Vijay Singh: Supporting the World’s Best Steel Plants with Diversified Experience

Business Leaders

Business Leaders

ISPAT Group is one of the leading corporate houses in India & overseas with diversified experience in Metals and Mining. It has substantial experience in building steel plants from green field under difficult situations and making them one of the best in the world. The ISPAT group is engaged in manufacturing of flat steel products, Ferro Chrome and has chrome mine with the reserve of over 100 million tons. 


A Growth Oriented Leader 

Vijay Singh is the Country Head and Director of ISPAT group at its Beijing, China office. Vijay has 30 years of experience in Metal & Mining. He is with Chemical Engineering background Post-Graduated from the University of Salford, UK in Global Management. Vijay has created a self-generating, organized grid of systems for effective execution and monitoring of strategic projects, supply chain and marketing for all ISPAT group companies. 


Global Business Expertise 

In its earlier journey during 1990-1994, ISPAT had introduced and launched pre-painted steel coils as new product segment in India. Vijay had a great experience during his interaction with OEM including white good manufacturers for complete structural reformation. It was not an easy task to convince the higher management team of OEM to shut down their paint shop and use its pre-painted steel sheet /coil. Traditionally, OEM used their own pre-treatment and paint shop. Their investment in ISPAT’s product was a massive decision for operation and maintenance of paint shop including all paint color inventory and pollution under control as per the local government regulations.
After launching its pre-painted steel coils, the company approached all leading white good manufactures at that time including Whirlpool, BPL, Videocon, and Electrolux to convince them to start using pre-painted steel coils by closing their paint shop. Vijay started meeting with the higher management team of OEMs and presented various advantages of using pre-painted steel regarding both cost and ease of operations. To prove the quality and functionality of its product, he provided free sample coils to them such that they could use it in their roll forming machine and press shop to check and compare with post painted components. During their initial trial in their roll forming and press shop unit, the company faced some issues related to scratches, dents, and cracking of metal because of the condition of tools used by them, as they were not sophisticated for use of a finish product. The company accordingly modified its product such that it was tailor-made for each OEM plant to meet and match their requirement of operations. For this, ISPAT planned to produce the coils with the right selection of chemistry of hot rolled coils, different hardness levels, and annealing cycle during production at galvanizing stage, and carefully selected different paints and pre-treatment process.  
After successful trials at different OEMs, ISPAT finally convinced them to shut down their own paint shop by using old conventional process and start using its pre-painted coils which all agreed and implemented in a phase-wise manner. Later, the company started supplying almost all colors and metallic finish for both washing machine and refrigerators instead of only white color used in the old conventional post paint plant. During this change process, all OEMs acknowledged cost benefit of using pre-painted coils and closed their paint shop and eliminated pollution, fire hazard, and reducing their inventory and work force with Just in Time concept for producing white goods based on the demand of their dealers located at various states in India.

In the year 2002, ISPAT opened its China office. At that point its business scope was limited to supply chain and sales of flat steel product in China and nearby north Asian countries. Now, its scope has been widened in all dimensions which includes mining design and EPC contracts. This was achieved through careful consideration and selection of manufacturers, customers, and EPC contractors with a rigorous audit and plant visit to ensure the quality and services were excellent. It was extremely important to check the credibility and the business plans of the Chinese companies for next 5 – 10 years in order to ensure product services and quality in all business segments were reliable. Filtering the best companies through plant visits, regular auditing, vendor rating among other rigorous tasks was a big task for Vijay as Chinese companies were not committed for long-term associations during 2002 – 2005. Currently, it has a reliable list of companies that has a core understanding of business within all of its business segments, that are ready for work on a long-term cooperation for emergency demands/requirements with the JIT concept. ISPAT has now developed them as its process partners and is able to manage all of its work and coordination with them through a single window channel. 


Facing Challenges with Vigour 

In early years when the company started its office in China with a few customers, its experienced withdrawal of contracts due to market fluctuations. However, slowly, it has gained new customers who had a great reputation and it thoroughly enjoys working with them till todayVijay feels there is a lot of competition in China as there is a plethora of manufacturers, thus it is vital to be selective and have guidelines about who one wants to work with. 


Contributing to Industry Excellence 

ISPAT has a special grade of chrome ore mine and product that was not available in China. Once introduced, this led to a spike in the Chinese demand for chrome ore. This demand prompted the company to start exporting chrome ore into the Chinese market and signing long-term agreements with large steel companies. Through various discussions with Chinese companies, ISPAT found that there is a lot of scope to work together in harmony. One of its units in India in Chrome business segment, Balasore Alloys Ltd,  is consistently getting export awards every year, such as the Special Trophy for Excellence in Exports of MEIS Items 2016-17 in Large category by EEPC Eastern Region, Top Exporter Silver Award for the year 2017-18 in Three Star Export House (Non MSME) category by FIEO Eastern Region, and  recently it received an award by Bharat Ratna, Shri Pranab Mukherjee, Hon’ble Former President of India, in the presence of Mr. Bruce Bucknell, British Deputy High Commission Kolkata.  


Strengthening Cross Functional Management Committees 

Vijay believes as a leader, it is vital to own robustness, prioritize emotional health, have a sound growth mindset, and resilience to be able to provide excellence in business. The company alongside its people have to be treated similarly to be able to best utilize the resources and skills holistically. Leaders should have the ability to make rapid and thought-out decisions, cut through operational complexity, and reach out to growth goals. For a leader, it is very important to understand when and what if the leader or the company is not making progress in improving its short-term goals and long-term missions, then it is the leader’s responsibility to correct the business practice. And once the leader and the company improves and progresses, then that growth needs to be proved and defended. This step is vital because each employee is crafted by their own experiences and so are their attitudes, skills, and behaviour which they bring to their place of work. We should not lose the opportunity to perceive different ideologies and perspectives which have the potential of tremendous benefit once it is reflected upon. Every decision, every step that we take is the accumulation of various ideas, meetings, inspirations. Thus, it is imperative we reflect on our practices and experiences, he asserts 

Taking the current COVID-19 pandemic into consideration, strengthening the cross functional management committees followed by customer relation management (CRM) are the biggest tools every leader and company needs to follow. This further supports the company’s employees’ performance enhancement as clarity is provided and is linked with the top most business goals and its measurement system.  


Meeting the Future Demands 

Vijay is of the view that there is big potential for growth as we have an underground chrome reserve to meet current and future demands as well as for growth. It is time to expand all business activities for improving mining operation and productivity by mobilizing all resources and facilities. 

The company must align its strategy, operating model, and culture because organizations with distinctive culture are more prone to having a strong growth potential relative to their industry average. The future business trend should focus on how value can be created for its customers and at what capability should ISPAT deliver that value. Furthermore, it should be deliberated on how its products and services fit the proposed value and the product capabilities that is advertised to the customers. 


Advice for Seamless Future Practice 

Seamless integration of all business processes for greater efficiency is essential for future practice, alongside the implementation of SAP and cloud-based CRM module will certainly help growth, advises Vijay. This, however, does not prevent cybercrime. With that in mind, more organizations create and appoint Chief Security Officer and CCO who would be responsible for ensuring that an organization is cyber-ready, would bear the responsibility for preventing breaches, take the lead if a breach does occur, and provide a robust connection between the board and the rest of the company.  

It is essential that action should be reviewed and implemented in those industries which are prone to cybercrimes and cyber-attacks, i.e. healthcare, research and development, defence, banking, retailers, etc. But also, other industries need to do their research and investigate the probability of such attacks. Vijay concludes, “It is important we uphold and value the trust of our customers and our employees.”