‘Innovation has kept us ahead of the curve’ - Shaleen, Banswara Syntex

October 07, 2011 - India

The moment you enter Shaleen Toshniwal’s corner cabin, you are struck by the floor to ceiling polished wood paneling adorning the walls and you cannot but miss the photos pasted or hung behind his chair and on the table.

They include a snap of his taking part in the Mumbai Marathon, a photo of the Cricket Club of India (CCI) team of which he will be the captain this season, another of the Toshniwal family and many more. On his desk he has lined up photos of his two daughters.

Meet Shaleen Toshniwal, the 34-year old, executive director of Banswara Syntex –– which notched up revenues of Rs 8.08 billion in 2010-11, up just a shade below 32 percent and profit after tax grew at a blistering pace of around 52 percent in the same period. He is the second son of Mr RL Toshniwal – CMD of the company.

Shaleen manages the garment division of Banswara Syntex, which too has clocked consistent growth rates of 25-30 percent each year since its inception in 2004, and will be an Rs 1.2 billion business by the current fiscal year-end, with plans to more than double it by 2015.

This should not sound impossible considering the scorching growth rates chalked out by the division as well as Banswara Syntex, in the last few years.

Shaleen has been brought up in Mumbai and has studied at GD Somani School in South Mumbai. He did his junior college from HR College and completed his Bachelors in Management from Bentley College in greater Boston area in the US.

Soft-spoken Shaleen is married to Sonal, who has a earned a degree in dentistry and they have two daughters, Esha who is five years old and Diya - eighteen months.

Shaleen is a true cricket fanatic. Right from school till junior college and even now on weekends, he does not miss a good game of cricket. He regularly plays cricket on weekends at CCI, of which he will be captain of the members’ team. Along side he is also conscious of being fit and complements it by religiously doing yoga as well jogs 6-7 kms a day, 3-4 times a week.

When quizzed about family values, he informs, “My family gave us siblings, a lot of space and independence, which however was not misused by any of us. When young, it meant an open and free atmosphere at home. In return, we were only expected to do well in school. Family values also mean respecting elders, following religious traditions and standing up for family and friends as and when needed”.

He respects his father for his raw passion and involvement in the business. He also credits his father for teaching him to draw the maximum value from each rupee spent on the business, or what we would call cost optimization in management terms.

His elder brother Ravi has inspired him to innovate and develop, which he considers the main reason for Banswara Syntex to be ahead of the curve. He gives due credit to his brother for the fabric innovations that have taken place at Banswara Syntex. The potent mix of cost optimization, along with innovation and development has left a lasting impression on Shaleen.

When young, business was regularly discussed at the dinner table. However the scene is different at his own home and he has personally kept a distinction. He does not discuss business while having dinner with wife and children.

Banswara Syntex was incorporated in 1977 and started off as a synthetic dyed yarn producer with around 12,500 spindles. In 1987, they forward integrated in to weaving fabrics and later on into processing of fabrics. Banswara Syntex till date has struck to its core business strength of developing and innovating suiting fabrics only.

At one point of time, revenues were spilt 90:10 between yarns and fabrics. Today it is 40:60 between yarns and (fabrics and garments). This came from a vision to keep on adding value to the yarns that they manufactured.

The company has grown since the early days of 1977 and now operates around 170,000 spindles. The fabric business too has grown to 3.5 million meters per month. Among various varieties of fabrics, poly-viscose blends account for a major chunk of revenues. Banswara also produces wool, poly-wool, silk blends, linen blends etc.

The full end-to-end foray from fibre dyeing to clothing came about in 2004, when they set up a garment unit in Gujarat with just one line (60 stitching machines) to manufacture trousers. Today that figure has surged to 16 lines. Banswara supplies these trousers to well-known domestic branded companies like Madura Garments, Arvind Brands, Benetton and many more. Global retailers include M&S, Next, Tesco, Macys, Mens Warehouse, etc…

Banswara which all along has been well entrenched in the B2B segment, now plans to enter the B2C segment for the first time, with the rollout of a suiting fabric brand – ‘Saintx’ in November 2011.

Shaleen joined the business in 2000 and has been mentored mainly by his father, brother and senior personnel at the plant. While in school, he used to spend summer holidays at the mill in Banswara, so he had a fair idea of the layout of the mill after having spent many summers.

His first assignment was preparing a brochure for the mill. Shaleen says, “This was the best ever orientation I got. I had to do a lot of research and study the various processes to understand the nuances. The best moment for me and our team which developed the brochure came when it received international recognition at a brochure awards ceremony in New York”.

“Along the way, my father, brother, senior personnel in marketing and our current senior President – Mr S Sajjal helped to a great extent, in the mentoring process. My first major responsibility was marketing, wherein I was meeting people from other organisations, attending trade fairs, etc. In 2004, I was given the responsibility for setting up the garment unit, which has fortunately and steadily grown 25-30 percent (y-o-y) in the last few years”.

He is very modest enough not to take credit for any achievement that could be credited to him. “I credit everything to the team at Banswara Syntex”, he reveals.

Explaining the vision for Banswara Syntex for the next few years he informs, “We have been a very conservative company, where growth is concerned. We have not grown quickly nor bought over any companies, nor are we overleveraged as far as finances and operations are concerned. We have grown organically. One key reason for our growth has been our innovative products”.

He adds, “Innovation will continue to be our growth engine in the future too. But at the same time, we will continue to grow in the garmenting division, specifically in trousers and jackets. We also plan to be fashion consultants.”

Elucidating on the term ‘fashion consultant’, he says, “It would be more knowledge sharing, like providing forecasts and design solutions. In all, this would mean, being involved right from the design conceptualization process till the production of clothing. In short - providing end-to-end solutions”.

He is opinion that, there never has been anything like peer pressure or comparisons with anyone. He reveals, “We are all motivated and driven to take the organisation to the next level, which applies to me too. My mission statement is to be fully involved in whatever I do and take it to its highest level”.

Explaining the process of the business, he reveals, “Each development in any stage gets complemented by the department in the next stage. For example, innovations in yarn get transferred to the fabric stage and later in turn to the garmenting division”.

Though he is not involved in the day to day running of the garment business, since they have adept professionals managing those aspects, he prefers to keep an eye on every order, right from receipt to dispatch, to ensure that the buyer is a satisfied customer. According to Shaleen, buyers are becoming more and more demanding with each passing day, which necessitates keeping a keen eye on the orders.

Speaking about the potential of the Indian textile industry, he informs, “There is a massive potential for the Indian textile industry. I have a lot of belief in the creativity of the professionals in the sector. We have a tremendous advantage of manpower, along with easy availability of raw materials. The future looks bright”.

The challenges that he foresees for the Indian textile industry from a micro perspective is that if India focuses on quality, reliability and service, sky is the limit for the Indian textile and clothing industry.

On the subject of corporate social responsibility within Banswara Syntex, he opines, “When there are around 15,000 families directly or indirectly dependent on the organisation, it in itself gives a feeling of social responsibility, since your bigger responsibility becomes the social welfare of these families”.

“However, Banswara Syntex runs an old age home in Lonawala in Maharashtra. Around its plant in Banswara, which is located in a tribal belt; it has planted lots of trees and added to the greenery of the region. Banswara contributes generously to the schools around the plant, since most of the worker’s children study in those schools”.

His mantra for success – “If you are completely involved and look after two main things – quality of your products and provide excellent service to your customers, success is bound to come your way”.

His advice to other second or third generation of textile leaders - “Just immerse yourself in the whole process, without worrying about size or scale. Just excel in whatever you do and focus on the customer”.