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Carving A Niche In A Man’s World

She may have been out-shouted in a male-dominated industry like cement, but out-performing her was never easy

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Bina Engineer joined Sanghi Industries 21 years ago in 1997 as deputy general manager of project finance. She steadily rose up the ladder and in 2006, she was inducted on the board.

Engineer, who went to a Gujarati medium school, has also served as member of FICCI finance committee and ICAI Infrastructure Study Group. She was awarded the CA CFO Woman Award by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) in 2016.

A proud Engineer points out that she was inducted on the board almost a decade before companies were mandated by law to have a woman director on the board.

She joined the company at a time when one of ts projects was dragged into litigations and incurred huge costs. “Most people had written us off. It was only the perseverance and sincerity of the Sanghi team that took us through and we could overcome the odds and raise funds for project completion.”

When the project was commissioned in 2002, the company’s balance sheet showed a debt equity ratio of 6:1. The challenge for Engineer and her team was to remain focused. It was a tall task to reach the CDR (corporate debt restructuring) forum with 15 overdue and anxious lenders. However, the innovative restructuring with refinance in 2005-06 gave the company a new lease of life.

Sanghi Industries has a total income of Rs 1,104 crore (as of March 2017) and a market cap of Rs 3,062 crore (as on 31 January 2018).

The courage to stand up to challenges, perseverance and unflinching support of her family and her company have been the recipe for her success, she says.

Her key contribution includes cost control, timely debt servicing and prepayment of debt. Besides, she also focused on investor relations. Engineer was instrumental in arranging Rs 13 crore working capital despite debt under restructuring

“We were determined to service all our obligations. We religiously serviced our debt quarter after quarter and this helped us in the corporate debt restructuring exercise. I am proud to say that we always remained a standard account with our lenders. It helped us to create a strong credit history,” says Engineer.

She adds that not only could the company, under her guidance, prepay the debt but also repaid return on revenue (ROR) towards the cumulative concessions availed by company, which helped it in bringing down the cost of borrowing by 5 per cent annually. This also helped in expediting the expansion plans by two years.

“We always believed we were the most efficient and cost competitive cement company. So, we decided to monitor cost very carefully. Generally, we would have all the costs on fingertips. It ensured that we remained profitable during the down cycles of the industry. We also remained quite conservative in our financial approach,” points out Engineer.

For Engineer, life was not easy initially in the company as there were few women in core industries such as cement. Women were considered intruders in the traditional male bastion and often senior male professionals would not see eye-to- eye with Engineer. She says, in difficult situations, men often try to out-shout women, who they consider soft targets. “But over the years, I have learnt to handle these things very patiently and tactfully and to my advantage.

Fortunately, even as a young professional, my organisation had put complete faith in my abilities and encouraged me to take challenges without any fear. During the toughest times, I had complete freedom to exercise my judgement and take decisions. My company has always allowed me the flexibility in time that I needed for my family and stood by me,” she says.