The Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor Project (DMIC) is an ongoing industrial development project between Delhi and Mumbai. This project was conceived initially from a thought from the Japanese Ambassador to India about having smart and faster transport of iron ores to India’s ports from its landlocked states. Later it was converted to a well-thought and planned industrial corridor in the western part of India which has better access and a good number of ports.
Launched in pursuance of an agreement between India and Japan in December 2006, the world’s largest infrastructure project, with an estimated investment of $90 billion, is planned as a high-tech industrial zone spread across six states. The investments will be spread across the 1,500-km-long rail transportation project, namely the Western Dedicated Freight Corridor (WDFC), which will serve as the industrial corridor’s transportation backbone.
DMIC includes 24 industrial regions, eight smart cities, two international airports, five power projects, two mass rapid transit systems and two logistical hubs. The eight investment regions proposed to be developed in Phase I of DMIC are DadriNoida-Ghaziabad (in Uttar Pradesh), Manesar-Bawal (in Haryana), KushkhedaBhiwadi-Neemrana and Jodhpur-Pali-Marwar (in Rajasthan PithampurDhar- Mau (in Madhya Pradesh), Dholera Special Investment Region (in Gujarat), and Aurangabad Industrial City (AURIC) and Dighi Port Industrial Area in Maharashtra.
The spread of DMIC is as follows:
- Delhi with 1.5% or 115 km of WDFC;
- Uttar Pradesh with 1.5% or 22 km of WDFC, with one investment region and one industrial area;
- Node-1, i.e., the DadriNoida-Ghaziabad Investment Region and Node no. 2, with Meerut-Muzaffarnagar Industrial Area (MMIA);
- Haryana with 10% or 130 km of WDFC. 66% of the state is within the influence area of DMIC zone with one investment region and two industrial areas, which are Node no.3: Faridabad-Palwal Industrial Area (FPIA), Node no.4: Rewari-Hisar Industrial Area (RHIA) and Node no.6: ManesarBawal Investment Region (MBIR);
- Rajasthan with 39% or 553 km of WDFC. 58% of the state is in the DMIC zone, with two investment regions and three industrial areas – Node no.7: Khushkhera-BhiwadiNeemrana Investment Region (KBNIR), Node no.8: Jaipur-Dausa Industrial Area (JDIA), Node no.9: Ajmer-Kishangarh Investment Region (AKIR), Node no.10: RajsamandBhilwara Industrial Area (RBIA), and Node no.11: Pali-Marwar Industrial Area (JPMIA);
- Gujarat with 565 km, with two investment regions and three industrial areas, namely Node no.12: Dholera Investment Region (DSIR), Node no.13: Vadodara-Ankleshwar Industrial Area (VAIA), Node no.14: BharuchDahej Investment Region (BDIR), Node no.15: SuratNavsari Industrial Area (SNIA), and Node no.16: Valsad-Umbergaon Industrial Area (VUIA);
- Maharashtra with 10% or 150 km of WDFC, and with 18% lying in the influence area of DMIC zone with two investment regions and two industrial areas — Node no.17: DhuleNardhana Investment Region (DNIR), Node no.18: Igatpuri-Nashik-Sinnar Investment Region (INSIR), Node no.19: Pune-Khed Industrial Area (PKIA) and Node no.20: Dighi Industrial Area & Port (DIAP);
- Madhya Pradesh has zero length of the WDFC and 1% of the state is within the influence area of DMIC zone, with two investment regions and two industrial areas, which are Node no. 21: NeemachNayagaon Industrial Area (NNIA), Node no.22: Shajapur-Dewas Industrial Area (SDIA), Node no.23: Ratlam-Nagda Investment Region (RNIR) and Node no.24: Pithampur-DharMhow (Indore) Investment Region (PDMIR).
Conceived as a global manufacturing and trading hub, the project is expected to double employment potential, triple industrial output and quadruple exports from the region. The project is expected to generate 3 million jobs, largely in manufacturing, as per the DMIC website. The labour availability is approximately 50 million in the immediate influence zone and over 250 million across the states where the project will pass through.
In the post-Covid world, the bigger concern of migration from rural to urban areas can be addressed here with the basic concept of DMIC’s command area or impact area. The whole region of DMIC can retain the rural population in its vicinity. People can come, work and get back to their villages by the evening. 24 industrial regions across the 1500 KM of stretch mean one industrial region for every 62.5 KM. From the centre of each node, the nearest industrial region would be connected at a distance of 32 km. This project can set the roadmap to several such projects in the country and address the challenge of congestion and quality of life in the cities.
Dholera SIR in Gujarat and AURIC city in Aurangabad, Maharashtra are the two projects which are already running as per its planned schedule and are ready to host industries from around the world with its world-class infrastructure. Dholera SIR is a huge project, spread over 920 sq km, at a distance of 70 km from Ahmedabad, making it very strategically located. It has its own proposed seaport and international cargo airport. Already, 72 sq km of area in the first phase is ready to welcome industries with plug & play facilities. With all the basic infrastructural facilities like ETP, WTP, STP, electricity, drainage and stormwater clearances already in place, the industries can move in at any point in time. India can offer outbound industries from China, post the CCovid-19 spread, to Dholera SIR. They will be able to start production within six months’ time.
AURIC is located 15 km from Aurangabad and 8 km east of the Aurangabad Airport. It is planned as a new industrial corridor, with the total area of AURIC measuring 84.17 sq km divided into two parts. Part-I consists of 41.42 sq km, which is further divided into two phases. Phase-I covers 8.39 sq km, located north of Jalna Road and adjoining the existing MIDC Shendra Industrial Park. Phase-II includes the remaining area of 32.03 sq km, located near Bidkin.
The 1700 km length of the DMIC has a command area of 5,30,318 sq km and its impact will be upon seven thickly populated states. If the project of the express roads and the industrial cluster is taken up as a priority, we can convert the opportunity to retain the rural population by employing them locally. This will also create a big opportunity for new entrepreneurs from rural areas. Farmers will have better reach to transport their produce to ports, mandis or customers, which will eventually make them richer. The western corridor also has better access to some of the biggest ports in the country like Mundra, Kandla, Hazira, JNPT and Pipavav. The corridor can be a key driver in the emerging export demand for Indian agri-produce which are considered immunity boosters.
The government at the helm is well aware of the fact of the matter and is progressing in new directions to cope with the situation which has emerged from the coronavirus pandemic and its mitigation. The government must work upon this project closely to drive it ahead from its present state as it will boost growth by investing in infrastructure projects which will lead eventually to a better rural-urban model of the economy. This project has the potential to become an expressway for exports for the entire north and central Indian areas if implemented as planned. The lead of this project must be given to a person like E. Sridharan, the “Metro Man”, who can take this project as a challenge to be completed within the next two years. Remember, the next two years will be a deciding factor for India — whether it wishes to become an alternative to China or surrender to it!
The writer is Research Scholar, Sardar Vallabhbhai National Institute of Technology, Surat.
The pandemic damaged cricket quite a bit but thanks to the IPL we are again watching some excellent game: Dave Cameron, former president of the West Indies Cricket Board
In an exclusive conversation with NewsX for its special segment NewsX A-list, Dave Cameron, former president of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) shares with us many insights about his journey, crickets and of course what the sports during pandemic means.
Cameron talks about the assessment of the damage that cricket had to endure because of this pandemic as well as addressed how after six months the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) is a huge plus for cricket lovers. “It’s been tremendous and enormous but interestingly, cricket has weathered better than some other sports. Cricket has been damaged quite a bit but thank God for the IPL we are watching some excellent cricket. And I think it’s excellent because you have the best players in the world to play again” said the former WICB prez.
Cameron mentioned that though he expects to see India and Pakistan find a way to have Pakistani players playing the IPL because they are some of the best in the world. “Cricket has been damaged but England was able to play the National series, New Zealand will too shortly but West Indies haven’t started any since the start of the pandemic so that is damaging their finances and I suspect the same for South Africa and some of the smaller countries.”
Talking about the status quo that cricket has been accustomed to in the last few decades and the kinds of changes, Cameron said, “ What cricket needs more than it is for the governing body to be the governing body and set rules and create opportunities for private investments. IPL is the brainchild of the BCCI and really flourishing because all the private attendees came and found that they can attract because of the resources. They attract the best cricketers around the world.”
Sharing his mantra and proposition Cameron would do if take on the mantle of ICC president, “Cricket must be going quicker around the world and the big countries develop cricket alongside the smaller countries and be able to have their players coaches and make the biggest leagues around the world pretty much. That’s how we’re going to grow. We need to get the United States on board and those who are huge markets and again and on board with private investors.”
Talking about the crucial notion that most of the money that comes into cricket is only from a few countries Cameron addressed that West Indies hasn’t gotten a single dollar for the particular tournaments mentioned and his plan to change that, he said “Well, I don’t think things can change overnight, it will continue to come from the big countries from the big economies. For example, Europe, you know, can contribute to our coffers. The United States is a massive contributor to those tournaments. I’m not advocating, but I believe these other tournaments in Europe are never going to smaller countries. The west is producing the kind of income simply because of the size of their economy. We should be able to see cricket, and not be paying massive retainers or international players. But I don’t. So it is something that the board needs to sit down. It’s not something I can walk in there and get done overnight. Discussions should grow to this point”
Responding to how he would tackle allegations about Test cricket being sacrificed at the altar of T2. “That is not anybody’s doing. It’s Generation Z who don’t want to take five days to consume the game but it is what the demand has been. And as a result, T20s has flourished. Now again, I believe there are certain countries’ geographies and they should just continue to play tests. England, Australia, India, Bangladesh can play and West Indies too can play. But a test match in the West Indies is a dead robot. There are not enough revenues, advertising sponsorships behind it to make this” said Cameroon.
On a concluding note, Cameron talks about West Indian cricket planning to foresee the revival as everybody wants to see the resurgence of the great 70s and 80s when it comes to the West Indies team. “ To be frank we continue to see great players now playing. This year, Andre Russell was a T20 Player of the Year. But for the West Indies is itself to be the world no 1 it’s going to require resources. I believe if we change the format as I’m suggesting and teams such as West Indies have a chance of winning the World Cup if we can put together the right mindset that says squat but conquering the world 25 years ago, I don’t just I don’t see it happening. However, if we don’t change the economics in world cricket, West Indies cricket will roll by the wayside. They have made some steps towards achieving some kind of unison in the region and I want the government to come forward and give the necessary resources otherwise they’re not going to survive.”
During the pandemic there is rising consciousness towards one’s health and immunity which wasn’t seen earlier: Sushil Khaitan, CEO & Director, Purenutrition.in
In an exclusive conversation with NewsX for its special segment NewsX A-list, Sushil Khaitan, CEO & Director, Purenutrition.in shares with us his experiences and insights in wellness and health as well as working as a seasoned entrepreneur in the manufacturing and marketing industry for over 30 years.
Known for his penchant for health and wellness, Khaitan talks about his popular nutraceutical brand, Pure Nutrition which focuses on the belief that good health and optimal wellness is everyone’s right. “Because of the pesticides and different types of chemicals being used for rapid growth for both vegetables, the nutrients of the product go down. So in order to replenish the ideal human body, we come up with these nutrition supplements” said Khaitan.
Sharing with us the basic mantra of nutraceutical, Khaitan explains, “These supplements are made with very high power bioavailable plant-based extract, which is done by an extraction process, wherein the ingredients are magnified with a very high level. So the bioavailability and the efficacy of the human body tend to work very high once we start consuming these supplements, and that replenishes those nutrient deficiencies. It is not medicine.”
Khaitan addresses the major issue of people’s perception about supplements, “First of all doctors do not really prescribe nutraceuticals, because they have been taught pharma and they are who pledges to do. So then they always get into medicines. But during the last three to five years, doctors across the world have realised that it is because of the nutrition efficiencies that the body’s resistant power to fight diseases has gone down, so they are also now realising the importance of nutraceutical. And I was surprised that many of the doctors in India now have started prescribing that people should also take supplements.”
Speaking on the importance of how during the pandemic people’s perceptions are changing towards food and immunity and for good reason. Khaitan said “People are scared with the looming fear of catching the virus and the second issue is coming about immunity. That word has been banging so much it has gone up in nominal search worldwide. They’re now even realizing the importance of immunity to fight the virus.”
Sharing with us how Pure Nutrition differentiates from other brands and USP for this brand in particular, Khaitan explains “We are natural and all our formulations are plant-based including multi-ingredients formulations. Along with that, we follow the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) at the highest level. Hence it increases the efficacy and efficiency of the product.” “Considering we follow multi-ingredient formulations where we add, close to seven to eight, or minimum ten sometimes in each formulation. It is a mixture of Ayurveda, herbs and vitamins which increases the bioavailability and efficacy in the body” added Khaitan.
Talking about the clienteles his brand has received during the pandemic and the return rate of clients, Khaitan elaborated “50% is a repeat customer online, and that we have been following it for the last since the company was formed in 2016. We have seen that customers who are loyal to our brand and have enjoyed the benefits of our products have never left us. Their world of mouth around India and also with families and friends, relatives, give a lot of impetus to our optics in terms of the repeated customers are concerned.
Secondly, during this particular situation we have people coming in both online and offline especially the younger generation, the millennials as well as Gen Z have started becoming very conscious as to what they eat, how they exercise and how they live their life, what type of supplement they should take.”
On a concluding note, Khaitan stresses the particular old saying Health is wealth and tells us about the rising consciousness towards one’s health. “Suddenly we have seen a big change in the last six months which wasn’t so earlier especially in youngsters and people leading sedentary lifestyles.”
NEEDED, ENQUIRY-BASED LEARNING WITH STRONG R&D: RASHID SHARFUDDIN
In a conversation with NewsX, Rashid Sharfuddin, Headmaster of Selaqui International School, talks about providing quality education amid Covid-19.
Rashid Sharfuddin, Headmaster of one of the well-known schools in Uttarakhand, Selaqui International School, has written a paper, ‘Marginalised communities and educational exclusion in North India’. Under his leadership, Selaqui International School has been providing cogent education to students. Now amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the school is way ahead with new ideas and technologies and continues to provide quality education to its students.
When asked about the ways in which the school has been dealing with the pandemic, Rashid said, “We have always been very particular about using blended technology in our classrooms. It has been part of our education for the last 20 years. And it was much easier for us to shift to what we call the online mode. But the biggest challenge was to get the kids back home well in time, and that all happened very smoothly.”
Selaqui International School has a reputation for providing excellent results. Speaking about what mediums they adopt for excellent outcomes, Rashid Sharfuddin said, “We take academics very seriously. In fact, it’s a myth that boarding schools do not pay as much attention as other schools. And this fallacy has been strengthened over the years without realising that these schools’ results are actually not only of the schools, but also of a web of support system that has created at home tuitions. I think that it is important to realise this. But in boarding schools, we have to provide that support within the school. And we were quite quick to realise this. In the last three years, we have been debunking this myth that we can’t do well in academics as results in Dehradun have been among the best, if not the best. In fact, the last three years we have been doing extremely well.”
Rashid asserted, “Our batting average is almost 92 percent. And this is quite an interesting figure. The college placements have been improving over the years because we believe that not just the result we look at, we look at student till the time they finish college. That’s an interesting phenomenon that we have been marking and keeping track of. And, of course, it is possible because of sustained effort by colleagues, by students. We map everyone’s progress in a school in a month.”
He added that the school has redesigned the curriculum to focus on enquiry-based learning with research and technology as a strong component. On asked about the school’s philosophy, he said, “We look at sports, music, art as an essential part of the educational process and not a side dish. We are a small school with just about 300 students, but a really expansive campus with all facilities required for the development of a child.”
“It’s important that the school is able to provide the kind of support a child needs in his or her growing years. At the heart of syllabify education is excellence, happiness and nurturing of human values, is what we do as it feeds on these three philosophies,” he added.
It is important to mention that his school has adopted five schools around Selaqui where it engages in teaching, designing lesson plans with the teachers, helps in the use of technology, and building infrastructure. It also runs a school on campus for children of adjoining areas, children who are come from the working groups. This all managed by children. Rashid points out that every child is expected to spend three days in a village studying and supporting the economy and connecting with locals, and working in the field of soil conservation, water conservation, among others.
On the issue of school reopening amid Covid-19, he said that with proper social distancing, and taking full precautionary measures, schools can open. He also mentioned that boarding school should be among the first ones to open.
Finally, extending his support to the National Education Policy, Rashid asserted, “National Education Policy is a step in the right direction, but I also believe that the major concern is the implementation of the policies. I am excited that the policy talks about competency-based testing, no rigid separation of classes, etc. But the problem will remain unless we do not get young teachers in the sector.”
WE HAVE GIVEN LOANS TO OVER A CRORE WOMEN: PADMAJA REDDY
In an interview with NewsX, Padmaja Reddy, founder & MD of Spandana Sphoorty Financial Limited, shares her incredible journey in microfinance and working experiences especially focused at low-income women.
Establishing herself as a first-generation entrepreneur, Padmaja Reddy started her microfinance organisation, Spandana, after searching for a scalable, viable, sustainable model of social development.
While working with her past organisation, Reddy happened to meet a rag picker, which changed her direction. “After my post-graduation in management, I worked in an NGO as a deputy-director and later, in 1998, started Spandana. In my past office, I had a chance interaction with a rag picker, where she narrated her ordeals. I had asked her about the business, and she said that business is very diminutive because people do not understand the value of this scrap,” says Reddy.
“She earned Rs 60 per day and told me that, by evening, she was left with only Rs 20. On asking what happened to the remaining Rs 40, she said that she was using a pushcart and paying a rent of Rs 10 for it. When asked about how long she had been doing this business for, the woman said that she had started it when she was 12 years old and had been doing it for the past 14 years. She had paid over Rs 40,000 as rent for the cart that would have cost Rs 1,500 had she bought the same. She had also said that she had been borrowing Rs 270 every day and paying back Rs 300 on the same day to the moneylender and that she was obligated to sell the scrap to him at a price lower than the market price.”
Reddy says, on hearing about the rag picker’s miseries and losses, “I enquired on whether she would be able to repay the loan in case she is given a loan. Upon assurance from her, a loan of Rs 2,000 was given from the NGO.” Reddy says that the news about that loan spread like wildfire. “After two days, about 300 women came to the NGO office to request for a loan. They were promising that they could repay the loan without any default and wanted relief from the clutches of greedy moneylenders.”
“After seeing this demand, and convinced by the impact that this small loan could create on a rag picker’s livelihood, I decided to scale up and extend support to other such women who are being exploited by moneylenders and struggling to make both ends meet. As I could not scale up in that organization, I quit and started Spandana in 1998,” says Reddy.
Reddy also speaks about the work insights into the livelihoods of the poor and an insatiable appetite for sustainable market-linked solutions. “That was the first time I came to know about microfinance organizations like Grameen Bank. We started giving loans to poor women who cannot receive a loan from the banks. Banks ask for collateral on their payments, but the women don’t have any collateral, they don’t live in a house, they live in a small factory. And again, banks cannot just give up these small loans.” Reddy explains, “We operate in that particular segment, among low-income women, where we organize them into small groups and they give a guarantee to each other and we grant them loans.”
On building the largest microfinance institution in India and the 6th largest across the globe, Reddy shares how her education also helped her in this journey. “I did my post-graduation in Business Administration and, subsequently, a number of diplomas from different countries. I did a project management course in Berlin and pursued various training programs on microfinance. I did a course on Microfinance at Naropa University, USA, Credit and Micro Enterprise Development Training from Durham University Business School, UK Market Research for Microfinance in Uganda and a Masters from Harvard Business School.” All these different courses helped Reddy understand how microfinance organizations across the globe are functioning and helped her establish her own empire, while providing a sustainable model for low-income women.
After all these years of making a positive impact on the lives of many women entrepreneurs, Reddy tells us about how much work still remains. “We have given loans to over one crore women in the last 22 years and cumulatively dispersed about Rs 50,000 crores. However, India is so large that we have 130 crore people in terms of households and there are over 25 crore households.
Microfinance organizations together are able to reach out to only 50% of the low-income women and households. So, the other 50% is still left,” says Reddy.
On a concluding note, Reddy stresses on her future goal and says, “Presently, we are operating only in 18 states and 280 districts. But there are 90,000 villages and hence there is still a lot to be done to improve the socio-economic status of the millions of poor families in India.”
FROM CIVIL ENGINEER TO AWARD-WINNING LITERARY WRITER
In an exclusive conversation with NewsX, author Sabarna Roy shares stories about his literary career and how he became an author.
Sabarna Roy started writing from an early age. “I wrote poems in English and Bengali during my university years between 1984 and 1988,” he shares. “In 1986, my first book, which was an anthology of English poems, titled Pain, was published and it created a stir in the student community of Kolkata. At the end of 1988, I joined the corporate sector and wrote on and off between 2000 and 2005 and was an oral storyteller,” he says.
Roy talks about the turning point in July 2007, when he felt that, if he did not write, he might not be able to survive. That was when he started writing seriously. Roy’s first book, Pentacles, was published in 2010. Talking about how he found his roots in literature and writing, Roy says that since early childhood, he had been interested in interdisciplinary learning. “My engineering studies did not stop me from reading literature, history or other social sciences or to juggle between the two professions of a senior engineering professional and an author seamlessly. If you have the right kind of passion, you will find the time. Otherwise, you won’t,” he says.
Speaking about his literary feats and published works, Roy says, “I have six literary works, till date. They have been critically acclaimed and bestsellers at some point in time,” adding that, “I mostly write about love, loss, happiness, defeat, surrounding my city of Calcutta, or Kolkata, in the time span between the 1970s and the present. In this city, one can find the universal themes that cities all across the globe are concerned with because of aggressive modern urbanization.”
Many critics while appreciating his work have said that there are many layers in his writing and that Roy captures human emotions and behaviour very realistically. Talking about his writings and their themes, Roy elaborates on the many issues that any individual might be facing at the moment.
“The underlying theme of my writing is how an individual is being pushed to an order in this rapid hyper-modernization and hyper-consumerism. Apart from human and societal decay, I also write about ecological and environmental degradation very passionately,” he says. Sabarna Roy has also published a technical book, Articles on Ductile Iron Pipelines and Framework Agreement Contracting Methodology, where he has attempted to elaborate on various issues in irrigation application.
To his credit, Roy is also a renowned international speaker on matters of ecology and environmental issues. “I must say that I’m a strong believer in the fact that the havoc and mass destruction that has been unleashed on the ecology and environment by humankind in the last 250 years has not happened in the preceding 5,000 years of existence. It is time to wake up. Climate change is for real. I’m a strong believer in the Paris climate accord. It is incumbent on all of us as individuals, communities or nations, to incrementally de-escalate our carbon footprint and speak on the subjects passionately.”
Sabarna Roy was awarded the Literoma Laureate Award for fiction in 2019 and the Literoma Star Achiever Award for 2020. He also tells us about his upcoming book. “I’m presently writing a book on the pandemic and I wish to publish this book around the spring of 2021. This is a book on the human story during the pandemic, as I have seen it,” says Roy.
DIVERSIFICATION IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS IN BUSINESS: RAO
Animesh Singh Rao, the co-founder of RR Group, which began with the packaging business model and soon diversified to other verticals, including hospitality and lifestyle, speaks to The Daily Guardian about the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on Indian economy.
Animesh Singh Rao and Hitesh Rao co-founded the RR Group, which began with the packaging business model and soon diversified to other verticals, including hospitality and lifestyle. While Hitesh is known for driving the company’s growth, Animesh is the calculated risk taker with deep investment knowledge, and has led the diversification into multiple industries. Animesh speaks to The Daily Guardian about the effects of the pandemic on multi-faceted Indian businesses like RR Consulting.
Q. Please tell us about the journey of RR Consulting from its inception.
A. Started by a group of pioneers, visionaries, designers, artists, engineers, and business managers in the year 2004, with the aim of giving their clients new and innovative packaging ideas, RR Consulting is the one-stop-shop for all packaging needs related to any kind of business or service.
Since its inception, RR Consulting has been fortunate to entertain some of the finest clients, who enthusiastically supported the company’s growth at an energetic pace. The underlying foundation of our group had always been to grow and over time, RR Consulting expanded to include different industries under its main umbrella, such as hospitality, pharmaceuticals, fashion, education, IT, personal care, liquor and more. Our clients include The Taj Group of Hotels, Foodhall, Vistara, Maruti Suzuki, Haldiram’s and SBI, among a host of others.
Expansion and growth also led to numerous difficulties, which I firmly believe have only helped us grow and mature into a position of providing unique solutions to aid our customers, whilst complying with tight deadlines. One thing that has kept the company going strong has been the confidence that our customers have shown in us.
Q. When and how did RR group diversify to hospitality, beauty and other verticals?
A. Diversification was always on the cards — it was just about deciding the right time and having the right amount of cash flow. In 2018, the company started its journey of expansion, with a range of salons that have been doing well, and we intend to expand in this space soon.
As far as hospitality is concerned, it comes from a very special place in our hearts — operating quirky and eccentric restaurants and hotels has always been a dream, and The House of Celeste was our first step in achieving this dream. In times to come, I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about us in this domain. We have it all mapped out and we are just raring to go!
Q. Is diversification of business models the secret to long-term and sustained success?
A. Yes, I believe so! If it weren’t for diversification, the pandemic would have been even more difficult for us than it already was. In our opinion, diversity is a necessity to avoid redundancy. Heterogeneity, more often than not, stimulates, inspires and drives one to survive. Further, diverse businesses help each other grow by increasing one’s reach and clientele. It helps us cross-promote amongst our products and companies.
Q. How has the pandemic affected your businesses?
A. Our strategy amidst the pandemic was one of survival; however, we witnessed an unexpected growth from the packaging industry because of promptly shifting our efforts to focus on clients who were providing essential items during the lockdown. The trick was to look at the market from a consumer’s perspective and drive the focus of the business in that direction. The packaging industry in India has been growing rapidly since 2016, with an approximate CAGR of over 15% during this period. It is expected to reach $84 Billion by 2022, which is still dwarfed in comparison to most Western countries.
Although Covid has derailed prospective economic growth, some industries have been only nominally affected during this period, such as the pharma industry, as well as some FMCG sectors. In my view, the pandemic will lead to an opportunistic impact in the longer run, as the demand for packaged products is only going to grow from this point onward, given that 95% household items sold in India are unpackaged.
As far as other industries are concerned, 2020 has been a trying time and it would be very difficult for us to comment on what our future will look like. Our hospitality business had great expectations from 2020, with plans to expand by opening 2 more restaurants as well as a hotel; however, these plans were disrupted. Until the markets stabilise, we are going to be steering clear of this.
Q. For a multi-faceted business like yours, has it been easier to get back on your feet by restructuring or re-focusing on certain verticals over others?
A. It has been an arduous and demanding effort to scrap all plans for 2020 and develop new ones to suit the situation. We were lucky to have realised early on, the scale of what was happening and were able to move quickly and do something about it. Now we are RR 2.0 — restructured, fearless and ready to take on anything.
Q. Where is the future of the packaging industry headed, now that everything is digital?
A.The demand for packaging has grown faster than India’s economy. While the trend is not going to change, the pattern of buying will observe drastic changes over the next few years. Today most smaller companies source materials from local vendors at a premium, due to lack of proper knowledge or purchase power. With Jio reorganising the Internet landscape by ensuring India has the second highest number of Internet users, I hope to see everyone educated so they may not be trifled with, the way they are today. At RR Consulting, we are working to create a marketplace model to acquire the maximum number of SKUs under our belt, in order to increase the traction necessary to operate a digital business.
The interviewer is a lifestyle columnist and blogger at www.nooranandchawla.com. She can be found on Instagram @nooranandchawla.
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