image of Vikram Handa of Epsilon Carbon 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, Vikram Handa, Managing Director at Epsilon Carbon, shares his leadership learnings as well as insights on employee training and development.

“My work philosophy is to be sincere and give my best to the task at hand. I truly believe that if we give any task our best, the result will be positive,” says Vikram Handa, founder of coal tar derivatives and chemical manufacturer Epsilon Carbon.

“When we entered this industry as a new entrant, we were very clear that India has a huge opportunity in the space of coal chemicals. Globally, we see India as a leader in this space in the next 10 to 20 years,” says Handa. He adds, “So from day one, [we are] always looking and aspiring to be a global company; to do an outstanding job in India, but be able to achieve something much bigger on a global platform as well.”

Vikram Handa, Managing Director at Epsilon Carbon, shares his insights
with Anirudh Subramaniam, Associate Director at Michael Page India.

Epsilon Carbon: Powering India with coal tar derivatives and as India’s first manufacturer of lithium-ion battery parts

Established in 2010, Epsilon Carbon manufactures coal tar derivatives and chemicals, such as Aluminium Grade Pitch and Graphite Grade Pitch, serving the aluminium, graphite, tire manufacturing, and infrastructure sectors.

What puts Epsilon Carbon in a unique position is its dedicated source of secured raw materials. And that means the company is able to operate a continuous coal-tar distillation facility, the first in India, processing raw coal tar to the finished product at competitive prices.

The Mumbai-based company has also entered the battery material business with its EV battery plant – the first in India. It manufactures graphite anode materials for Lithium-Ion batteries used to power laptops, mobile phones and electric vehicles. This could very well contribute to India’s Electric Vehicle Policy and its hope to be the world’s top producer of electric vehicles.

“I’m a true believer that India has a huge opportunity. And India has a huge opportunity to do something globally as well on the global platform. So if today, you can build something that is very cost-efficient and really up to world standards, that’s a real formula for success,” says Handa.

Related: 5 interview questions to ask to tell a great candidate from a good one

Navigating challenges and the pandemic

There is no straight path to success. As a business leader, Handa believes that every experience offers new learnings. And some of the key learnings that have helped him overcome challenges include focusing on team-building, being agile and being adaptable to situations that may change at any time.

“Every setback faced is a business risk we experience,” Handa shares. “I would like to particularly highlight an incident that laid a strong foundation for Epsilon today. In 2015, I had set up my unit in Maharashtra but was waiting for the green light from the government to start it. With 300 employees onboard, that year we sustained high losses. Then looking at the situation, we decided to shift our unit premises from Maharashtra to Karnataka as it was far more strategically located for our clients. Though it pushed our work to start for another 24 months, it has made us far stronger and is helping us grow the business in the desired way.”

I see human talent as the biggest challenge to get to where we want to get but also our biggest strength if we can do it correctly

Handa adds that the COVID-19 pandemic has created a huge challenge for his team. He says, “We were all at home, and logistics were completely chaotic. We have very strong long-term contracts with customers and our raw material suppliers, which was a real challenge [to manage from home]. But I think what we managed to do is create a very good schedule in the first week, and [making a commitment to review it daily], and that’s when we really started interacting with our customers. I brought in the plant, marketing, logistics and head office teams to be in front of the customer via Zoom or MS Teams. That brought everybody on the same page within the organisation, and I believe our customers really appreciated that in the past year.”

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

People are crucial to a company’s success

From the business growth seen in 2020 and entry into new segments, Handa is looking forward to a three to four-fold growth in the next five years. He shares, “In the next five years, I see our plant being the biggest single location, carbon black plant in India. And that makes us very cost-efficient and very sustainable in our manufacturing process. We have also entered a new space of breaking anode for lithium-ion batteries. We are currently going to grow that by five times in the next five years easily.”

Success did not come without challenges. Handa explains that when Epsilon Carbon first acquired the continuous vacuum distillation technology from overseas, he did not have an experienced workforce in India to operate it. So he hired people with no experience and trained them on the job.

“My policy was to hire technically strong people who fit the job requirement and then we developed on job training programs for them. It was our responsibility to train them and educate them on the technology. We aimed to hire people with the right attitude,” explains Handa.

Recruiters can provide stronger references, and background checks help in [hiring] Key Management Personnel (KMP)

“In 2020, we hired over 150 people virtually for our newly commissioned Carbon Black unit. That has been very challenging but efficient at the same time. We were able to interview a lot more people virtually and established a structured virtual selection process. Again, our focus remains to hire good people who fit the job requirement and don’t necessarily need particular experience in that field. Sometimes it is good to hire someone with no experience in this industry so that they are like beginners who can learn a lot faster.”

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

Investing in employee training and development

Handa believes that success boils down to human talent—ahead of funds and technology—to take his company to where he envisions. To get his teams up and running, Handa focuses on training and development for his employees.

“We have been spending a lot of time, myself included, doing training development programs, hiring the right people, really identifying talent within the company who can grow with the company and take it to where it has to go. So I see human talent as the biggest challenge to get to where we want to get but also our biggest strength if we can do it correctly.”

He adds, “We have developed various internal and external training programs that focus on technical and behavioural aspects. Also, every new joiner has to go through 10 days of virtual induction programs on the Carbon Black industry. These programmes help them to have a better understanding of the technology. For this, we collaborate with a technical expert in Spain who has spent more than 2,000 hours of training with our new joiners. Last year, we increased the number of safety training programs required for all employees. We have also implemented a Learning Management System in 2021, which is making training more structured for the entire workforce.”

Related: How to manage performance reviews during the COVID-19 pandemic

Benefits of partnering with recruitment firms

With huge teams to hire for and manage, Handa works with recruiters from Michael Page to facilitate the hiring process.

“I think for certain positions, it is good to work with a recruitment agency where the right talent is critical in a leadership role. Also, recruiters can provide stronger references, and background checks help in Key Management Personnel (KMP),” says Handa.

He adds, “Working with Michael Page has been a great experience, and we keep coming back to them to recruit key positions. I think they understand our company requirements very well [before going] about finding the right candidate. Also, they are strong in convincing candidates who are comfortable in big corporations to join Epsilon Carbon.”

Trusted by Promoters across India, work with a recruitment partner that understands your needs as you grow. Get in touch with us, and we can share more on the value Michael Page brings to your organisation.

Read more:
Proudly Local: Harshvardhan Goenka of Laxmi Organic Industries
How employer branding can help your company attract the best talent
The value of mentorship and sponsorship, and what it can do for your company

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