The Primaniyarta export award 2013 was awarded to PT Bitratex by the government of Indonesia, and recognizes the constant and ongoing quality consciousness of successful Indonesian exporters who are then role models for the other Indonesian exporters. Since the award was instituted in 1992, PT Bitratex has been among the shortlisted companies every year and has won the award for the 8th time this year. ‘We are in the top 3 similar companies in Indonesia’ says Mr KK Agrawal, President Director of PT Bitratex.
Pt Bitratex Industries, manufacturer of quality spun yarns has grown four times under Agrawal’s leadership since he joined the company in 1990. He has since turned it around and grown to be among the best in Indonesia with 70% of the yarn produced is exported to 40 countries globally and 30% is for the domestic market.
He started his professional journey as a graduate from the premier Benares Hindu University, India to join under Aditya Birla of the Birla group in Calcutta. ‘Aditya Birla had just returned from his studies in the US and had a dream of expanding overseas. Aditya Birla selected me to start the first overseas plant in Bangkok in 1968. I was still a very young at that time and it was a wonderful learning experience. IndoThai Synthetics was established in Bangkok to supply to SE Asia and Indonesia was one of the markets of the yarn produced. Indonesia was seen as a potential market for growth due to its market and large population – the same economic factors that hold true even today.’
Relocating to Bangkok to establish a company overseas from scratch set the foundation for the young Agrawal, who was just 23 years old at that time. ‘It was total mindset change to move from a protected domestic market in India to an International market with global competition and a long term view’ says Agrawal. The focus was foremost on quality – quality in human resources, raw material and machinery. This learning and focus made their enterprise successful where other Indian companies making forays overseas failed due to the stark difference in attitude towards quality.
In 1973, Agrawal moved to Indonesia and two years later launched the first Indian Joint venture in Indonesia despite a lot of challenges. ‘It was a very different Indonesia then. Very remote, with no taxis and a short supply of electricity’ he reminisces. They received electricity subsidy from the Jatiluhur hydroelectric power station and this led to the first manufacturing plant being set up in Purwakarta, although ‘it used to take 4 hrs to Purwakarta from Jakarta at that time’ remembers Agrawal. He has worked for 35 years with the Aditya Birla group and left the company at the demise of Aditya Birla in 1995 to seek other opportunities.
The three major learning points that have led to his success have been firstly, relocating overseas to establish a company from scratch amidst challenges in resources – raw material and human, machinery. ‘The second change was when we started to export. To find new markets competing with developed markets and their high quality standards. We have been expanding our production facilities constantly. The third is to not only to maintain quality but to keep increasing the benchmarks and strive to be the best in the world’ explains Agrawal
‘Honesty is the bedrock for success’ he asserts. ‘Honesty towards the work we do and towards our customers.’ ‘We deal with customers who are 10,000 km away and they keep coming back to us. If ever we make a mistake we accept and make amends. This develops customer confidence and establishes reliability.’ For sustained growth, investment people and technology is required. With a twinkle in his eyes, he says ‘Japanese customers are our benchmark as they have very high quality standards. If we can export to them then we are reaching our quality standards. We compare ourselves with best globally and that is how we maintain quality year by year.’
Mr Agrawal’s role model is Aditya Vikram Birla, whose admirable business acumen and way of thinking made him force behind the success of his group of companies. The internal control systems that he learned with the Aditya Birla group have been emulated in his current company and all aspects of production and up to profit and loss can be monitored in real time is available to the relevant staff members in a structured manner. ‘Our goal is to maintain the company growth and remain at the highest quality levels’ he emphasizes.
Agrawal practices ‘participative management by consensus, where every team member participates and commits to the plan of action. In this system, reviews and decisions are taken in groups. A group of people get together, to review the working of the company periodically. They go into the various aspects and problems and prepare action plans. In the taking of a decision, instead of one man taking a decision, it is done as a consensus decision, which emerges out of the discussions in the group. This to him is the key driver of progress, prosperity and economic health for the company.
Mr KK Agrawal at 72 years is very active and starts his day at 4.30am with daily Yoga followed by a walk. The family then breakfasts together and this is their important time together. With his work in Jakarta and Semarang, he travel plans include 12 overseas and 12 domestic trips every year. ‘Personally I would like to continue working as long as I can and stay on in Indonesia with my family, he elaborates.’ Harmony and balance is his relationships be it with family or at work with his colleagues is very evident. His secretary has been with him for the last 35 years.
His mantra is to ‘keep calm and carry on’.