three to four years.”