It has been more than 27 years since the Founder of Agarwal Industrial Corporation (AIC) Lalit Agarwal launched the first plant in Mumbai. Through his leadership and a focus on the expansion of infrastructure in India, the company has since opened several manufacturing units and import facilities to reach its current position as the leading private-sector supplier of bitumen in India.
Vipin Agarwal joined AIC in 2006, and in 2014 became CFO. His expertise now helping to guide the company’s growth.
“Going forward, India’s focus on infrastructure is huge,” Agarwal explains to The CEO Magazine. “If the infrastructure sector grows so much, companies like us that are already helping in building the nation have a tremendous scope of growth too.”
We believe in doing the best we can for the company. The definition of success changes each year.
After establishing its first plant in Taloja-Navi, Mumbai, AIC decided to move closer to its customers by setting up a plant in Vadodara. It then moved on to Gujurat, Karnataka, Telangana, Kerala and Assam.
“In 2011, we started a unit at Karwar in Karnataka, which is the company’s first import facility where we started importing bitumen in bulk for the first time,” Agarwal explains.
The expansion continued to fan out, as well, including working with key vendors and moving the company in additional directions.
“In 2019, we started acquiring vessels as well,” he explains. “Today, we own eight vessels through our subsidiary, AICL Overseas.”
One project at a time
Agarwal is excited about India’s increased attention to infrastructure since bitumen is among the essential raw materials used in road building.
“This is the largest sector where the Indian government is focusing as of now, and this is expected to continue for 10 to 20 years,” he explains. “This means more roads, connectivity and ports. The development of more ports will help us bring in more imported bitumen as well.”
AIC deals with different grades of bitumen, two of which are specifically used in road construction in India. Other grades of bitumen are used in the ink and paint industry. In addition, there is emulsion, which is also available in different grades, cable compounds, primers and other value-added products related to bitumen.
“Today we can confidently say that, as per reports available in the public domain, we are the largest private-sector bitumen suppliers in India,” he says.
Of course, with success comes a few roadblocks on the journey.
“The biggest challenge is to supply the product required as per the Indian requirement on a continuous basis,” he says. “This is because of the increasing demand for our products in India.”
Focus on people
As a company, AIC does not measure success in absolute terms. “We believe in doing the best we can for the company. The definition of success changes each year,” Agarwal says.
What is more important is how people are treated, he believes, and that helps separate AIC from its competitors.
“The foremost difference that we have is that we value relationships. That is how we are work,” he says. “The trust we have with our clients and our customers, and the confidence they have in us in terms of supplying product, that is the biggest asset that we have.”
Infrastructure is the backbone of any economy, and as industry leaders, we are excited to see where India’s infrastructure journey takes us next.
As a straightforward product line, extensive research and development are not required at AIC. “We have set up automatic plants in our manufacturing units. For us, it is a part of R&D when you are able to get the product right from its source to the end user who builds the road in India,” he says.
According to Agarwal, there are two other aspects that have helped the company in its journey to the top: quality of material and sustainability. Without those, the company would not be experiencing anywhere near the success it has reached, he believes.
“We provide high-quality bitumen for India’s road construction and other infrastructure projects,” he says. “Infrastructure is the backbone of any economy, and as industry leaders, we are excited to see where India’s infrastructure journey takes us next.”
Any company in this sector must be sustainable, especially given the high level of competition. Agarwal is aware of the importance of shoring up markets, both in India and internationally.
“With the increasing competition, margins often tend to shrink,” Agarwal notes. “We must consider the future and all aspects that can contribute to sustainability, eventually. That is why we acquired vessels to trade overseas. We don’t have to depend on the local market all the time. We eagerly anticipate the exciting opportunities that lie ahead.”