June 20, 2018
It is a story of kinship that miraculously paved way for the evolution of one of the brightest industries in India. Read how three brothers turned the fate of ‘stainless steel’ through their stainless spirit and grit of steel.
It all started in the monsoon of 1967, when the eldest of the Agarwal brothers, Ramesh, set off on his stainless journey. He was only 18 at the time, oblivious to the fact that he and his two younger brothers would one day build a multimillion empire. It was indeed the perfect beginning with India celebrating its twenty years of Independence. But where was true freedom when we were still dependent on imports for capital intensive industries like steel? This question remained in the heart of the Agarwal brothers, as they began their indigenous quest. Here are the lessons from their fifty years of laborious expedition, full of ebb and flow.
So we learned you were just 18 when you started off this quest. What pushed you towards it at such a young age?
Ramesh Agarwal: It was the quest for freedom to help promote domestic stainless steel in India; the realisation that struck me quite early while I was selling imported stainless steel products. In 1974, I could finally anchor my ship, with the help of Alloy Steel Plant (ASP) Durgapur, which is now a part of SAIL, the only plant producing stainless steel then. I was not just promoting their products, but was a part of their managing and pricing committee too. Apart from ASP, I also started working with Vishva Sariya, Bhadrawati (which is also a part of SAIL now) and Bihar Alloy Steel, where I introduced the production of stainless steel and became their sole distributor. Later, we partnered with Mukund too. And soon came a time when we completely stopped selling imported products. The quest that I had initially undertaken with a nationalist zest picked up full throttle, and our business started growing by leaps and bounds.
It’s been a 38 year-long bond with Jindal Stainless. How and when did this partnership begin?
Satish Agarwal: Jindals came to our list of suppliers only in 1980, the beginning of a revolutionary phase for us and for Mr Rattan Jindal too. He was a young enthusiast who was learning the tricks of the stainless steel business at the time. We were introduced to Mr Jindal by a mutual friend. I briefly remember our first meeting with him. He called us to his office and asked us to sell one of their products, which only had little. demand in market. Though the product was best in class, but most of the customers never realised its speciality, owing to less knowledge about SS. We picked up their complete inventory and sold everything, and that is what paved the way for our long-term association. We became JSL’s sole distributor. More than business partnership, it was the exploration of our partnership with Mr Jindal.
Ramesh Agarwal adding: I can’t get enough of those days when Mr Jindal, in his usual poise, would put his hands in the scrap to find that heavy piece of metal, that might hinder the rolling process, and concernedly ask me, “this looks more than one kg in weight, doesn’t it”? Soon, our partnership reached a new height, such that later Mr Jindal agreed to set up a production unit for flat products on our advice. I clearly remember the privilege bestowed upon us by Mr Jindal, for naming that grade. He said, “You made us start this production, now you name it too”. We named it J4, our brightest produce of that mill. In no time, J4 caught fire and emerged as the most preferred SS grade. In 1989, we expanded our footprint to Ahmedabad as JSL’s sole dealer in the city. Although it is a 38 year- long relationship now, but the love and respect we share, is boundless.
In the past, you have had many suppliers as your partners. What sets Jindal Stainless apart from all of them?
Shankar Agarwal: Our relationship with Jindal Stainless is like a marriage now. If you happen to trace the last three decades of our association, you will find it is a mix of those sweet and sour memories that any marriage would have. What began as a leap of faith has blossomed into a beautiful bond today. However, the foundation has been extremely robust with layers of loyalty, respect and integrity from both sides. There was a time when we exclusively started selling Jindal Stainless’ products and we had to part ways with our old partners. But not even once have we regretted that decision. We stood by Jindal Stainless when it was yet a growing company but we had complete faith in Mr. Rattan Jindal’s intentions and capabilities. I still remember Mr Jindal used to say “I want people to know my product from its quality. It may take some time, but it will happen in the future”. And trust me, it was not an overnight haul. We have witnessed his struggles and labour, and how much of him it took to take the company to this level. It demanded a great deal of energy and diligence. Today, when we see his dream turning into a reality, we can proudly say that our partnership has been fruitful.
What message you would like to give to our future generation?
Shankar Agarwal: The only message we can think of is what we ourselves have followed all these years and it worked like magic for us-work hard to get whatever you want in life. Everything is possible if it accompanies good intention. But as you reach close to your aim, don’t be greedy; value what you have. We had many opportunities to earn easy money in this business. But that comes through sacrificing your integrity, which we have never done.
Ramesh Agarwal adding: Also, to all those who want to have a future in the stainless steel industry, Jindal Stainless is the company to work for, not just for its world-class innovative products but also for its people and leaders. What we saw in Mr Rattan Jindal once is what we see in Mr Abhyuday Jindal today. He resonates his father’s business acumen and humility. I am sure he will soon be known among the great leaders of the country.
All about Agarwal brothers Ramesh Agarwal: The eldest brother & Chairman of SRU Steels Ltd., a leader in utensils steel segment. Shankar Agarwal, aka Pathan for his problem solving ability, is the Group Chairman of Reliable Stainless & Jindal Stainless’ star distributor in Mumbai.
Satish Agarwal, the youngest of the brothers, is the Managing Director of Anant Overseas & Jindal Stainless’ star distributor in Delhi.
The three brothers hold deep regards for their teams which have incessantly supported them all through this long journey. Today, Jitendra Agarwal, Mayank Agarwal and Arpit Agarwal, sons of Ramesh, Shankar and Satish Agarwal are carrying forward the stainless legacy of their fathers.