Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Tuesday, Oct 05, 2004
Corporate - People
Meher Pudumjee to take over as Chairperson today Thermax in `transformation' phase
BATON CHANGE: Ms Meher Pudumjee is set to take over as Chairperson of Thermax from her mother, Ms Anu Aga.
Pune , Oct. 4
ENGINEERING company Thermax Ltd, which went through a major turnaround exercise over the last couple of years, is gearing up for a transformation phase, which will double its turnover and triple profits by 2008.
The company, which roped in McKinsey as consultant four months ago to strategise for future growth, will now focus on increasing productivity and throughput from its existing shops, bringing down costs and putting in place a cadre of senior and middle management people who will steer it in future, Ms Meher Pudumjee, Chairperson, said here on Monday.
Ms Pudumjee, who formally takes over as Chairperson (non-executive) from her mother, Ms Anu Aga, on Tuesday, said the first phase of the McKinsey report has suggested that the company focus, among other things, on operational excellence which encompasses cost leadership, quality, delivery and efficiencies of operation, internationalisation of some of its divisions in specific markets, innovation and R&D, and leadership and capability building.
"On the global front, we have the opportunity and the skills to become a provider of boilers and chillers and on the domestic front the strategy is to become the dominant player in all other products that we are present in," Ms Pudumjee said.
"Skill-based manufacturing is our strength and as far as R&D and innovation go, Thermax has worked on the largest number of fuels and has experimented with a variety of applications."
China factor: Ms Pudumjee, who said China is the biggest threat and opportunity that India faces at the moment, said the company has already commenced work on addressing the China factor by setting up an office in Shanghai to study the market and explore opportunities. While the company's vapour absorption chillers are being marketed there initially, Thermax is also looking at making China a sourcing base for its raw materials and components, she said.
The company is also considering the possibility of making China a base for an assembly of its products for global markets on a long term. "Traffic out of China to global markets is so thick that their systems are streamlined and costs of shipping is significantly lower and that might be an advantage in the long term," she said. Thermax's internationalisation plan will also work with the company's long-term planning to grow through acquisitions, she added.
New recruits: Currently, Thermax is working on a comprehensive plan, which will see it stepping up campus recruitments while simultaneously working on attracting senior and middle-level management cadre.
The company is also working on an in-house management development programme with the Mumbai-based Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Ms Pudumjee said.For its international businesses, the company will focus on putting more local skills and talent in place, she added.
`A lot of excitement, a bit of anxiety too'
THERMAX'S new Chairperson, Ms Meher Pudumjee, is passionate about Western classical and is one of the most enthusiastic members of a Pune-based choir group.
As she takes over from mother, Ms Anu Aga, on Tuesday (October 5) as non-executive Chairperson of the engineering company, Ms Pudumjee admits that she steps into the new assignment with excitement about the opportunity to head the company started jointly by her grandfather and father and anxiety about the responsibilities that it entails towards the stakeholders.
" While Ms Aga retires from the post today, she remains very much part of the fabric of Thermax and will remain an active member of the board and an interested stakeholder. I would very much hope to continue to use her strengths both within and outside the company," Ms Pudumjee told the media, referring to Ms Aga who steered the company's turnaround last year.
A post-graduate in Chemical Engineering who managed a Thermax subsidiary in the UK with husband Mr Pheroze before heading back home, where she worked her way up before becoming Vice-Chairperson in 2002, Ms Pudumjee says she will focus on areas that will have impact on the business in the long term such as strategy, business development and deployment.
"In addition to steering the company rapidly to a model of excellence, I see myself playing a role in building the leadership team within the company," she said.
Ms Pudumjee has help at close quarters from Ms Aga who has been the group's human resources chief for years.
Ms Pudumjee also said she would endeavour to be an effective interface between the company and the outside world and work towards reinforcing the brand's core values.
Aga to `quit' corporate world: Meanwhile, Ms Aga told reporters she was officially bidding good bye to the corporate world and would spend her time in the social sector where she will now concentrate on human rights, women and children's welfare.
Ms Aga is a member of the Commonwealth Human Rights Committee and is associated with NGOs like Akanksha, which works with underprivileged children and the Women India Trust.
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