Initiating with our February- March 09 issue, Paper Mart has begun a new regular section, ‘Rendezvous with a Paper Personality.’ For our first issue, we have interviewed Mr. Harsh Pati Singhania, Managing Director of JK Paper Ltd. Mr. Singhania was recently appointed President of the FICCI. As Managing Director of one of India’s foremost paper manufacturers, and scion of one of India’s biggest business houses, Paper Mart considers it propitious to provide its readers with Mr. Singhania’s thoughts, outlook and vision for the paper industry, and the arena of commerce.
Paper Mart: As the President of FICCI, what do you think the government should do to improve the national economic condition? What are your plans to improve the business conditions of industry in India?
Harsh Pati Singhania: Govt. has to ensure that additional spending announced as part of the stimulus packages is implemented quickly so that demand is generated. Banks also need to reduce their lending rates commensurate with the cuts in policy rates like REPO, CRR etc. My plan is to see how FICCI can work with the Government to bring back growth in Indian Economy and how money could be put in the hands of consumers to stimulate the market. National Security and Corporate Governance are two other important issues that FICCI would be addressing this year.
PM: Can you tell us about the major technological advancements in the Indian paper industry? Also, what further improvements do you foresee?
HPS: Indian paper industry has made good progress in installing contemporary technology. Many mills are increasing capacities and scaling up – i.e., installing much larger equipment, putting up larger pulp mills or big paper machines; this would improve quality through usage of modern technology as well as reduce cost of production. Major investments have also been made for modernizing and to reduce energy and water consumption as well as installation of environment protection systems.
PM: Do you foresee any Joint Ventures, or acquisitions in the Indian paper industry, within Indian, as well as with international players?
HPS: Joint Ventures and acquisitions can definitely help consolidation in the Indian Paper Industry. I anticipate this will happen gradually in the Indian Paper Industry. Indian paper mills already have a good customer reach and are making most of the products required by the domestic market. Foreign brands therefore have a limited value here.
PM: What kind of threat do you envisage due to falling paper prices in the international paper market? What preventive measures should be taken to protect the industry from such a predicament?
HPS: Falling paper prices in the global market has led to rise in imports especially from countries like China and Indonesia. We are in constant touch with the Government and sensitize them on the need for “safeguard” duties to be imposed on these imports so as to protect indigenous paper industry from unfair competition.
PM: JK Paper has shown tremendous technological innovations in the past, such as Surface Sized Maplitho and Branded Cut Size Paper. Have any such new products been released, or planned for unveiling in the coming times?
HPS: Exploring market opportunities and introducing new products has been a regular feature for JK Paper. Our effort has been to consistently move up the value chain. JK Paper is the only Indian Paper Company which has presence in all the major and fast growing segments i.e., Cut Size Office papers, High quality Coated Papers and Upper end Packaging Boards.
PM: BILT has recently added to its market capacity of coated paper. How will JK’s market be affected by this? What steps is JK Paper taking to maintain its status quo in the market share?
HPS: JK Paper and BILT still remain the only two Indian producers of high quality coated papers. This market is growing healthily and there is space for both the Companies to participate. Through its new machine, it is likely that BILT will focus on lower grammage products while JK Paper would be producing high GSM papers. We will continue to enhance our product offering by understanding customer needs and servicing them better.
PM: What measures is JK Paper undertaking for optimum utilization of natural resources, as well as in the development of alternative renewable resources?
HPS: Most of JK Paper’s raw material comes from renewable sources. While bamboo is a self-regenerating species, wood is largely sourced from farmers. We have a strong social/farm forestry programme wherein we provide high quality saplings to farmers for growing trees on their lands.
JK Paper has thus far covered over 65,000 Ha under this programme and it distributes between 30,000 – 35,000 million saplings to farmers every year. Most of the electricity utilized in both the mills is through co- generation of power. Recently a high pressure boiler has been installed to further optimize the resources used. We have constantly been reducing our specific energy and water usage and have consistently focused on water and energy conservation schemes including extensive recycling of water, rain water harvesting etc. We are also installing Lime Kilns which will drastically cut down usage of fresh mineral lime resources for paper making.
PM:How much influence does branding make in the Indian paper industry? Does the Indian paper industry really pay much attention on branding?
HPS: Paper has been a pioneer in converting paper from a commodity business to a brand. Brand has become important in the Indian paper industry to differentiate one company from another in the consumers’ mind, especially when many companies are producing similar products.
For example the better and consistent quality of JK products and hence its superior brand offerings have helped us achieve a price premium. Indian paper industry will have to pay more attention to branding than before if it has to be successful in a competitive market economy and in the face of international competition.
PM: You are a fourth-generation industrialist, born into one of India’s biggest business houses. Do you think that this legacy has influenced your decision to become an industrialist?
HPS: It has certainly influenced my decision. I have been surrounded by ‘business atmosphere’ ever since I have grown up.