Abhijit Roy, MD & CEO, Berger Paints India talks about his illustrious journey of 25 years with the company, which is now one of the leading consumer goods companies in India. Under his stellar leadership, he has steered the company towards a CAGR of 14% and 2500X growth in market cap, making it the second largest paint company in India, the fourth largest in Asia and the seventh largest decorative paint company in the world. Here, he tells us about the key challenges and achievements that have marked his career.
In your 25-year journey at Berger, you must have seen several firsts. For instance, Berger started with one factory in Howrah and now you have 16. How would you encapsulate this journey in a few words?
Abhijit Roy: The most fulfilling part of this journey for me has been the opportunity to touch, and hopefully improve in some manner, so many lives. They include the passionate people of Berger who have been part of my journey, the thousands of channel partners and intermediaries who have been our cheerleaders in the market and the consumers who have reposed their faith in our products and services. Along this exciting journey, the organisation has surpassed many milestones and will no doubt conquer many more in the years to come. All in all, it has been a wonderful 25 years that given a chance I would live all over again.
Any key challenges or achievements that have made the journey special for you? Is there any vision that you had started out with that you have achieved?
Abhijit Roy: I would say that what was special was the fact that there were so many challenges to overcome in the journey to India No. 2, Asia No. 4 and World No. 7. Each challenge faced helped me learn and grow as a person and my colleagues echo the same sentiment. You will be hard-pressed to find another similar-sized organisation in India that has grown so fast and come so far during this period.
It was our vision to be within the Top 3 paint companies in India from No. 6 then. Today, we are No. 2 in India and No. 4 in Asia. We also had a vision of being one of the most innovative paint companies in India. By adopting the Blue Ocean Strategy and introducing a series of new products and services that was well-liked by consumers, dealers and painters we have managed to accelerate our revenue growth with a CAGR of 14% over the last 25 years and take up our EBIDTA to Sales ratio from 10% when I joined to about 17% today.
Berger has come to be known for innovative products, such as the ‘Easy Clean’ which is kid-friendly and makes it easy to clean wall stains. How important is it to innovate in your category? What pushed you towards innovation?
Abhijit Roy: Innovation is the lifeblood of our industry and for us in particular. Innovation and differentiation have been the driving force of our transformation over the last two decades from what was earlier an industrial-paints focused organisation. This, when supported by initiatives on the distribution and marketing front has led to us achieving the position of the fastest growing company in the industry. The mandate was to stay competitive in the commoditised economy segments while identifying differentiated products and services in the premium plus segments to drive profitability and growth.
The pandemic was a tough time across industries and for the economy. Any learnings from that time?
Abhijit Roy: The pandemic, though unwelcome, was a time of reflection and learning for us. It compelled many positive behavioural changes with greater efficiency, higher sense of purpose and urgency as the by-product. As an organisation, we tightened operational efficiency during that phase which allowed us to take advantage when the pandemic receded. Greater digitisation of communication, marketing and outreach is allowing us to feel the consumer pulse and we are seeing better business outcomes.
How important is it to foster a creative and collaborative culture in the company for overall growth? Any key initiatives started by you?
Abhijit Roy: Berger’s recipe for success has been a strong culture of collaborative innovation that is embedded in our DNA. ‘Driving Change and Innovation’ has been identified as one of the key competencies in the Competency Framework that is integrated with talent management processes including performance appraisal and rewards. The annual performance evaluation thus takes into account an employee’s contribution in the area of championing new ideas and initiatives that result in tangible benefits for the business.
With the government push on affordable housing, where does the paint category and Berger Paints fit in?
Abhijit Roy: Affordable housing is the need of the hour with the sustained urbanisation that the country is witnessing. Berger Paints has a range of products for use in the construction stage itself, especially in waterproofing, apart from having a range of finishing products like paint. With products in every price segment and a national manufacturing and distribution presence, we are well-placed to support the government’s efforts to make affordable housing available to our citizens.
What are the upcoming trends to look out for in the paints industry? What would be your key focus in the next few years?
Abhijit Roy: We anticipate that there will be many more service innovations from industry as focus on meeting evolving customer needs will grow. And as the pioneers of painting services in the industry, we are no exception. Express Painting™ from Berger Paints was the first service of its kind in India and its relevance has been validated by the numerous me-too services that have cropped up in its wake. We will continue to improve the quality of service-delivery and bring newer innovations to customers.
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