Mental agility may be the key ability Gagandeep Singh needs for his job as CEO of one of India's largest auto parts makers, Bright Autoplast Ltd.
BAPL was one of the first companies to bring injection molding to India, in 1948. That history comes through, Singh said, in one of the company's strongest assets, an experienced workforce.
But where agility is needed, he said, is when the company's nearly 70 years in plastic get overshadowed by the fast pace of India's auto industry.
Singh, 49, said managing that change is key — keeping the workforce nimble and integrating technology transferred under the wing of its parent company, India-based multinational Sintex Ltd.
“The most interesting job I have is that I need to bring speed in change required within the organization,” Singh said. “Being a 68-year-old company it is less agile than what is required.”
That means driving improvements by “changing the mindset and not by changing the people,” he said.
BAPL, based in Pune, was acquired by publicly-listed Sintex in 2007, and since then has seen technologies from other Sintex units worldwide transferred to India.
Last year, for example, it opened a light resin transfer molding production facility, using technology brought in from Sintex Wausaukee, based in Wisconsin.
Sintex, in its most recent annual report, said it expects big things from the LRTM technology: “This first-of-its-kind facility in India is expected to generate sizeable business volumes for the company.”
In 2011, BAPL opened a precision injection molding facility in Chennai, using technology from the Sintex NP Group, the former France-based Nief Plastic Groupe.
Singh became CEO of Bright Autoplast in 2012, after spending four years as the CEO of an Indian exterior automotive parts company that was part-owned by French Tier 1 auto supplier Cie. Plastic Omnium SA.
“For me bringing technology from the U.S. and France is a strategy for growing faster than the market,” he said.
The executive has a multicultural background, with management roles in Machino Plastics Ltd., a Haryana, India-based auto parts joint venture partly-owned by Japan's Suzuki Motor Corp., and in Machino Polymers Ltd., which had a polypropylene compounding joint venture with Basell Polyolefins from 1999 to 2006.
“I have been very fortunate to get such a varied experience,” Singh said. “The Japanese taught me to have an eye for details. To be thorough in what we do. From the European players I learnt to be straight and blunt in expressing your requirements and demanding this from others.”
He credits that exposure with helping him grow as an executive: “I think these two traits have developed me into a better individual and result oriented.”
Today, BAPL is an $85 million company using a variety of plastics technologies, including gas-assisted injection molding, blow molding and vacuum forming.
Customers include General Motors, Maruti Suzuki, Hyundai Motors, Mahindra and Mahindra, TVS Motors and Tata Motors, along with Tier 1s like Faurecia and Mann+Hummel.
He said a major drive within the organization is developing staff to handle the requirements of those customers, and grooming future leaders.
“The customer needs are for much higher quality and very high response times,” he said. “The product development cycles have shortened and multiple launches needs to be handled at a time. This all calls for a change in the way we do business.”
Q: What was your first job in plastics?
Singh: My first job was as a training engineer and I worked in shifts in a plastic TV cabinet making unit way back in 1988.
Q: Tell us about a mentor you've had in your career:
Singh: My mentor was my boss who gave me an opportunity to become a profit center head of a small unit. He always encouraged me to make a strong team and always guided me that the weakest link of the team you have will govern the speed with which you will move and will determine the amount of mistakes you will do during your growth. Hence it is important to have strong links in your chain and focus and improve the team member which you feel needs training/coaching.
Q: What's the best career advice you've received?
Singh: To be assertive without being agitated.
Q: What advice would you give to someone starting at your company tomorrow?
Singh: Be patient and drive your team for the speed which is required to bring changes in the way you do your business.
Q: What do you want your legacy to be as CEO?
Singh: As CEO I would like my company to expand the product profile and de-risk the product profile. We are 95 percent automotive. When the industry goes through a rough phase it has a severe impact on the organization, hence we are actively working on products for the electrical industry, for mass transit and for off roaders. I also would like the company to make decisions which are techno-financial oriented rather than pure technology oriented.