Challenges Propel Me

Shashi-Kant-AgarwalShashi Kant Agarwal is a man on mission – he is constantly looking for opportunities to strengthen the MS Group and its subsidiaries. Starting from textile imports, the MS Group has evolved into one of the largest manufacturing and trading groups, growing manifolds since its inception. Making critical decisions and getting them right is a trade secret that Agarwal has mastered over time. He does not believe in delaying decisions.

Doing business is a passion for Shashi Kant Agarwal, Managing Director of Maliram Shivakumar better known as the MS Group. Though business runs in his veins and often takes centre stage, he believes in striking the right balance between professional and personal life. “Business is my profession. But I would never sabotage my relationships for work. I do business to enjoy life,” says Agarwal.
The aspect of doing business that Agarwal relishes the most are the challenges. He likes to immerse himself in creating opportunities out of seemingly impossible tasks. He enjoys competition and likes to exert himself in pushing his team towards growth. The ability to maintain financial discipline, fulfil commitments to business partners, investors, stakeholders and customers are aspects of success for him.
Agarwal knows that there is no limit to a human beings desire for money. He has ensured that he will never measure happiness and satisfaction with money. He rather believes in developing strong relationships. Nevertheless, he is in business for profit. But the profit has to be gracious. “My mantra is making profit with dignity.Doing business definitely makes money. But, we should not forget our responsibilities,” he opines.

What MS Group does

Agarwal shares that MS group has an organic and sustainable growth. “We are quite happy where we are today. Since the early days of, we have sought venturing into new sectors, and upgradation and modernisation of what we already have,” he says.
The group has its roots in garments and textile imports. They then entered the manufacturing industry with textile manufacturing, steel, sugar and spinning as backward integration. The group at present has big manufacturing names such as Reliance Spinning Mills, Everest Sugar and Chemical Industries, Bhagwati Steel Industries along with a number of factories producing soap, carbide, pipes and metal sheets. Similarly, the group also has a strong presence in the housing sector with Sunrise Apartments and is coming up with luxury hotels under the international brand Marriott.
Hospitality ventures under the group are looked after by the group‘s subsidiary Everest Hospitality Group. Fairfield by Marriott, a four star hotel in Thamel is expected to begin operations from May 2016. Unfortunate events in the country delayed the opening that was earlier planned for early 2016. The hotel is being constructed with an investment of Rs 1.25 billion. Similarly, the flagship Marriott property under construction in Naxal is targeted to offer services from the beginning of 2018. This five star hotel has an investment of Rs 4 billion. These two hotel projects are expected to create employment for 400 to 450 people.
The group is in a constant drive to upgrade technology and the capacity of its factories. Everest sugar had 1700 tonnes of installed capacity when it was established but it now has daily 5000 tonnes of sugarcane crushing capacity. The group upgrades each of its factories every year. Similarly, spinning and steel factories follow the same trend.
MS Group is now establishing a new sugar mill, Himalayan Sugar in Siraha that will produce sulphur and lime free sugar for the first time in Nepal. “We cannot call it organic. To produce organic sugar, sugarcane too should be organic. This is chemical free sugar,” Agarwal clarifies. He says that this sugar is less harmful to health than regular sugar and is only five rupees more expensive. He adds that multinational beverage bottlers, nutraceutical and pharmaceutical companies import this kind of sugar. “Our company will help in import substitution as well as provide an additional choice for consumers,” he hopes. This factory is expected to launch its products by March.

A decentralisation approach

Reliance Spinning Mill, a joint venture of MS Group and Golyan Group is a special case of successful human resource management. Agarwal claims that not a single man-hour has been wasted because of labour strike in this company. The factory has 4000 employees, among them around 1800 are women. The spinning mill operates 24 hours a day for 365 days. “Human resources are managed so well that we have not lost a single man-hour because of labour strikes. It is probably the only such case in Nepal,” he says.
The company has adopted a democratic way of operating the factory. “Trade unions are the right of labourers and we have maintained a very healthy relationship with them,” he shares. Interestingly, the company collects written feedback from all employees every three months. They provide five things they like, five things they don‘t like about the factory and their suggestions for making it better. Agarwal says that their feedback are heard seriously and implemented. “This practice makes employees feel they are the part of the enterprise. It motivates them, makes them responsible as well as accountable. This simple participatory role given to them has created an exemplary environment,” he says. He further adds that labour relations are healthy in all 10 companies under the group. Altogether they employ 5500 people.
Professional managers are handpicked and given responsibilities as well as rights to carry out day-to-day activities. Agarwal only monitors the companies on daily as well as monthly basis depending on the case. Trust is the basic element for Agarwal and he believes that the diversified businesses can only be handled prudently if they are decentralised.

The early days

Agarwal, born and raised in Jhochhen of Kathmandu did not have a indulgent childhood despite coming from a business family. He recalls the days when he went to school either on the school bus or his bicycle. He often wonders why he was kept away from luxury, “I did not know either they could not afford or wanted to keep me away from a posh lifestyle early on,” he shares when he compares the lifestyle of the newer generation of the family.
His family used to import garments and textiles from India.They had a wholesale shop in Jhochhen and young Agarwal used to go there to help. He was 15 when he first started to import garments from Japan, Singapore, Taiwan and Korea. He had already travelled to those countries by then.
The family import business turned towards manufacturing by producing hosiery in 1980. Then, the group expanded its manufacturing industry into textiles, spinning, steel, sugar, and housing and is now diversifying into service sector with two hotels. The group has plans to expand further into the tourism and hospitality business in the near future.

Future

With over four decades of his life committed to the family business, Agarwal now plans to slow down. At 56, he says he will actively engage in business only for another five years. He wants a more backstage role and do other things, “The luxury I need is there. I will probably become more spiritual, travel more and trek more,” he shares.

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