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Asian Paints: The Colour Of Success

Anand’s decision to look beyond paints and make Asian Paints a holistic home decor solutions firm has backed the major’s spectacular growth

Photo Credit : Subhabrata Das

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A few climb their way to success. Some find their way to the horizon. But there is one man who has literally painted his way to glory. Meet K. B. S. Anand, chief executive officer and managing director of Asian Paints.

Fondly called KBS by his colleagues, Anand joined Asian Paints immediately after leaving IIT-Mumbai in 1979, and has served the company in various capacities for nearly four decades. He has seen the company grow substantially, and has grown with it alongside. He was head of sales in the 80s, was promoted to general manager and then to vice president, sales & marketing, in the 90s. A decade later, he was made the managing director and chief executive officer of Asian Paints, which has since then become India’s biggest player in decorative paints.

The paint maker has around $2 billion in top line and profits higher than the combined numbers of its next three immediate rivals, including world No. 1 AkzoNobel, Berger Paints and Kansai Nerolac.

KBS’ keen business acumen and his vision for the future have backed the paint major’s spectacular growth. He decided to look beyond paints and make Asian Paints a holistic home decor solutions company that also offers kitchen and bathroom solutions, wallpaper and colour consultancy.

In August 2013, Asian Paints bought a 51 per cent stake in Sleek International, a kitchen solutions provider, the first step in its foray into the “home improvement” space. “KBS played a crucial role in the transformation agenda and initiated our journey to move from a paint company to a décor company,” says Jalaj Dani, president, HR, supply chain & chemicals.

A go-getter, KBS has spearheaded various marketing initiatives that led to a boom in the paint industry and helped Asian Paints gain consumer mindshare, and consequently market share. A firm believer in customer centricity, he makes it a point to meet all stakeholders regularly and address their concerns.

A Mixed Palette
KBS believes that growth has no shortcuts. It requires relentless effort and an entire gamut of unique initiatives.

Asian Paints recently acquired Kadisco Paints, one of the top 3 paint companies in Ethiopia. It also announced an investment of over Rs. 4,000 crore to set up world-class paint manufacturing facilities at Mysuru and Visakhapatnam. The company is working out the structure of its first home improvement store in Coimbatore.

The company has also created a seven-member Technology Council to brainstorm on the company’s technology needs and zoom in on business opportunities based on technological prowess. This approach - along with customer feedback garnered through multiple ways - resulted in Asian Paints launching 23 products last fiscal, including decorative paints and industrial paints (where it has two JVs with PPG of the United States).

KBS has also strengthened the company’s front-end in a big way. Asian Paints does not have distributors - it supplies its paints directly to 45,000 retail shops across India through 125 depots. In a brilliant move, it has now tied up with retailers to tailor its service according to customer needs. So, in the past three years, it has added 250 “Colour Ideas” stores to take this format’s count up to 300. A colour consultant from Asian Paints sits in these stores, and gives advice to consumers on paint solutions for their homes.

The Future Canvas
KBS has big plans for Asian Paints’ future. He is building up manufacturing capabilities. The production capacity of its Rohtak plant has doubled from 2 lakh kilolitre (kl) to 4 lakh kl per annum. Older plants in Ankleshwar, Gujarat, and Kasna, Uttar Pradesh, are being modernised. An MoU with the Andhra Pradesh government has been signed to set up a 4 lakh kl per annum greenfield paint manufacturing plant in Visakhapatnam at an investment of Rs 1,750 crore.
If you meet KBS, you would think he lives only for his paints. But the chief executive officer is extremely fond of defeating fellow CEOs in bridge. Most nights he goes off to sleep with a book in his hands and thoughts of a busy tomorrow in his mind.

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