Shamik Basuray admits he was excited when given the opportunity to join Orica India three years ago as Managing Director. Not just because the global chemicals and explosives group boasted a global footprint in an innovative environment where world-leading technology and solutions were constantly being explored, and with a proven track record in improving customers’ productivity.
Nor was it because of the extraordinary values the company shared, although he happily admits they were strong determining factors. It was more a case of Shamik sensing the potential for even further development in areas where he could add value, using skills he’s honed in multiple areas of business over more than two decades.
It was still rather a huge call considering Orica was already established as a world leader in the mining and civil services industries. But Shamik saw straight away that more value could be added, primarily in working with Orica’s people: its customers and employees.
"I saw the potential to increase engagement of our employees in collectively shaping the future that the organisation has envisaged," he explains.
"I want Orica to be a very exciting place for people to work, for them to want to come here and be fully engaged. I saw the same potential for our customers, taking their engagement to another level where they regard us more as a strategic partner than just a vendor. I want Orica India to become the benchmark for operational excellence and the preferred partner for our customers. But there was also a personal element affecting my decision. From a professional perspective, I recognised there was huge capacity for me to learn a lot and grow as an individual."
Founded in 1874 as a supplier to the Victorian gold fields during Australia’s gold rush, Orica has used its 146 years of experience to become the world’s leading and largest provider of commercial explosives and innovative blasting systems to the mining, quarrying, agricultural, oil and gas and construction markets.
It’s also a leading supplier of sodium cyanide for gold extraction and a specialist provider of ground support services in mining and tunnelling.
Headquartered in Melbourne, with Shamik’s office located in Kolkata, Orica employs more than 12,000 globally, serving customers in over 100 countries at 400 sites spanning Europe, Australia, Africa, Canada, the US, the UAE, Asia and South America.
Revenue last year jumped 9% to A$5.8 billion (US$3.6 billion), turning around a A$48 million (US$30 million) loss from the year before. The company also recorded a zero fatality rate throughout its global operations, as it did in 2018, a statistic Shamik says the company is determined to uphold with the implementation of rigorous controls and compliance measures.
"Our number one priority is always safety," he reflects. "It’s across everything we do; every behaviour and every decision made within India and globally is based on this. We want every employee to come back home every day in just the way they went off to work in the morning.
"That’s quite a profound statement actually, and it revolves around multiple things: the controls and systems we follow, how we manage those risks, how we are proactive versus reactive, and how we demonstrate these behaviours every day, every instant. It’s also something that personally resonates with me because I worked in safety for seven years with 3M."
3M is just one of the many companies where Shamik, who has degrees in mechanical engineering and marketing, developed his career. His previous roles in leadership have included managing sales, marketing, strategy, process excellence, governance and culture.
Prior to his appointment at Orica, he was Director of Business Development at Flex, a multinational technological manufacturer designing and building intelligent products.
Our number one priority is always safety.
Reflecting on his plans for Orica over the next five years, Shamik says the primary focus will be split into four areas: investing in assets and resources; expanding reach and penetration; embedding an exemplary SHES culture; and institutionalising technologies for the future, including digitisation.
"We are constantly investing in new assets, trying out new business models and demonstrating to our customers how we can generate significant value through productivity gains, cost optimisation, risk management and improvements in drilling and blasting processes," he explains.
"There’s so much that can be unlocked when you bring in these solutions, and they are key to giving us the edge over our competition. Over the next 18 months we’re looking to improve our operational excellence and focus on tools, people capabilities, processes and global interventions to make sure we deliver results every time to our customers.
We are also working with local regulators to bring global best practices to India." While Shamik is making inroads in all those areas, an area he felt was already well established and flourishing lies right at the heart of the company.
They are the values stretching across every aspect of the business from supply, to service, to customers. "They are well entrenched across every employee and are another thing that makes us different from our competitors," he says.
"Respect is not something you find everywhere, but at Orica we talk about it often – respect for self, others, the workplace, the community and for our environment. We collaborate seamlessly not just with each other, but with our customers. I have been in other businesses where customer-centricity is more lip service than put into practice. Our customers would vouch for our products, and would vouch for our services."
Shamik says the respect running throughout the company also extends to its suppliers, most of whom have been with Orica for many decades. He agrees that in a digital age, while it’s vital to be updated with the latest technology, it’s loyalty that must always come first. "Our suppliers are looked upon as partners," he explains.
"We don’t believe in hiring and firing them; we believe in offering help when they need it and helping them grow as we grow. When we expand in a particular area, we always go to our existing partnerships to see how we can achieve our goals together. We don’t look for anyone else. "These values of collaboration and respect are embedded within every individual at Orica, which is why I wholeheartedly believe in this company."
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