India’s market for specialty chemicals is extremely competitive, with both domestic and foreign players vying for market share. Because of this, it is challenging for businesses to stand out from the competition and gain a competitive advantage. Additionally, the rising cost of energy, labor, and raw materials in India may have an effect on the profitability of businesses that manufacture specialty chemicals.
India’s top manufacturer of specialty chemicals is Dai-ichi Karkaria. It has more than 60 years of experience in the development and production of high-performance specialty chemicals for a range of industrial applications.
Meher Vakil is the Chief Operating Officer of Dai-ichi Karkaria India. The company was started by Meher Vakil’s grandfather in 1963, in technical collaboration with the renowned Dai-ichi Kogyo Seiyaku Co. Ltd. of Japan. At the time, the company manufactured a range of surfactants focused on the textile and paint and coatings industry. Not long after, Dai-ichi Karkaria set up its own state-of-the-art research and development laboratory, diversifying into industries such as agriculture, construction, home and personal care, and oilfield chemicals.
As soon as new product lines were developed, Dai-ichi was the pioneer. It was the first business in India to create a demulsifier with ONGC in mind. The chemistry of the pour point depressant it developed for an oilfield application was also the first of its kind in India; it is still available today.
In the past, Dai-ichi has collaborated with reputable businesses like GVK, with whom it had a joint venture for its pharmaceutical products. Meher states, “We’ve also had a JV with the large MNC Baker Petrolite, which was subsequently concluded. Today our JV in the oilfield segment is with Champion X one of the top Oilfield companies worldwide.” The company works closely in CXDI (ChampionX Dai-ichi India) as partners to cater to the Indian upstream segment.
Years of Success Track
With years of experience in complex reactions, Dai-ichi is able to manufacture specialty chemicals catering to various different industries. The company can quickly switch from one range of products to another thanks to its diversification across product segments and multipurpose plants, enabling it to capitalize on growth in a particular segment that year.
The Department of Science and Technology (Government of India) has recognized Dai-R&D ichi’s center, and it has received honors for its creative research and work on import substitution. Its R&D team is committed to addressing customer challenges and striving for continuous improvement in order to produce products and solutions with value. The company’s batch-to-batch consistency, achieved through rigorous testing at every stage of the manufacturing process, is what positions Dai-ichi as a trusted, reliable supplier for high-performance specialty chemicals. Its comprehensive quality systems are being constantly upgraded, ensuring the continuous improvement of its products and processes.
In terms of what sets Dai-ichi Karkaria apart from its competitors, there are a few key factors. The company has a strong focus on research and development and is known for developing innovative products that meet the needs of its customers. Dai-ichi Karkaria places a strong emphasis on quality control, ensuring that its products meet or exceed industry standards. The team states, “We are known for our customer service and being committed to building long-term relationships with our customers. Being in the market as a trusted company, we have built a reputation in the market for our quality products and services.”
The Change Bringer
Over the last 40 years, Meher believes her mother, Shernaz Vakil (currently Chairman and MD), has made a huge impact on the company. During her tenure, she has played a key role in driving the company’s success. She has been instrumental in developing and implementing the company’s strategic plans, which have helped the company expand operations and achieve growth in a competitive market. Under her leadership, the company has placed a strong emphasis on research and development, resulting in the development of innovative products and technologies. She has been instrumental in expanding the company’s market presence by growing the distribution network and building relationships with key customers. She has worked to establish and maintain the company’s reputation for quality products and services, which has helped to attract and retain customers. Overall, her leadership and strategic vision have played a significant role in helping Dai-ichi Karkaria excel in its niche and achieve success in the specialty chemicals industry.
Keeping Transparency with Clients
Meher thinks it’s critical to collaborate closely with clients in order to comprehend and relate to their unique needs. She puts a lot of effort into understanding their problems and coming up with individual solutions. She frequently collaborates with R&D at the company to develop solutions that are specifically tailored to their problems. They value the openness and trust that Meher believes are essential for a long-lasting relationship. Meher adds, “I am always honest, ethical, and transparent in my actions and decisions, and our customers trust leaders who are consistent and true to their word. I have always worked with our customers as partners and have built lasting relationships that have helped grow our businesses together.”
Embracing Tech Advancements
The specialty chemicals industry in India has been significantly impacted by the adoption of modern technologies like AI and ML. Many of the production processes for specialty chemicals, including process control, quality control, and supply chain management, are being automated with the help of AI and ML. This increases productivity while lowering costs and improving efficiency. It enables businesses to plan maintenance before a problem arises by predicting when equipment is likely to fail. This can aid in lowering downtime and enhancing the overall reliability of production. It can analyze data on demand, inventory, and logistics to optimize the supply chain. This can help to reduce costs, improve delivery times, and increase the overall efficiency of the supply chain.
The team at Dai-ichi is embracing this change by investing in some of these technologies. It has invested in automation for its new plant at Dahej, which ensures consistent, on spec products with little manual intervention. The team has also begun to invest in predictive maintenance, ensuring the downtime and breakdown of its reactors is negligible. Meher says, “We have implemented robust systems for supply chain management, which have improved our logistics costs and helped manage our overall inventory levels significantly.
Innovation is the Key
Dai-ichi focuses on developing innovative products and technologies that meet the specific needs of its customers, to differentiate itself from competitors. The company invests in R&D to develop new products and technologies that keep it ahead of the competition. Meher shares, “We build strong partnerships with technology providers, research institutions, and other organizations to gain access to new technologies and expertise.” She further adds, “We manage our costs by implementing cost-saving measures, such as automating processes, implementing energy-efficient technologies, and outsourcing non-core functions.”
Dai-ichi has built a reputation for providing high-quality products and services, which has helped to attract and retain customers.
Words for Emerging Leaders
The specialty chemical industry in India is a complex and challenging environment, but with the right approach, knowledge, and team, it can be a very rewarding business for entrepreneurs. Before starting a business in this field, it is important to conduct thorough market research to understand the industry, competition, and customer needs.
According to Meher, the specialty chemical industry is heavily regulated in India, so it is important to understand the regulations related to safety, health, and the environment. Organizations have to make sure to comply with all the regulations to avoid penalties and legal issues.
Building a strong team is essential for any business, but it is especially important in the specialty chemical industry. Meher states that research and development are important aspects of this industry. She says, “Investing in R&D will help you stay ahead of the competition and develop new products that can help you grow your business.” She opines, “The industry is highly competitive, so it is important to differentiate yourself from competitors by developing innovative products and technologies that meet the specific needs of your customers.”
Meher finds that developing a sustainable business model is important for long-term success. This means creating a business that can operate at a profit while also minimizing its negative impact on the environment. She advises, “Building strong partnerships with other companies, research institutions, and technology providers can help you gain access to new technologies, expertise, and resources.”
Envision on Scaling Further
Meher believes that there will be tremendous growth in the oilfield segment of Dai-ichi business. The company has invested in a new plant for this segment, which was commissioned in January 2023. This investment in new equipment, facilities, and technology has increased the company’s production capacity with an aim to ultimately improve efficiency. With this expansion, Dai-ichi’s capacity in this sector has doubled, and it plans to fill it primarily through exports to MENA and ASEAN markets. Meher shares, “We have also invested in key talent in R&D and sales and believe that these hires will aid in opening up new products to customers for our Agro, Paints and Coatings and Construction segment.”
Dai-ichi plans to expand its distribution network by building relationships with new customers, opening new sales channels, and increasing presence in new geographic markets.
Meher Vakil has a BA in Economics and Business Institutions from Northwestern University, Illinois, USA. As a member of the Board and of the senior management team, Meher maintains control over the daily operations of the company, enhancing efficiencies in departments such as IT, marketing, sales, finance, and HR. She is actively involved in designing and implementing business strategies, as well as establishing policies that promote company culture and vision to drive extensive and sustainable growth.
Meher has been a director at multiple New York based companies, focusing specifically on marketing and sales, business operations strategy, and technology innovation.