Abhyuday Jindal says demand for stainless steel is strong, with growth expected in sectors such as automobile, aviation and power
Abhyuday Jindal joined his family business in trying times. In 2013, Jindal Stainless (JSL) was in the middle of a corporate debt restructuring after a tough economic environment hampered loan repayments. It had debts of nearly Rs 8,000 crore.
The cycle has turned since then for the country's largest stainless steel maker. As part of the restructuring, JSL's debt was redistributed among three more firms — Jindal Stainless (Hisar), which is listed and two private companies, Jindal United Steel and Jindal Coke. It has reported net profits in the last six quarters, and most importantly, has applied to exit CDR.
"We are among the few companies who have turned around even in a tough environment," the Managing Director of Jindal Stainless Group told Moneycontrol in an interview.
After completing your graduation from Boston University, your joined your uncle Sajjan Jindal (Chairman & MD, JSW Group) as a trainee. And later your were a consultant at BCG. How were these experiences?
After college I joined my uncle, who had just acquired Ispat Industries. I joined as a management trainee. It was an important time, I got first hand experience in how to cut costs, looking at synergy and to plan a future growth path.
Later, I was a consultant with BCG for 1.5 years. I worked on three-four projects in different industries, including wind and auto. This was quite a learning.
Experience is the best teacher. And the experience that I got was sector agnostic. For instance, the just-in-time delivery is more of an auto concept, but we implemented it in our business.
In some companies, project management was an issue. In others, it was the supply chain. That learning has come in handy.
You joined JSL when the company was in the middle of the CDR process. How has the restructuring helped JSL?
Yes, by then the restructuring had started. It has helped de-leverage the company. We have split the units. And we have taken some steps. For instance, we have improved upon the infrastructure at our facility in Odisha, by adding a railway siding. Though Paradip port was just about 100km away, it was not containerized. So we had to ship through the Vishakapatnam port, which is 500km away. We were dependent on roads, which increased logistics costs. That has changed after the railway siding was added.
We have also built 20 warehouses across the country for just-in-time delivery to our customers. We plan to add another three or four warehouses this year. The warehouses help our clients as now they don’t need to keep inventory and can take from us whenever the need arises.
The financial benefits of these initiatives will start showing in another three months.
At what stage are you in the CDR?
We have applied to exit the CDR. We have met all the requirements for exiting the CDR. One of the requirements is to have an EBITDA of 26 percent in the last four quarters. We have done that.
Once we do exit, the plan is to de-bottleneck the facility in Odisha. That will help in increasing the capacity utilization from the present 95 percent to 115 percent. We are among the few companies who have turned around even in a tough environment.
What is the debt position now?
The debt in JSl is now about Rs 5000 crore, down from Rs 8,000 crore earlier.
How is the market looking for stainless steel?
The market is very strong and the demand is firm. Stainless steel used to have a perception problem, and many thought it is used only in utensils. But now the demand comes from varied industries, including airports, metros stations and auto sector. We expect demand to come from major projects in sectors such as oil & gas, chemicals and power.
Government has asked companies to make the transition to BS-6. This will double the use of stainless steel in the manufacturing of cars, from the present average of about 15kg per car to 30kg.
Overall, our per capital consumption of stainless is only 2 kg, not even half of the world average of 5kg. So there is only room to grow.
We are introducing many initiatives to spread awareness on the use of stainless steel. We are working with universities to start courses. For instance, those living in the coastal areas if people start using stainless steel then the life of products will lengthen to 30 years.
Do you have plans to acquire assets?
There are not many assets available to acquire. We would surely be interested if good assets come on the block.
How about SAIL's Salem plant?
We are interested in Salem, and it has come up for talks a few times. But nothing has happened yet.
How has been the exports market, especially after the Trump administration's step to levy taxes on imports?We export 20 percent of our products, and cater mostly to the European market. We used to export to the US, but after the tariffs (ordered by President Donald Trump), that has stopped. In Europe, Germany and Italy are the biggest markets.