Umesh Anand, Joint Managing Director at HPL Additives Limited – India’s Transformational Leader 2019
I feel what is important is to lead with compassion. This does not compromise a good leader but rather strengthens him and makes him more effective.
What has influenced your decision making process at various stages?
Over the years my decision-making has been guided by the following factors:
- Is this in line with the mission and vision of the company?
- Will this be sustainable environmentally, improve and maintain a safe and healthy environment for the workforce, and be able to compete in the ever-changing global market?
A project or an accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career?
In 1999, there was an accident at one of our chemical plants and it was completely burnt down. Before the accident it had a capacity of 600 MTA. This was a huge setback for the company as money had been invested by a PE fund for this plant. I took it upon myself to move my office to the site and ensure that I drove the rebuilding of the plant with an increased capacity of 2500 MTA in a record 6 months. The challenge was not the rebuilding. It was the fact that without any formal technical education in either chemistry or engineering I was able to lead a team and get them to build a plant that was better in all respects- quality, safety, environment impact and efficiency.
How do you integrate corporate philanthropy or corporate social responsibility as a part of your business strategies?
I feel what is important is to lead with compassion. This does not compromise a good leader but rather strengthens him and makes him more effective. People see CSR as a cost; I see it as an investment for the future not just from a philanthropic point of view but an effort and step in Nation building, in providing facilities and opportunities to improve current conditions in society and also prepare future generations to contribute towards the nation at large. This will obviously have an impact on the sustainability of corporates in many ways, going forward.
What has been your driving force or philosophy in life?
My philosophy has been – Do it right and do it well, or don’t bother doing it. There are no half measures and one must be passionate about everything one does, be it work, a hobby or relationships.
What are the other philanthropic works you are involved in?
At a corporate level – we have CSR budgets that are deployed in various initiatives such as skill development in neighboring villages, education, community development, holding medical camps in neighboring villages, financing pathology and diagnostic center for the underprivileged.
At a personal level I organize and fund an annual event that raises funds that are used towards providing treatment to underprivileged cancer patients. Besides this I am engaged in a number of initiatives that contribute to the rehabilitation of animals (mainly dogs), sponsoring education for a number of underprivileged girls, and regular charity through various NGO’s for education and child development.
How do you define success and how do you measure up to your own definition?
The global barometer for success is financial, I guess. While that be as it may, I believe that the more important measure of success is non-financial. It is ‘How have I made a difference to the lives of the people, around me, the environment and to humanity at large’ and to quote the title of one of my favorite books by Robin Sharma “Who will cry when you die?” I think that people who are privileged and have resources at their disposal should ‘make a difference’ and not just EXIST.
- We are constantly making things better, faster, smarter or less expensive. In other words, we strive to do more with less. Tell me about a recent project or solution to a problem that you have made better, faster, smarter or less expensive?
Are we really trying to do more with less? I feel the truth is contrarian to that- we are doing a lot less with a lot more at our disposal. Yes, technology is empowering and one of the latest projects I initiated was the hooking up of all our plant sites and offices through video conferencing. We have 4 manufacturing sites, 2 in remote locations; one corporate office and three branch offices. Travelling to each location to review the operations or interact with the team was very time consuming. Inter site communication was also only though email and in some cases faceless. Video-conferencing brought people together, improved time management, brought about discipline and regular interaction improved decision-making and reduced response time.
However, even though this improved efficiency significantly, I also feel there is no substitute for human physical contact and interaction.
Today technology has shrunk the world but it has also eroded certain values and pleasures in society at some level too. It’s not always about faster, quicker and less expensive in my opinion.
In your opinion what is the most significant aspect of leadership?
The most important aspect of leadership is to create more leaders. A good leader must ensure that he is dispensable at all levels. One must show the way, lead from the front and then take a back seat and let leaders evolve. You will be surprised at how people behave and perform when they feel empowered? They have hope and see themselves as part of a bigger cause. Often leadership is confused with Manager-ship – all good managers don’t necessarily make good leaders. Lead with compassion, lead with a clear vision, lead with integrity and lead fearlessly but never take the credit away from the team.
Your perception of an empowered society. How far your industry has / can contribute for the same?
Today globalization, wealth generation, and information technology has empowered society to a very high degree. We have resources at our disposal that were not available to us 50 years ago. However, in some case this empowerment has been misused to cause more damage to the environment and the world around us.
I think as responsible corporate citizen we need to arrest the downslide, we need to ensure that we leave behind a planet better than what we inherited from our parents -especially being part of the Chemical industry, that’s even more relevant and important. The industry needs to be more committed to the environment and invest hugely in sustainable development that do not cause harm to the environment.
One thing you wish to change and one thing you wish to retain about your industry?
The one thing I would want to change is the way the industry sees the environment, the level of apathy and disregard for the environment and the future of the planet. The one thing I would like to retain is the entrepreneurial nature of some of the emerging corporates, where they have set up world scale plants to compete with the best in the business and companies, significantly larger and with global presence. The chemical industry has to face challenges at a global level from multibillion-dollar companies. The number of regulations that need to be followed for environmental and occupational safety compounds this. It is the sheer vision, and entrepreneurial spirit of the Indian companies that have put them on the world map and I would like to see that grow.
One thing you have to let go off as an entrepreneur/leader?
I think I need to let go of my biases about competition and the work ethic prevalent in China. I have always overlooked the significance of the Chinese presence and sometimes written them off as an opportunistic and artificially inflated economy. Over the years they have demonstrated tremendous resilience and determination and built a huge and very powerful economy and global presence, and this will only grow. I think I should get over the skepticism with which I have seen them so far and prepare myself and the corporation to take on the challenges they will pose in the years to come.
Whom do you owe your success to?
I don’t think it would be fair for me to say that I owe my success to any one person for a number of people have been instrumental in my development and the shaping of mind over the years.
From one of my earlier bosses (Mr. Harpal Duggal) when I was working for a multinational bank, I learnt the methodology and merits of a systematic and process driven approach towards managing a business and its complexities.
From an associate in Italy (Dr. Roberto Fassi) who I grew very close to and spent a lot of time professionally as well as personally, I learnt how to value relationships and to be compassionate.
From the Founder Chairman of HPL additives (Mr. Harcharan Singh who is like a father to me) I learnt how important tight financial control was for the success of an organization.
From my Father (Major K C Anand) I learnt the invaluable lesson of how nothing came before Integrity and Honesty and to be truly successful in life they should never be compromised.
From my mother (Late Mrs. Namita Anand) I learnt how important it was to forgive and move on and not let the baggage weigh you down or deter you in pursuing your goals.
Best thing about your job?
The freedom to dream, and the empowerment to chase the dream.
A message from you to all the future entrepreneurs/leaders?
Dream big, aim high, and then persevere to go after your dreams. Live with compassion, think with fairness, and act with wisdom.
Umesh Anand, Joint Managing Director at HPL Additives Limited – India’s Transformational Leader 2019
‘A great leader’s courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position’ – John Maxwell succinctly describes for us what great leaders are made up of? Putting it in simple words, a great leader is someone who has the capability to dream the undreamt, achieve the unachieved and inspire others to follow suit. And Mr. Umesh Anand best exemplifies the definition of a great leader in every spirit!
Umesh Anand is the Joint Managing Director at HPL Additives Limited, a leading polymer additives manufacturing organisation in the world. Prior to joining HPL in 1996, he worked with Citibank for three years. He is an alumnus of Modern School, Vasant Vihar, New Delhi post which he attained his Bachelor’s degree in Commerce from the University of Delhi and Masters in Business Administration from the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia.
Umesh has played a pivotal role in taking HPL Additives beyond the horizons. Since joining the Board of Directors in 1996, he has been instrumental in pioneering a 360 degree approach to make the organisation evolve from a domestic player to a key international name in its domain. Umesh, with his innovative marketing strategies catapulted HPL Additives to be a highly reputed and trusted manufacturer of polymer additives at global level. In 2009, he was responsible for the complete re-positioning and branding of the company.
However, his true forte remains in strategizing and orchestrating the growth of HPL Additives – increased market share, reach and customer base. To sustain and ensure this growth, he assumed the overall strategic and executive responsibility of the organisation, which broadly includes Strategic Planning & Controlling of all departments, supply chain, R&D Investments, company-wide projects and expansions.
His sustained efforts enabled the company to expand its manufacturing capacity in record time some time back through re-engineering processes. In fact, currently too, he is at the forefront of the organization’s ambitious expansion plan for existing product line as well as introduction of new products which will complement its existing product range of polymer additives. The organisation is also in the process to commence manufacturing of Antioxidants One Pack formulation by May 2019.
A true environmentalist, Umesh brought in world class technology for Totally Degradable Plastic Additive for the first time in India – HIGRENTM OBA – a product that would reduce the harmful impacts of plastic pollution. The revolutionary HIGRENTM OBA additive accelerates the biodegradation of plastics within a controlled time frame, leaving behind no harmful residues in the environment.
A hands-on leader and a mentor for systemic approach for all processes, he is accredited with the implementation of the ERP platform within the organisation. This platform has allowed the entire organisation to be linked in real-time bringing about an extraordinary level of efficiency and effectiveness to the organisation. He has also assumed the role of an Internal Auditor, often making routine inspections throughout the offices and plants.
Moreover, being a finance student at heart, Mr. Anand has ensured that the company has never seen a loss making year, even when the market prospects for profits and growth reduced substantially due to Chinese competition and influence.
Lastly, he was a member of the Governing Council of FITT (Foundation of Innovation & Technology Transfer, IIT, Delhi) from 2008 to 2010. Besides his influence in the Indian plastics market, he has never failed to make HPL’s presence felt in seminars and exhibitions worldwide like the K Show, Dusseldorf.
Not many know that Mr. Anand is also an avid wildlife photographer with a vast collection of breathtaking photographs. A frequent traveler, Mr. Anand often juggles between his busy meeting schedules and his business travels to spend some ‘me’ time amidst the wilderness to capture the best of Nature in frames.