When Rishabh Sethi first joined JWIL Infra Limited in 2018, he helped the company transition from a manufacturing-based mindset to a service company with the ability to handle multiple projects that span hundreds of kilometers in large, scattered areas to put the customer first.
In the last few years, JWIL has reinforced its expertise in drinking water supply, irrigation projects and wastewater management to deliver end-to-end solutions from concept to commissioning.
Within the first three years of joining the company, Sethi helped the company double its revenue and has set it on course to hit a gross turnover of US$200 million by 2024.
Every role I’ve played in the past has helped me get to the point where I can look into the future and anticipate things, and that is what is required in our profession.
From revenue numbers to operational efficiency, Sethi has hit all the right notes in his brief time thus far as JWIL CEO – but that’s no surprise, when you consider his career trajectory.
Before JWIL came knocking, Sethi completed an engineering degree at Northwest University in the United States and held a position as Business Analyst at AT Kearney in various locations including Chicago, New York, Geneva and Mumbai. He later rose to the role of Executive Director at a large, reputable water company, for which he worked for more than a decade.
These were multifunctional roles that switched between finance, HR, IT and on-site management. "Every role I’ve played in the past has helped me get to the point where I can look into the future and anticipate things, and that is what is required in our profession," Sethi says.
More than a natural career progression, what Sethi says drew him to JWIL was the influence of the Jindal Group.
The Jindal difference
JWIL Infra is part of the Jindal Group and focuses on delivering turnkey solutions for water supply and wastewater management. Sethi says having the support and governance of a massive group like Jindal helps JWIL focus on core competencies.
"Jindal Group is our largest supplier for pipes and pipe-related materials, which makes up almost half of our costs per project," Sethi explains. "So being a partner of Jindal Group allows us to take up larger projects and focus on the delivery."
Sethi was also excited to make JWIL an integral part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Jal Jeevan Mission, which envisions providing safe and adequate drinking water to all households by 2024. This not only opened up significant opportunities but also poured investments into the success of the program.
The stress that India faces when it comes to availability and access to water is already alarming. Access to clean drinking water is often challenging. Sethi has determined to address this issue, and he is currently using cutting-edge technology to provide end-to-end solutions.
With the aid of internal engineering and state-of-the-art project management, in the future, JWIL intends to take on high-value projects in India, the Middle East and Africa. To achieve this, JWIL is focusing on innovation and is expanding its skilled workforce to keep up with the breakneck growth rate.
"As an organization, we constantly strive to retain our momentum while expanding at the same time. In the next three-to-six months, we intend to double our current workforce," he says.
All for speed
But the talent crunch is just one of many challenges Sethi must address – the biggest being faster project completion. He says that most companies start projects well but struggle to finish on time and without hassles, with every delay costing money and reputation.
"We as leaders must concentrate on the last mile because that’s where our customers receive the benefit," he states.
As an agile organization with a very young but talented workforce built on fast-paced decision-making and Group corporate governance, JWIL is better positioned to tackle such challenges.
JWIL is making a concerted effort to fortify its relationships with long-term partners that have been with the business for almost a decade. It recently organized a week-long business associate meet, comprising 50 of the largest subcontractors, to exchange ideas about improvement and new possibilities.
Sethi refuses to use the term ‘sub-contractor’ – he believes in partnerships and instead refers to them as ‘business associates’. JWIL has about 30–35 key material and service providers for water treatment plants, pipeline work, overhead tanks, pumping and electric systems separate to the Jindal Group.
We as leaders must concentrate on the last mile because that’s where our customers receive the benefit.
As the CEO, Sethi has the responsibility of the company’s earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization statistic, but he is also aware of the importance of good work. "Change is everywhere, and we are transforming ourselves to take advantage of emerging trends in the industry," he says.
"We have brought in state-of-the-art technologies like Continuous SBR from Korea to India, and we are bringing highly efficient sludge management technologies from Europe, which will help solve the problem of sludge management and disposal in India.
"We are implementing one of the largest projects for bringing 24/7 water to the residents of Delhi with a focus on reduction of non-revenue water."
He says JWIL is not just a business but a team or family that helps each other to rise, making JWIL a great place to work. "As a leader of the organization, I intend to create leaders at all levels who have a vision to take JWIL to greater heights," Sethi concludes.