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BW Businessworld

Havells India: The Leading Light

He is the go-to man for the Rs 9,000 crore-plus Havells.His ambition is to take the company past the $2 billion mark by the end of this year

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Within a decade of joining Havells India in 1982, Rajesh Gupta was elevated to the position of director finance. Today, he’s the Group chief financial officer as well as the director finance.

“I always wanted to start my own audit firm but my boss insisted that I work with him. I thought I was joining the company for two months, but those two months never ended,” Gupta recalls.

But Gupta, along with Havells India, has seen a meteoric rise in these years. He is the go-to man for the Rs 9,000 crore-plus Havells and oversees the company’s worldwide M&A strategy, corporate finance, business planning, investors’ relations, accounts, treasury, taxation, legal, corporate governance and administrative functions. His ambition is to take the company past the $2-billion mark by the end of this year.

The Sylvania Crisis
A first-generation company founded by Qimat Rai Gupta in the 1970s, the roughest spot in Havells’ journey was the 2007 acquisition of German lighting and fixtures maker SLI Lighting, which owned the Sylvania brand.

Gupta’s expertise came in handy when Havells was trying to overcome the Sylvania crisis.

First off, Havells was trying to buy a company that was one-and-a-half times its size. Most experts believed that Havells, which had grown from Rs 100 crore in 2000 to Rs 1,600 crore in 2006 would do well without the flailing Sylvania.

At that time, Havells India founder, late Qimat Rai Gupta, had formed a core committee of top-level managers to turn the tide and Gupta was an integral part of the turnaround process.

“We went in for massive cost-cutting and downsizing across countries where Sylvania operates. From making the procurement of materials for Sylvania centralised and achieving cost efficiencies through economies of scale, we realised our dream of becoming a global multinational,” says Gupta.

A Network Of Relationships
He also played a crucial role in the acquisition and merging of existing brands, including Crabtree and Standard, into Havells.

Gupta has, in his 35 years with the company, built a wide network of relationships that link the company, the supply chain, bankers and the investor community closely together. This stood him in good stead each time the company was looking for new opportunities.

At the time when Havells was planning an IPO in 1993, merchant bankers had advised it not to fix its price at a premium, but Gupta decided to go with his decision as he felt that this was their partners’ chance to share in the company’s growth. The result was positive; most partners subscribed to the IPO at the premium price, and the issue was oversubscribed.

Known in the industry for donning many roles, Gupta’s influence on the company’s financial and business strategy has turned Havells into a cash-rich company with minimal debt.

Havells’ success story is a testimony to his interpersonal skills that include collaboration, influencing, negotiation and ability to command respect in the internal and external environment.

The 58-year-old CFO has seen it all. From recording accounts manually on paper to big data. He believes that Havells’ ability to adapt to technology led them to growth.

“We were one of the first Indian companies to computerise all our accounts. We focused on IT at an early stage as we knew that we would have an edge over the competition only if we were far ahead when it came to technology. In 1999, we migrated to Baan and moved to SAP in 2007. We are on SAP across Asia today. This evolution shows the importance that we have accorded to IT,” says Gupta.

[email protected] @arshadkhan_BW