image of Harshvardhan Goenka of Laxmi Organic Industries for Michael Page India's Proudly Local initiative

Proudly Local is a series of stories that spotlight Indian promoters who have established a strong footprint in their respective industries both locally and globally. These business leaders, who have worked with us for their recruitment needs, speak with us to share insights on how Indian companies are growing. 

In this feature, Harshvardhan Goenka, Executive Director of Strategy and Business Development at Laxmi Organic Industries, shares his leadership learnings.

At a glance, you may not associate Laxmi Organic Industries with a company that manufactures chemicals. “Today, the word ‘organic’ would [commonly] refer to being chemical-free and not a faction of chemistry,” cites Harshvardhan Goenka, Executive Director of Strategy and Business Development at Laxmi Organic Industries.

Harshvardhan Goenka, Executive Director at Laxmi Organic Industries,
shares his insights with Michael Page India’s Anirudh Subramaniam.

Laxmi Organic Industries: A Leading Chemical Producer

The thing is, ‘organic’ is just what Laxmi is about. Incorporated in 1989, the Mumbai-based Laxmi Organic Industries is a leading manufacturer of ethyl acetate. And ethyl acetate is an organic compound that is both a solvent and diluent, used in paints, varnishes, cleaning mixtures and perfumes.  

Over the last five years, this speciality chemical company has transformed significantly to become a supplier of choice locally and globally, with customers in over 30 countries, including China, Russia, Singapore, the Netherlands, the UAE, the UK and the US.

Related: 8 must-have qualities of an effective leader

With over 30 per cent market share in the Indian ethyl acetate market, Laxmi Organic Industries operate in three key business segments: acetyl intermediates, speciality intermediates and fluoro intermediates. These chemicals are used in pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, dyes and pigments, inks and coatings, paints, printing and packaging, flavours and fragrances, adhesives and other industrial applications.  

On top of that, Laxmi Organic Industries had launched its IPO in March this year. “IPO is part of a company’s journey, one of the milestones we’ve achieved, and it’s laying the foundation for a great path ahead that we’re excited about,” relates Goenka.

Working with People 

Goenka adds that the more significant challenge was in managing people during the pandemic, “How do [we] get a safe environment? How do [we] convince people and their families? [Naturally], their families are going to be telling our employees not to go to work. So how do we convince them?”

“This is where our HR department, our people at the factory, worked really hard, proving themselves, coming out [on their own account] and working, is what enabled us to operate throughout the pandemic and benefit from being one of the few manufacturers who didn’t stop,” Goenka explains.

Managing people is more than having people skills. Goenka finds that the biggest challenge is inspiring the next generation to join the company. As part of the ongoing internal conversation on rebranding, he understands that it is vital to cater to and inspire the next generation.

As business leaders, we tend to put up black-and-white lenses on most of our decisions and showing our vulnerability is almost taboo. However, I learnt that showing one’s vulnerability and empathy is a key leadership factor

“So how do we do that? Brand identity and visual identity is one [aspect]. But it’s more about your internal processes, systems, people management that go along. So it’s a combination of the two. We are in chemicals, and chemicals and manufacturing are not as sexy as a new startup. If I’m fighting for the same resource, how do I get them excited?”  

To look for talent, Goenka opted to reach out to recruitment specialists. “Michael Page was one of the first recruiting agencies we set up a strategic relationship with. I remember starting the conversation by sharing our vision (we hadn’t formally created one yet). Our relationship lead took efforts to understand what we were looking for and position us in a way better than we could,” says Goenka.

He adds that the professional approach, personalised attention and specialisation are the few things that gave him a positive outlook about recruitment firms, and specifically with Michael Page.  Proudly Local India: Click here to get in touch with our recruitment consults for your hiring needs

Related: How does Michael Page attract the best talent for your business?

How Tech Plays A Part 

According to the second-generation business leader, who is the son of Laxmi Organic Industries’ founder, Managing Director and Chairman Ravi Goenka, the success and growth of the company boils down to two factors: technology and scale.

“Since we are in chemicals, technology plays a part to facilitate environmental and safety standards,” explains Goenka. “[Technology] also allows you to achieve scale, given your cost and competitive positions across the value chain.”  

He adds that Laxmi has adopted different manufacturing technologies to manage their business well, from simple modelling tools to more complicated predictive tools. “We are not yet fully there in the evolution cycle, as you might see in other much larger complex organisations, but we recognise the need to move there, especially on the supply chain side,” says Goenka.

[Technology] also allows you to achieve scale, given your cost and competitive positions across the value chain

Aside from getting equipped with the right technology, one could say that Laxmi’s success is also partly a result of the founder’s foresight to be in an industry that serves multiple industries. This is seen during the coronavirus outbreak last year, where Laxmi Organic Industries was allowed to operate despite the pandemic. 

“We are in the value chains where a lot of the pharma products we produce went into fighting the coronavirus. Not only that, basic products, like your painkillers and paracetamol, also require products, along with surgery and several antibiotics once or infections get more complicated. So because of that, we were lucky enough to get legal permission to operate,” Goenka detailed.

Related: Humans of Tech: 2021 hiring trends in APAC for AI, Blockchain and Cybersecurity

On Talent Attraction and Retention

Inspired by a work philosophy quote by angel investor and author Tim Ferriss, ‘Being busy is a form of laziness – lazy thinking and indiscriminate action’. Goenka believes in working smart, being productive, and knowing what to do prioritise.  

As a strategy to attract and retain talent, he believes in fostering an environment that encourages empowerment and self-organisation. He believes in providing adequate training so that employees feel empowered to “run the show”.

Related: The power of employee recognition and how it contributes to business success

For Goenka, promoters would come in with strategies, but employees should run the daily operations. Letting go and trusting your team to fulfil company targets is not an easy task. Still, Goenka knows this is an effective approach, “We’ve been doing this intensively for the last five years, and we’ve never been micro-managers, our employees are professionals, and they help us reach a Rs 1,500 crore topline scale [annually]”.  

“Besides the cliche factors like culture and succession plan when I speak to employees or potential employees; I try to understand if they are passionate about what we were trying to achieve. Most often, if your companies vision strikes a chord with an employee, attraction and retention follow,” Goenka says. 

His advice for young entrepreneurs?

“Be ready for a failure, and don’t be set back by it, as that [would be] the biggest learning one can get.” 

Read more:
How employer branding can help your company attract the best talent
#BecomingTechies: How I became a pioneer cybersecurity strategist in Asia
The value of mentorship and sponsorship, and what it can do for your company

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