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The chemicals industry in India has been enjoying unparalleled growth for nearly a decade, comfortably outperforming every other major nation and showing no sign of slowing down.
Its output has risen most sharply since the COVID-19 pandemic, driven by technological advances and soaring capacity.
One company at the crest of the wave is Sajjan India, one of the country’s leading producers of complex chemicals for the agrochemical, specialty chemical and pharmaceutical industries.
Its 800-plus employees manufacture and supply various complex chemicals to more than 35 countries, offering a premium service across the entire lifecycle of each product. It’s a major supplier to the electrochemical and medical sectors, gaining market share in each as a cavalcade of new customers come on board.
“I wanted leaders from various industries with different cultures, experience and backgrounds who could drive the organization’s growth.”
A contract development and manufacturing organization, its revitalization has been spearheaded by CEO R Ananthanarayanan, who has a theory as to why McKinsey this year predicted India would become the next chemicals manufacturing superhub.
“Our space now involves plugging any gaps in the ‘China Plus One’ strategy, which is a very strong movement,” he says. “In fact, over the last year, there’s also a ‘Euro Plus One’ due to the disruption to gas and electricity prices.”
Both names refer to a desire among multinationals to become less reliant on one country for making and supplying products. It’s led to economic growth in many southern Asian nations.
Other contributing factors to the Indian boom include surging domestic consumption and the shift towards more sustainable chemicals and biofuels, something of a specialty in the subcontinent.
The latter was one of Ananthanarayanan’s biggest priorities when he took over nearly 18 months ago, after two years heading up pharmaceutical sciences group Strides. Sajjan is investing heavily in ‘green chemistry’ and water neutral manufacturing as part of a strong commitment to the environment.
It’s already cut its waste to landfill by 50 percent and is targeting further drastic reductions.
“My first task was to stabilize the ongoing business to ensure our customers and suppliers were looked after and that nothing was falling between the cracks,” he says. “After that, I began to build a professional management team that reflected our transition from being a promoter-driven organization to becoming more entrepreneurial.
“I wanted leaders from various industries with different cultures, experience and backgrounds who could drive the organization’s growth and oversee our increased focus on the environment, health and safety.”
But the biggest lesson he’s learned from his three decades in pharmaceutical sciences is that success doesn’t come from a single leader.
“I’ve assembled a management team full of people who’ve been stars elsewhere and are now big stars here. Taking a team of stars and creating a star team is about bringing people together for a common cause.”
His knowledge has been critical in Sajjan’s pivot towards embracing a science-based approach to minimizing hazardous waste and artificial pollutants. Ananthanarayanan has pledged to aim for carbon and water neutrality as well as eliminating the use of landfill.
“In fact, we’re just about to finish building a new R&D center in Navi, Mumbai that will help us increase our capacity and diversify further.”
“Our mission is to become a partner of choice with the most innovative and forward-looking companies in each of the sectors we operate in.”
Ananthanarayanan also values his firm’s long-standing relationships with suppliers, including Anshul Specialty Molecules, a chemical manufacturer specializing in health care, fragrances and custom synthesis. As Sajjan has upped its output, its suppliers have responded to meet the increased demand, while not compromising on quality.
“Our mission is to become a partner of choice with the most innovative companies in each of the sectors we operate in. As industry pioneers ourselves, we’re committing to research that will help us find solutions for our customers, remain competitive and meet our goals for sustainability.”
During his career, Ananthanarayanan has led a diverse range of organizations, from small startups to large corporations, and has a track record of sustained growth, innovation and high quality customer experience.
“I’ve been involved in many transformational journeys, so I’ve brought a lot of experience to the role, especially in how to handle different types of consumers in a range of geographies such as the United States, Europe and Japan,” he says.