Surfaces Reporter in Conversation with RANA PRATAP SINGH, VICE PRESIDENT – CUSTO MER TECHNICAL SERVICES, JK CEMENT

Surfaces Reporter in Conversation with RANA PRATAP SINGH, VICE PRESIDENT – CUSTO MER TECHNICAL SERVICES, JK CEMENT

JK Cement Limited is an affiliate of the industrial conglomerate JK Organisation, which was founded by the Late Lala Kamlapat Singhania, and has been in business since the early 1900s. The company is renowned for pioneering various initiatives and technological breakthroughs in the Indian Industry, and is one of the foremost participants in India's industrial growth. JK Cement is amongst India's largest cement manufacturers with a capacity of 13 million tons of grey cement, 1.2 million tons of white cement, and 1.1 million tons of white putty.

#SURFACESREPORTER interacts with Mr Rana Pratap Singh, Vice President – Customer Technical Services, JK Cement, a person well versed with the cement & construction industry due to his three decades long experience, to explore the company’s take on current market scenario of the grey and white cement and its allied products, the qualities that sets the brand apart and its mission to deliver innovative products and solutions that meet the needs of its customers.

SR: Take us briefly through your professional journey.

I have been in the Cement & Construction Industry for 30 years. I started my career after completing my Bachelor of Engineering majoring in Civil, as a Site Engineer in a major construction company for 3 years. In 1993, I joined JK Cement as a Technical Executive in Customer Technical Services (CTS), a department which was in its nascent stage. Today, I head the CTS department. A 30-year long career and corresponding 30 years of development of the industry, much of my career has mirrored the growth of this industry. Throughout this period, I had to adopt various strategies with the ever-changing demand of the market.

Being a dedicated employee of the company, I have always considered my role and responsibility much more than what is delegated upon me. I have been involved with Product Development Processes for our new ‘Specialized Building Products’, Research and Development department and Market acquisition in other countries. Staying with JK Cement for most part of my career has made me emotionally invested in the company and identifying with its achievements makes me feel proud. For cement products, Customer Technical Service department is considered extremely crucial.

SR: How does JK Cement handle the services?

The inception of The Customer Technical Services Department (CTS) in JK Cement was undertaken under the vision of our MD, Shri Yadupati Singhania ji in the early 1980s. The Customer Technical Services forms an indispensable part of the Sales Department and plays a significant role for the product to reach readily to the common masses. For any business, the relationship between the seller and customer is imperative, and the particular liaison with the customers is being headed by me. I would say, customers can be tough at times, but so should they be, if a company has to improve and provide the best to their customers. Almost all of the products have to pass through the technology funnel, which is a yardstick Customer Technical Service also uses to get to the need of the customer.

At JK Cement, we strive to bring the product, which is reliable and durable, bringing the satisfaction that customer needs from our product. My department has a crucial role to play with after sales services, but we also help during and before selling the product. CTS department assists in judging the need and later the prospective of a new product that JK wants to introduce in the market.

The complaints and suggestions help us to reach to our Research and Development department and advise them with the need of the market, so that changes can be made in the early stage of product development, hence saving costs downstream.

The faults at the product end have become rare due to the availability of the state-of-the-art technology available in our plants as well as we strictly maintain the quality standards. It has been observed that the major problems of construction activity is to locate right kind of agencies and skilled working hands who can convert the concepts and ideas into reality. To bridge this gap, we undertake numerous training sessions, workshops and demonstration of application of our products for different segments of customers such as masons, painters, contractors, builders, engineers, architects and so on.

SR: What is your secret to resolving complaints most effectively, leading to happy customers?

Customer Service requires a great deal of resilience and patience. A complaint is a complaint, however big or small. We, at CTS Department, respect our customers and their complaints are sought to be resolved with passion. Interestingly, if you consider cement as a product, the consumers (property owners) do not interact with the product directly. It’s the masons, painters, applicators, engineers who closely interact with the product and bring the idea of the structure alive. Thus, a skilled workman is crucial in the procedure. More often than not, the cost involved in the building process can become worrisome for the customer due to the complaints and grievances arising from bad application. It is uncommon to
find grating clients, but every once in a while, we do have cases where the client may react indifferently. I have had my share of those indifferent reactions and difficult situations, but it was dealt pragmatically, something that describes the nature of my job.

SR: Which new products have you been instrumental in developing?

It’s not usual to witness so much innovation with cement, but according to me cement can be a very versatile product due to its properties. As the market diversifies, as well as the
customers’requirements we have come up with great value-added products.The idea is to create innovative and futuristic products that caters to customer’s everyday requirements in the construction industry. Just as much as dedicated I have been in developing new products, I would say, a strong leadership, such as that of our Special Executive, Sri Raghavpat Ji Singhania has encouraged me and the team at large to look into innovative ideas for developing new products.

The changing construction industry and his understanding of these trends has helped us tremendously in fathoming the absence of potential in the market. All these years in this organisation, my contribution has been in
the research, product development and launch of OPC, PPC, PSE, Wall Putty (WallMaxx), White Cement based primer (PrimaxX), White cement based polymer modified mortar (LevelMaxX), Universal Waterproofing Putty (ShieldMaxX), Tile Adhesive and grouts (TileMaxX), Gypsum Plaster (GypsoMaxX- PlastoMaxX) and Bonding Agent (BondMaxX).

SR: What makes JK Cement's products superior?

Generally, there has been an age-old practice to make any cement-based product at site, be it plaster mortar, repair mortar or adhesives for fixing tiles. These site-made products lack in quality because these are not designed for specific applications but are derived from available cement on the location. The recently available value-added products in the market are far superior in quality and durability, due to addition of construction chemicals. The Indian construction chemicals market has shown a strong growth rate recently due to the infrastructure boom in India and growing awareness in the industry for time and cost-effective construction. Increase in urbanisation has further boosted the growth of construction chemicals industry and its market has a huge growth potential due to the expected growth in construction and manufacturing sector in India.

JK Cement remains one of the pioneers in this field. We use proper and good quality polymers, additives, correctly graded sand and mixing techniques that make our value-added products superior. We have created several products such as wall putty, tile adhesives and grouts, white cement-based primer and they are at par with the quality standards. However, the success of these products depends on education of the end user, the product price and the versatility.

SR: Currently, what is the major challenge that you are facing? How do you intend to overcome it?

The Indian market is innately harsh, and presently the construction industry is also glowing with same regards. Real estate is growing at a slow pace, and hence the challenge, for now, is with the market and the times that we are living in. However, the market is expected to revive soon, and so would the solution. Since, these industries are expected to witness a faster growth rate in the coming years, we are hopeful that the cement and allied products will not receive lukewarm reception at the customer end. We also intend to cater the GCC and African Markets, so, JK Cement has set up a green field dual process white cement-cum-grey cement plant in the Free Trade Zone at Fujairah, UAE. Setting up the plant in UAE gives us a strong competitive advantage by opening up new and attractive markets internationally and putting us in a global leadership position. We have implemented some of the most sophisticated technologies and control systems to ensure our cement is of the highest standards.

SR: With more than a century of successful presence, what are the primary differentiating factors of JK Cement?

JK Cement has partnered the country’s multi sectoral infrastructure needs for over four decades now. Our first grey cement plant was established in 1974 and our flagship white cement plant was set up in 1984. JK Cement Ltd has become the second largest white cement producer in India and the third largest in the world. With an annual capacity of 600,000 ton in India, we are also the second largest producer of wall putty in the country with an annual installed capacity of 1.1 million ton. Backed by state-of-the-art technology, access to the best quality raw materials and highly skilled manpower against the backdrop of India's infrastructural growth in an overdrive, we are upbeat about the future. Superior products and a strong brand name, an extensive marketing and distribution network and the technical know-how represent the company's abiding strengths.

SR: What are your key success mantras? What are the principles you will never want to deviate from?

One should be consistent as well as persistent about one’s goals. For me it is ‘Hard work supplemented with Smart Work’. I believe knowing when to put hard work assists in long run. And as long as one can keep the hard work on track, I have a firm belief, things just fall into places. One should always be ethically and morally bounded, and this should guide a human being with their endeavours. At JK Cement, we believe in Integrity, Quality, Trust, Care and People. We are committed to being honest and ethical in all interactions, we are passionate about creating a culture of perfection that encourages and promotes excellence in products and services through innovation and continuous improvement. We genuinely care about our relationships with our customers and stakeholders. I think these core values have guided us so far and will continue to do so. 

SR: How conscious is JK Cement towards the environment and sustainable business?

The start of the debate for sustainable development started in the second half of the last century, environmental degradation is an alarming problem not of today, but for last 40 years. JK Cement has been the forerunner and the torch bearer in taking care of the environmental issues due to industrialisation in India. As a cement industry company, we lay great emphasis on sustainable technology and green energy. Our business is constantly guided by responsible growth which means creating a safe and sustainable foundation for a better tomorrow.

We have relentlessly enhanced the use of alternate fuels in our manufacturing process. Being a part of an industry that consumes large quantities of water and energy, we have taken several measures towards water recirculation increasing water efficiency and rainwater harvesting. We are amongst the first companies in India to have captive power generation facilities running on both thermal and waste heat recovery technology. We are consistently investing in capacities and higher efficiencies to become a major contributor to the ‘Make in India’ campaign. The vision and mission of our company are well reflected in our CSR activities which includes environmental and sustainable business.

SR: How do you foresee the growth of the cement industry?

India is a developing country; infrastructure development is a part of it. Infrastructure growth has direct proportionality with the growth of the cement industry.

The cement industry demand is expected to grow at 7% for fiscal 2019-20. As per CRISIL, cement demand is going to witness a steady growth rate. The housing sector is still a main demand driver accounting for 60-65% of total consumption.

Other demand drivers are Infrastructure and Commercial & Industrial with 15-20% share each. This growth is mainly driven by the untapped potential of the market and steady growth in the construction industry over the next 5 to 7 years. Government Initiatives like Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana and so on are definitely giving a fillip to the industry.

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