Two major fire breakouts, and now the coronavirus pandemic — how Shalimar Paints is passing the test of time
It takes a lot of effort, courage, and undying determination to build a business empire. There come many instances when an interruption in business takes an entrepreneur many steps back. However, as Winston Churchill once famously said, “Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” A successful business is defined when it surpasses the biggest of the biggest challenges that came on its way.
One such story is of Shalimar Paints. The fire breakout at the manufacturing plants of the company hit the headlines in 2014 when its Howrah plant was under the ashes. And in no less than two years, the heart-wrenching incident happened again in 2016 at its Nasik plant.
“It was a tough time for all of us at the company. The damage was huge, not once, but twice. While we were recovering from the first accident, the second one gave us a downturn,” tells Minal Srivastava, Vice President-Strategy, Growth and Marketing at Shalimar Paints to SMBStory.
Minal Srivastava, Vice President-Growth and Strategy, Shalimar Paints
Shalimar Paints is one of the oldest Indian paint manufacturing brands founded during the pre-independence era in 1902 by AN Turner and AC Wright in Howrah, West Bengal.
In 1928, Pinchin Johnson & Associates of UK bought control from these British entrepreneurs, after which in 1963 Morisson & Co. stepped in as the new management. There’s a long history of Shalimar Paints acquisition to British entrepreneurs. However, in 1989, the company was acquired by the O.P. Jindal Group and the Hong-Kong-based S.S. Jhunjhnuwala Group.
Going by its tagline - Rang Desh Ka
One of Southeast Asia’s biggest paint manufacturing companies, Shalimar Paints is engaged in manufacturing and marketing decorative paints and industrial coatings.
Some of India’s notable buildings and structures such as the Howrah Bridge, Rashtrapati Bhawan, Salt Lake Stadium, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), and many others, continue to be painted with Shalimar Paints. The company has diversified into industrial, as well as decorative categories, recently.
With access to high-end technology, Shalimar Paints has introduced many firsts in the industrial coatings segment. Shalimar was one of the first companies to paint a fighter aircraft for the Indian Army.
Being a trusted brand name among its audience, Shalimar Paints never disappointed in serving its customers, and perhaps which is why even facing the toughest of the tough circumstances, the company surfaced to keep the business running.
“Our production was already suspended in the Howrah plant after it caught fire. We were not able to meet demands. We were gradually recovering when, unfortunately, the fire broke out in the Nasik plant as well. We were at a breaking point. But still, it was the ‘trust’ that people had on us, we came through it.”
Shalimar Paints’ distribution network receded in that period as there was limited production. The company did compromise on its service but maintained its promise to serve in the best way it could.
Minal says that the time was very challenging, but the company had to keep up to the promise of keeping serving even if it meant a little. Every hierarchy went down at each level to assure that the promise doesn’t break.
Shalimar Paints made a strong come back again a year and a half back and recorded a turnover of Rs 367.3 crore in FY 2019. The company has 30+ depots and serves more than 5,000 dealers across India. For greater distribution efficiency and improved customer service, Shalimar Paints has distribution centres catering to the length and breadth of the country.
Differentiating from the competition
The Indian paints industry is worth Rs 50,000 crore. Asian Paints has the highest market share in the industry at 42 percent, says Minal, followed by Berger Paints and Kansai Nerolac Paints at roughly 13-14 percent each. Akzo Nobel India is next with a share of around 10 percent. Shalimar Paints currently has a market share of around five percent.
Talking about the differentiating factor, Minal says the company focusses on basics like strengthening the channel and secondary sales.
“From the early 20th century, the company has been working to create a positive impact on the community and supporting marginalised sections of society. The company aims to bring positive change and improve the quality of people’s lives. Shalimar seeks to undertake positive interventions in the areas of education, health, environment, and community development that have a measurable, long-term impact,” she adds.
Shalimar Paints imports a portion of its raw materials from China, Korea, and Japan, and exports paint to Nepal. However, it has not yet made a major contribution to the export market.
Facing the unprecedented times, yet again
Just when Shalimar Paints started recovering from the losses incurred due to the fire incident, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed it back, with the company facing the severe brunt. During the lockdown, when all the sectors, industries, and businesses are at a halt, Shalimar Paints too, had to stop its production again.
“Last time, we knew we needed money to revive and we raised funding. This time, not only us but no one in the industry knows how the sector would be back in shape again. But yes, we are more nimble now and in a fighter phase. We will wait for things to settle before taking any step forward in the business,” Minal tells SMBStory.
In these tough times, Shalimar Paints has extended a helping hand to the community of painters by setting up a relief fund for the registered painters. It has also donated paint to the SGT Medical College in Gurugram, which has been creating quarantine wards for the coronavirus affected patients.
The way forward
Having created substantial and viable growth plans, Shalimar Paints is now looking at increasing its geographical footprint. However, Minal says that even when the pandemic threat is contained, the company will take its operations slow.
Shalimar Paints plans to expedite the dealer opening process to sustain the current growth trajectory. It also aims to expand its workforce in order to boost secondary sales.