October 5, 2004
She plays the piano once in a while and sings in a choir every Tuesday, ‘‘come what may’’. But tomorrow as Meher Pudumjee officially takes over as Chairperson of Thermax, the Rs 830-crore energy and environment major, from mother Anu Aga, her thoughts will be on a different orchestra.
For, though the circumstances under which she takes the top job may not be extraordinary, the challenges are, and it’s up to the ‘‘conductor to bring harmony in an organisation’’. China is our biggest threat— and opportunity, said Pudumjee, as she prepares to lead the company’s journey from ‘‘turnaround to transformation’’.
‘‘Our turnaround gave us the right to exist,’’ admitted Pudumjee. But now Thermax aspires to ‘‘double our turnover and triple our profits by 2008 and sustainably grow thereon’’. To that end, the company has just completed the first phase of its strategy exercise with McKinsey, which has advised Thermax to focus on four key areas: cost, quality, delivery and efficiencies of operation; internationalise some divisions in specific markets; innovation and R&D; leadership and capability building. The second phase, to implement these strategies, will begin this week and take over 18-24 months.
But according to Pudumjee, the biggest threat is China. ‘‘We opened an office in Shanghai two months ago to understand the black box that is China.’’ Thermax is probing the China market to sell absorption chillers —China is a huge consumer— and also a place to source components and raw materials from. ‘‘The good sign is we are certainly in the right businesses. There are opportunities in the six businesses we are in — boilers and heaters, captive power, absorption cooling, chemicals, water and waste water and pollution abatement’’.
There are huge challenges ahead, said Pudumjee, like gearing up to face the buoyancy in the markets; pressure on margins; and the need to attract fresh talent. The size of the Thermax treasury is Rs 250 crore from where the funds for restructuring will come. ‘‘We are spending Rs 50 crore on upgrading output from shop, but that’s only a small part of the exercise,’’ she said.
Pudumjee who chose to be non-executive Chairperson to ‘‘look at areas that impact business in the long term,’’ said Thermax would tread the inorganic path to growth. ‘‘Acquiring companies is on our long horizon.’’ Also on the agenda are overseas bases in China, the Americas and Europe.
As for Anu Aga, who took over the reins of the company in February, 1996 she is bidding goodbye to the corporate world to concentrate on social issues. ‘‘Under Meher’s leadership I am sure the brand will be enhanced… with joy and confidence I pass on the baton to my daughter’’.
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