Bantwal Ramesh Baliga conceals a sharp mind behind those ever-smiling eyes. A confessed people’s person, he spots talent instinctively and can get people to buy into his mission readily. We felt this strongly when we met him at Pullman Aerocity early July when he had flown in from Coimbatore to do this interview. So, we decided to let the man speak for himself.
By Gyanendra Kumar Kashyap
Experience is not what happens to a man. It is what a man does with what happens to him.
– Aldous Leonard Huxley
When I was appointed as CEO of Watertec India on All Fools Day of 2016, actually, both parties were making a statement. By asking me to lead the company in India as well as in Middle East FZE, SAARC and NMEA countries, my Board was declaring its ambition of becoming an internationally known brand.
On my part, I was going to build an organisation that would be counted amongst the finest in the Indian building products industry. Over two decades, I honed my skills of ‘mission-critical project management’ and learnt how customer-faced organisations should be built and nurtured. This has given me the confidence to say to the mirror every day that I can do it.
Categories & Capabilities
At Watertec, we have started producing polymer faucets in nickel-chrome finish, and have launched bath and shower mixers in CPVC for concealed and exposed applications. This is a first for the industry. Besides this, we have broadened our portfolio. New categories have been added, which include sanitaryware, floor drains and fittings for public washrooms. So now we are much more than a polymer products specialist.
We have worked hard to ensure the performance of our innovations by putting them through stiff durability and endurance tests. Being a mechanical engineer, I’m deeply interested in the performance aspect of all products that I market, as well as in the technology that goes into their production. Implementing industry 4.0 at Watertec has been an article of faith for me, and this we have achieved over the last three years. Our bath fittings plants are equipped with automated injection moulding machines with robotic arms, to give error-free output without the need of much manual intervention. We have now started the expansion of our pipe unit, which will be similarly equipped.
Our vision is to be among the best in the manufacturing sector. This vision can be actualised when we are strong on innovation through research and development. We have built an R&D team of 15 engineers who are in constant touch with the markets to understand emerging requirements. They are encouraged to experiment and visit factories and tradeshows nationally and overseas.
I believe that a healthy relationship with channel partners is the basis of the long-term success of any market-driven organisation. In my roles with other employers, dealer relationship was always a top priority. I’m thrilled to have been given the opportunity to build a robust network at Watertec, and I’m sure that we will soon have the finest dealers of the country marketing our products. But dealer development is not just about selling. We should be able to make them ambassadors of our brand. This means that they should have a strong belief in the brand’s superiority. That will happen only when we give them enough reasons to be proud of our innovation and excellence, fair practices, and most importantly, by putting their interests right at the top.
Two essential elements of our dealer policy are quick product movement and a decent return on investment. The idea is that all channel partners must be at par, and they should not get into the trap of offering freebies to boost their sales. This approach has deepened our bond with channel partners and kept them with us for more extended periods.
Also read: The Transformation of Watertec
Since I am a people’s person, you could say that I have a knack of striking a chord with dealers. I enjoy being with them and learning from them. I am concerned with the wellbeing of every single dealer of Watertec, whatever may be the quantum of business we get from them. We plan to set up ten company-owned display centres across the country. These centres will present our expanding range in the best possible manner, and will also provide a support structure for our dealers.
We spoke to Dhirendra Joshi, associate VP at Kajaria Bathware who had worked with Bantwal Ramesh Baliga at Jaquar during 2008-10, to find out what was his most unique trait. “Baliga has this ability to take the entire team along with him. He plays by the rule of crediting success to the efforts of team members. More importantly, he can infuse a sense of belongingness among the members of the team.” Joshi said. Joshi was heading the business for Hansgrohe and wellness and glass enclosures at Jaquar when he and Baliga were colleagues.
While Baliga is not taking credit for the impact of his people management abilities, he does confirm that the attrition rate at senior levels is now close to zero. He says that except for one top functional head, the rest of the team is still with the company. “He has a positive, motivated and a go-getter attitude,” confirms Joshi.
I am a believer in people-centric management and try to bring the best out of the organisation’s human assets. As CEO, I take it upon myself to engage directly with all the employees of the company. We have introduced several people-oriented training programs as well as productivity-oriented training modules. These programs motivate the employees and help them to chart a growth plan for themselves. You see, people are our assets, and we must take care of them.
Managing a workforce of over 1,500 is no easy task, more so in a sales-driven industry. I understand the importance of work-life balance more than anyone else. After having learnt from the leaders at top brands in the industry, I want to replicate their best employee policies and integrate them into Watertec’s philosophy. My aim is to be recognised in the industry as a good employer. You know, apart from me no one in the company works after office hours. [laughs]
Bantwal Ramesh Baliga’s experience with national and global brands has played a significant role in transforming Watertec into a new generation company that develops innovative products at affordable prices and affirms to the principal of water-saving.
The work culture at Indian and global organisations are quite different. I have tried to incorporate the learning from global companies into our company. By work culture, I mean the systematic approach towards business, and in particular towards new product development. It’s always a challenge to introduce new products in the Indian market. This should not be done without assessing the existent market, user trends, competition, and emerging technologies. Most companies would rush into launching new products without due diligence, just for the sake of boosting their sales, and then they would fail to recover the costs, let alone a decent return. Throughout my career, my most significant achievement has been the introduction of new products without meeting failure on account of poor performance, incorrect placement and pricing, etc. At Watertec, we’ve been handling new product development very carefully so that there are no setbacks, and we achieve success in all the new categories we open up.
I’m very focused on numbers. I believe that it’s essential to monitor the performance of the company based on targets and data so that fiscal prudence is maintained. We have managed to achieve our goal of becoming a debt-free company. We are now working towards achieving a turnover of Rs 1,400 crore in five years based on a year-on-year (y-o-y) growth of 27%. Besides, of course, the aim of combining design, engineering and manufacturing to reflect the brand’s philosophy – art meets engineering.