Mr Falgun Chokshi
February 1, 2022
In this edition of Stainless Post, we introduce you to a name that has brought international acclaim to the Indian heavy engineering industry. Larsen & Toubro believes that ordinary people make extraordinary things happen. Interacting with Head, Larsen & Toubro – Heavy Engineering, Hazira, Mr Falgun Chokshi. We deep dive into what makes L&T a global leader and how is stainless steel aiding their cause of ‘Imagineering’.
1. Tell us about yourself.
I was born in Godhra, Gujarat. Both my parents served as government servants. We soon shifted to Ahmedabad where I did my schooling. Having grown up with working parents and being the eldest among three siblings, I learnt to be responsible from a very early age. My father was so passionate about doing things on his own that he built a black and white television set at home, all by himself. This motivated me to repair my bicycle and take up other electrical repairs at home by myself. I believe this is what fed the budding engineer in me. In 1991, I graduated from Saurashtra University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and joined my first and only Company, Larsen & Toubro (L&T) in Hazira, Gujarat.
- What have been the milestones of L&T’s journey during your stint as Head-Heavy Engineering, Hazira, L&T?
Joining L&T was a dream come true for me. In 1987, L&T’s Hazira unit was commercialized. When I joined here as a Graduate Engineer Trainee (GET) in 1991, the unit was still in its initial phase of establishment, i.e., acquiring licenses and approvals, and getting customers’ acceptances. If we compare it to where we stand today, we can see incredible growth. Back then, L&T had fabricated India’s first indigenously developed Hydrocracker Reactor weighing 400 MT. As a GET, I used to be in awe of this accomplishment. In May 2021, we dispatched world’s biggest LC Max Reactors, each weighing 2250 MT each.
I’ve been lucky to have been involved in multiple functions at L&T – engineering, procurement, manufacturing, project management, marketing, etc. As part of our job rotation policy, I have been part of all benchmark projects executed at L&T, Hazira. These include world’s heaviest reactor, the thickest reactor, the longest column, the most complex and largest EO reactor (weighing approx. 1500 MT). Recently, we have dispatched 6 largest Coke Drums in the world to Mexico. Being the first in the sector, these products continue to be a major accomplishment for me as we set global benchmarks through them.
Another major personal accomplishment was when I was nominated as the project manager for the world’s largest reactor order (USD 421 mn) for KNPC, Kuwait. L&T was not approved by Chevron USA until 2007. In 2007, Chevron Lummus Global licensed our Hazira manufacturing complex for such reactors. The very next year, we got an order to supply 22 reactors for KNPC Clean Fuels Project. It still remains to be the world’s largest order ever issued to a single fabricator.
I derive strength from both families- personal and professional and I strive to lead the Company to achieve greater heights.
- When and how did your journey with Jindal Stainless begin? What sets us apart from others?
Jindal Stainless has been one of the most valued suppliers for L&T. We’ve been procuring quality material at reasonable prices from Jindal Stainless since 2005. The Company ensured an efficient on-time delivery and quality material. Additionally, we have jointly developed some welding consumables with Jindal Stainless indigenously which were traditionally imported. These consumables are used to generate a corrosion resistant layer inside reactors.
- Your views on the heavy engineering industry and the role of stainless steel in it. How do you think it’ll shape up in the future?
On the process side, we deal with fabrication of equipment with highly corrosive material, for refineries and petrochemicals. Additionally, we are often required to develop products well-suited for high temperature environments. For such applications, stainless steel is the preferred material. The ITER project, world’s largest cryostat in France, which was entirely made of stainless steel was supplied by L&T. We also use stainless steel for equipment fabrication for nuclear applications such as steam generators and end shields. Stainless steel is also used for developing internals of hydrocracker reactors.
As the refinery, petrochemicals and fertiliser industries are evolving, corrosion is gaining more importance. This assures us that stainless steel will continue to remain a vital component for the sector. Going forward, a lot of FCC (fluidized catalytic cracking) projects will also rely on stainless steel.
- As a leader yourself, your message to millennials and GenZ readers of our newsletter?
- During the early stage of your career, you should focus on three things – domain knowledge, manpower management, and money management. Domain refers to the basics of business. In my opinion, it is very important to go through every aspect of the business. Secondly, dealing with people is very crucial. This allows you to go through the grill of managing a variety of stakeholders- workmen, staff, managers, peers, customers, etc. Thirdly, learn to manage money matters that steer the Company. This will give you the edge to take on leadership roles later.
- Though technology is making life and learning easy, I believe that there is no option to skip fundamentals. Shortcuts are no replacement for due diligence. Current software won’t teach us troubleshooting – it’s something that comes only from getting one’s hands dirty while going through basics and doing the actual physical work on ground.
- Understand the importance of strategy across every aspect of your work. One must strike a balance between smart work and hard work. Smart work is thought-through. Hence, it’s done faster and with lesser efforts.