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In 2014 when Sardar Singh Rathi joined Nalwa Steel and Power, an integrated steel plant in Raigarh, the company was operating significantly below capacity.
“I’d been with Jindal Group for more than 28 years and for 19 of those I was working under the guidance of Founding Chairman O P Jindal, whose lessons I still carry with me today. I also had the honor of working under the visionary leadership of Chairman Naveen Jindal, who instilled in me a great sense of professionalism,” he says.
“When I joined Nalwa, there were many challenges. First, we worked on the culture around safety and the environment, which needed improvement. We have turned that around and adopted the best culture for safety and the environment at par with the state as well as national norms.”
Inspired by the challenge, the industry veteran stepped into the role of Whole Time Director and Plant Head. Two years later, things had changed dramatically.
Safety was, and remains, one of the biggest challenges faced by steel producers, but Rathi says teamwork is the answer. “In terms of priorities, safety comes first,” he says. “Then the environment, and then quality because whatever we produce should be quality.”
He added, “Nalwa Steel Raigarh Plant is the first in India to carry out the more sustainable process of making quality steel using the induction route for de-phosphorisation.”
“We’re hoping to reach one million metric tons within three years.”
With a strong team and strict safety measures in place, Nalwa Steel and Power has gone eight years without an accident. “It’s all in keeping with our policy of nation first, people first,” Rathi says. “Employee satisfaction is so important to us, which is why we deliver safety first. Then if we produce a quality product in a timely fashion, our customers will be satisfied.”
Along with safety, quality and environment, Nalwa Steel and Power has made strides in energy conservation – being recognized by the National Energy Conservation Awards 2019 in the Sponge Iron Category and in 2022 in the Integrated Steel Plant Category.
Despite all odds, Nalwa Steel and Power lost none of its momentum. A firm believer in the power of teamwork, Rathi channeled his years of experience into creating a team that could run Nalwa Steel and Power to the best of its capabilities.
“We jumped from 70 percent production capacity to 100 percent,” he says. “Each of our capacities, from direct reduced iron and steel melting to the rolling mill with environmental clearance, has increased in the past three years. Last year, we achieved our highest ever production output and revenue in every department.”
The company’s buoyancy has left Rathi in the enviable position of being able to expand the company’s operations. “We’re planning an expansion at the moment,” he says. “We’re hoping to reach one million metric tons within three years.”
Nalwa Steel and Power’s progress with environmental clearance has left the door open for such an upgrade, which would see the plant producing up to one million metric tons of steel. Rathi says the project is already being finalized.
His confidence comes from knowing the expansion is just another challenge on his journey at the top of Nalwa Steel and Power.
Rathi says it’s all in service of building strong, long-term relationships with Nalwa’s stakeholders. “That means customers, vendors, the surrounding villages, the societies we make an impact on,” he explains. “We have a responsibility to deliver for them, and that’s how we measure success. It’s not about money, position or profit; people come first.”
To the Nalwa team, corporate social responsibility isn’t simply a trendy term. “It’s policy, and it has been since our inception,” he says. “We wouldn’t be what we are if not for the continuous development of the surrounding area; so roads, infrastructure, schools, medical services, a community development program.”
“Our core values all derive from the acronym ‘POSSIBLE’, which itself keeps us motivated to achieve the organizational goal.”
Heavy investment in employee wellbeing and training has left Nalwa with a highly trained and well-motivated workforce dedicated to realizing Rathi’s vision of Nalwa Steel and Power becoming a globally admired company. “We’re continuously working to improve not just our plant’s efficiency, but that of our organization as well,” he says.
“Our core values all derive from the acronym ‘POSSIBLE’ [Passion for people; Organizational growth; Sustainable development; Sense of belonging; Integrity; Better than before; Loyalty; and Extreme ownership], which itself keeps us motivated to achieve the organizational goal.”
With the next four years for Nalwa Steel and Power shaping up to be even more transformative than Rathi’s first eight, he says good things take time. “To me, winning doesn’t always mean being first. It means doing better than before. Work more, expect less and success and satisfaction will follow.”