Nation Building depends upon the structural strength of the industry. Industry building depends upon the inner strength of the enterprise. Enterprise core development is based on the indomitable spirits of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is made up of the steely nerves of generations of captains leading the league of entrepreneurs.
Together captains redefine leadership benchmarks. Leadership is that breed of innovators who not only challenges the status quo but, by swimming against the tide, turn the stream in their favour.
These are legends made up of the real steel who keeps proving their metal, again and again, repeatedly. Meet Mr Vinay Gupta, Director and Mr Anubhav Gupta, Chief Strategy Officer (CSO), the legends of APL Apollo Tubes Ltd., India’s numero uno structural steel tube company.
With seventy-five registered trademarks, sixteen patents, eleven plants, eight hundred distributors, over twenty-two hundred employees, two-point-six metric tonnes capacity and half of the industry’s market share, they are a legacy of trust and a promise of strength.
In an exclusive interview with Insights Success for its edition of ‘Powerful Men in Business 2022’, the dashing duo Vinay and Anubhav share their insights into their journey, legacy, and future vision about the Indian steel industry in general and APL Apollo in particular.
The interview is reproduced below for the strengthening of your business.
Please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us about your exciting journey of becoming a powerful business leader.
Vinay – I am the director of APL Apollo Tubes Ltd. I have more than twenty years of industry experience in the manufacturing and trading pipes, tubes, sheets and other steel products. I have been assigned the responsibility of driving the company’s pre-galvanised and international market businesses.
Anubhav – I started as an investment banker in 2008; my career journey includes fourteen long years in various reputed organisations. Being an investment banker, I learned a lot about the industry, business models, and setting industry benchmarks. I Joined APL Apollo in the year 2019 as Chief Strategy Officer, wherein I leveraged my expertise to create in APL Apollo a unique operational model for its sustainable growth by anticipating and exceeding the stakeholders’ expectations.
What inspired you to step into the business arena? Who were your role models growing up?
Vinay- I have inherited excellent entrepreneurship skills from my father, late Shri Sudesh Gupta and elder brother Mr Sanjay Gupta. Receiving a legacy is often seen as an honour. However, for me to bring my family legacy forward and grow, it required a conscious effort and responsibility to follow the work ethics, ideals, work patterns and dedication.
Anubhav– Being a management graduate, I have always been fascinated by business and industry. My role model is Mr Sanjay Gupta. I would repeat Vinay’s line here that receiving a legacy is often seen as an honour. But as an Indian entrepreneur, Mr Sanjay turned around this business from scratch and always inspired me to join this company. I am fortunate to get aligned with him, where I learned many things from him.
Brief us about APL Apollo and its overall operations. What kind of products and/or services does it offer?
Vinay– APL Apollo is India’s largest innovative steel pipes manufacturer. With a solid Pan-India presence, it serves as a ‘one-stop-shop’ for steel products catering to urban infrastructure, automobile, construction, housing, energy, irrigation, solar plants, and greenhouses.
Over the thirty-five years, APL has built a robust 3-tier distribution and supply chain network. APL has an extended distribution network of warehouses and branch offices in twenty-nine cities across the country, catering to the domestic market as well as twenty countries worldwide.
It enjoys a direct marketing presence across India with over eight hundred dealers and distributors along with eleven manufacturing facilities across India. APL has a total production capacity of 2.6 million tonnes per annum.
APL is known for bringing new technology to India and creating a new market. We created new market for structural steel tubes by producing square and rectangular sections- with the potential to replace conventional steel construction products like angles and channels and several other building materials like wood, RCC, aluminium, and PEB.
Anubhav- Being the market leader, we enjoy the lion’s share of 50% of the market in the structural steel tube industry. We are expanding our own capacity through greenfield expansion of 1.4 million tonnes per annum to reach an annual capacity of 4 million tonnes.
Please brief us about how you helped enhance the outreach and development of APL Apollo?
Vinay- We always focus on innovation and create new markets and demand. Instead of following the prevailing trend, APL transformed the whole scenario by producing square and rectangular hollow sections with a better load-bearing capacity for massive structures and replacing the conventional steel products.
We have launched a series of brand awareness and marketing campaigns to familiarise consumers with our exclusive products. We always strive to become better and open to new ideas. Our adaption of the latest technology, innovative product offerings and capacity to unlock new markets helped us be a high-performance organisation.
Anubhav– We operate in a dynamic market segment, where many external factors influence the business. To meet the stakeholder’s expectations, we always remained resilient in all adverse situations. We have proven our performance historically in all adverse situations and will be continuing our hard work and dedication to keep ourselves as a market leader going ahead.
What kind of challenges have you faced in your professional journey so far? What kind of challenges do you still face today?
Vinay– We have faced challenges like tough competition from the unorganised sector and adapting digital transformation and the brand-building process. However, we always work on our core values to strengthen our market position. We stick to our strengths –
- Cost control measures,
- Innovative products to create a new market,
- Improving sales mix with value-added products and
- Product awareness by branding and distribution expansion
We understand that AI, IoT, and cloud adoption will unleash the next digital revolution in the manufacturing industry. APL is already in the process to adopt significant technology changes.
Anubhav- I would not say I have ever faced challenges. Instead, I have always learned from my mistakes during my professional journey. I always remained open to learning excellence in my career journey. One thing I always believe is ‘next one should be the benchmark’ which I learned from Mr Sanjay Gupta, CMD-APL Apollo. Again, learning what I am getting today is to be resilient and unstoppable.
How would you define a successful career? What would you say is your biggest accomplishment?
Vinay- I have a strong focus on execution and operation. I follow a solution-driven approach and am always open to new ideas and suggestions. Even if all the systems are in place, it is essential to be in touch with the operation and production team. I like to talk to every department about their targets, requirements, issues and modifications.
To achieve all set targets, developing new markets and bringing new technology to the Indian market give a feeling of accomplishment. Further, we will work on our set goals.
Anubhav– A successful career is a combination of learning and accomplishment; my biggest accomplishment is seeing my company grow 10x within two years.
Please mention APL Apollo’s most notable achievements, accolades, accreditations, and awards.
Vinay– Adopting Direct Forming Technology (DFT) is one of the most notable achievements of the organisation. DFT technology has advantages in the form of 3-5% raw material saving, allows the processing of small batch orders, less time-consuming.
APL Apollo is ISO 9001:2015 certified and has achieved the recognised export house status. APL products are BIS marked and certified by reputed international agencies like SGS (France) and CE (Europe). We have been awarded the best performer in Export by the Federation of Indian Export Organisation (FIEO) and EEPC India.
Anubhav- We are proud to say we are the pioneer of our field. As a single consumer, APL Apollo consumes two per cent of the total steel production of the nation.
COVID-19 has redefined many of the business operations and working fundamentals. How did you adapt to these circumstances? What new trends and technologies did you incorporate for ensuring optimal business proceedings?
Vinay- We had faced many challenges when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Uncertainty and safety of employees were the main issues. To ensure employee safety, we took care of all the protocols at our plants. We instilled face recognition with temperature measurement devices in our facilities.
We have started using virtual meetings more often. SAP modules have been upgraded for more digitalised data and reports. We have implemented supervisory control for all the operations through digital connections for better monitoring.
Anubhav– There were five main challenges we faced when the COVID-19 pandemic struck: Business uncertainty, the safety of employees, supply chain disruption, disruption of demand and structural damage to the industry.
To tackle uncertainty, we switched to the cash-and-carry model from the normal trade practice. To ensure employee safety, we took care of all the protocols at our plants. We made bulk steel purchases before prices went up due to the disruption of supply chains.
We aggressively focused on rural markets and became insistent on our pricing policy. So, rural sales expansion and an aggressive pricing policy helped us increase our market share.
As many of our hotel and airport projects were impacted, we focused on other segments such as hospitals and rural housing. On the technology front, we moved to virtual meetings, a more automated system to monitor and control the production process.
How do you envision the future of APL Apollo?
Vinay– APL may explore various segments in the future, though its focus will remain on the structural steel segment.
The company is developing exciting products like colour coated tubes and higher diameter and low weight columns. India is increasingly adopting high-rise buildings. APL is ready to capitalise on the opportunity with higher diameter lightweight strong tubes.
Other designer tubes/colour tubes and readymade solutions will be used for home décor in offices, eateries, restaurants, retail shops even residences. These new market creations will surely increase the demand for structural steel tubes, and APL Apollo will keep increasing its market share.
Anubhav- We envision APL Apollo to remain the market leader in the structural steel tube segment. We are continuously working to create innovative products by realising the market need.