Armed with a background in economics and degree in business management (marketing), Ajay Kapur kick-started the formative years of his career — first as hotel operations trainee with the Taj Group of Hotels, learning the nuances of international sales and marketing; and then a stint with Citibank where he picked up a range of skills on consumer and retail banking.
So, when he came on board ACL in 1993, little did he know that he would spend the next couple of decades in a company that would soon become his second home. A company where he would share a symbiotic relationship of growth; one that would recognise his sharp business acumen, strong work ethic and multi-faceted adaptability that would eventually place him at the helm as CEO of ACL — unarguably, the giant among cement companies in India today.
At that time, Ambuja had just one cement plant in Gujarat with a cement capacity of 0.7 million tonnes and plans were afoot to construct another in the state. As Executive Assistant to then MD and promoter, N.S. Sekhsaria meant working closely on corporate strategy, marketing and commercial areas as well as critically analysing and evaluating the demand and supply scenarios. The job required an instinctive good business understanding through which he learnt to look at the big picture and at the same time, deep dive into the minor details of major management issues.
Next, as Head – Marketing & Sales (W&S) for six years, he managed assets across 18 branch offices of the region and effectively launched the ACL brand in Western markets.
After he took over as CEO in 2012, there was a renewed two-pronged focus on OH&S (Occupational Health & Safety) and Sustainability leading to the Company achieving the Sustainability Gold Plus rating from CII and bagging several awards including the prestigious CII Sustainability Award 2012 from President Pranab Mukherjee in January 2013, three National awards for Excellence in Water Management, the FICCI Gold 2012 for Safety Excellence Systems, and National Safety awards from the Labour Ministry.
KEY ATTRIBUTES THAT MAKE HIM A LEADER
- He is a firm believer of people. He strongly believes that if one sets the right environment for the team with a shared vision, it becomes an interesting, enjoyable and exciting journey.
- He can easily change his style depending on circumstance and environment swinging between authoritarian and democratic.
- Ever since he has taken over as CEO, his initiatives have ensured that the market cap has increased by 28% from Rs 232 billion in May 2012 to Rs 294 billion in May 2013.
- After the takeover of Holcim, the company went through a transition from owner-driven to a multinational and thus changes in mindsets and behavior were required. He played a key part in seeing to it that this went on smoothly under his leadership.
- His vision is to create a brand, a business setup that generates real value for its stakeholders and in the process have a lot of fun, excitement and sense of fulfillment.