When Amar Kaul arrived at Ingersoll Rand India Limited in 2011, he did so with knives out. "At that time, the commercial team was quite content. If the order book was full, they wouldn’t accept any more orders," he remembers.
"To me, that’s a problem." The company’s Chair and Managing Director is a problem solver – or as he puts it, more of a problem eliminator: "I like to break big problems into small ones so they’re easier to solve. That one we solved in a couple of months."
Amar’s arrival proved to be an icebreaker for a company he believes had become complacent. "The culture was… I don’t want to say arrogant, but at the time Ingersoll Rand India Limited had such strong brand equity that there was a complacent attitude of, ‘Oh, the customers will come to us.’" It was the antithesis of his own beliefs.
"I believe we should go to the customers and talk about how we can make them happy and successful because my thought process has always been if you make your customer successful, you will be successful," Amar says.
"And that’s what we’re doing now." A decade later, the man who says he was "born on the shop floor" has completely changed the culture of Ingersoll Rand India Limited, and in doing so has prompted the industrial equipment and technology giant to provide a better customer experience than ever before.
The company has developed something of a taste for change. It was one of the first multinational corporations to come to India in 1921 and since then its product portfolio has adapted to changing preferences and now includes single- and two-stage reciprocating compressors, rotary screw compressors, centrifugal air compressors, oil-free and oil-flooded equipment, PET compressed air solutions, and more.
Amar’s career has been similarly fluid. "I’m a hardcore, shop floor, manufacturing-engineering kind of person," he explains.
"By the time I left my previous company to join Ingersoll Rand India Limited, I’d had plenty of hands-on experience, I’d set up new facilities, and acted as Senior Vice President of Operations for multiple plants that reported into me."
Joining Ingersoll Rand India Limited was the fulfilment of a commitment Amar made to himself. "I looked at my career, where I’d been and where I wanted to go, and asked myself, ‘If I want to be a CEO one day, what’s missing?’"
The answer, he discovered, was commercial acumen, particularly close involvement with customers. "If you don’t jump into that at a particular age, you miss the bus. The opportunity to gain that experience is what excited me to jump into Ingersoll Rand India Limited."
Amar hit the ground running, immediately acting to improve the value not just of the company, but also the entire country.
"When we connect with our customers we tell them, ‘Lean on us’. We’re trying to improve their lives. We also talk a lot about the environment and about sustainability. India is a power-hungry country, but even today some villages don’t have power. At Ingersoll Rand India Limited we have a responsibility to think and act like owners, so I’ve advocated a lot of policy changes – particularly environmental – to the government that don’t impact us directly as a company, but are very good for India as a whole."
This kind of ethical leadership has helped Ingersoll Rand India Limited rise to the top of its sector. Amar believes a people-first approach is always a recipe for success.
"You have to start with people first rather than talking about products. We’ve got a motivated, engaged team and when they’re out there, good things happen. When the rubber meets the road, that’s when you find success."
It’s also when, true to his roots, Amar takes the opportunity to engage people in the field. "I need to make sure everybody in the company speaks the same language," he says. "A strong culture is the foundation of a robust and sustainable organisation. If your culture is right, everything will flow from that."
A strong culture is the foundation of a robust and sustainable organisation.
The COVID-19 pandemic afforded Ingersoll Rand India Limited an opportunity to adapt to the harshest conditions it’s ever known. When initial lockdowns came into effect throughout the country, the company continued to invest in R&D; since then, it has launched 15 new innovative products.
"We began the road to recovery by catering to essential services," Amar explains. "We were bold enough to come forward and ask the government for special permission to service customers in the medical, food and beverage, and pharmaceutical industries. At first we had just five people in our Ahmedabad factory, but gradually we worked our way back up to 500-plus."
The lockdowns also afforded Amar the time to assess internal operations and find room for improvement. "Our salespeople and engineers couldn’t go out on the road, so we channelled their energy into how we could improve our offerings to customers. You can’t let time like that go to waste."
It’s not just customers who enjoy a close relationship with Ingersoll Rand India Limited; the company’s network of suppliers is crucial to success. "Our suppliers and channel partners are our entire ecosystem," Amar says.
"Without them we would not be successful, so we stay engaged. We have an annual supplier, as well as channel meet-up where we discuss visions, share success stories and reward our top suppliers and channel partners. If these dots aren’t connected in the same direction, you can never be successful on your own."
For Amar, Ingersoll Rand India Limited has a critical mission that even a global pandemic can’t impede. "Our message for customers and suppliers alike is, ‘Lean on us to help make your life better,’ and that’s our mission. There’s a very high cost of failure in our industry."
With the merger of Ingersoll Rand India Limited and Gardner Denver last year, Amar has now also been tasked with infusing the new company values and philosophies, while being driven by an entrepreneurial spirit and ownership mindset.
"We are committed to keeping community and the planet at the centre of everything, being bold in aspirations while moving forward with humility and integrity, working with a customer-centric approach to make them successful and working as one team by embracing diverse points of views, backgrounds and experiences," he says.
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