‘It’s my family that keeps me grounded and that I think that’s my biggest strength. On a more personal level my ability to not rush into decisions has helped me make more informed choices.’
Vinati Saraf turned around her family business to make it a Rs 1000 Cr company. She continues to see exponential growth year on year. Hard working, driven and focused. We sit down for 5 Questions with the young CEO of Vinati Organics.
Q. The biggest challenge for women in manufacturing?
A. It’s a chicken and egg story. There aren’t enough women in the field, which acts as a deterrent for other women joining the industry. Frankly it’s a grassroot problem as there is a notion that women have better soft skills and hence very few women opt for engineering and technical degrees at the college level. This is widening the gap between professional roles that men and women take and resulting in a more gender stereotypical work space environment.
Q. As a young CEO who has already proven her mettle, what would you say is your biggest strength?
A. Its very easy to get swayed when you get success at a young age. But its my family (specially my 8 and 3 year olds) that keeps me grounded and that I think that’s my biggest strength. On a more personal level my ability to not rush into decisions has helped me make more informed choices.
Q. What are your long term plans for the company?
A. Even though we have healthy margins we are still a small player in the Indian chemical industry. Thus we have a clear strategy of targeting 20-25% volume growth year on year. This means we double revenues in 3-4 years. In order to achieve this we are constantly adding new products to our portfolio as well as expanding capacities of our existing products. Our project selection criteria is based on minimum 15-20 % return on investment, clean and green operations as well as integration synergies.
Q. What is the biggest deterrent to women pursuing their careers? How do you enable more women at your company?
A. If we talk purely about middle to upper middle class urban society most women take up a job after graduation. It is only at some point after starting a family that they succumb to the notion that they have chose between having a career and having a family. This self inflicted bias is the biggest deterrent to women rising in their careers and the reason why we don’t see many women in senior leadership. Apart from providing extended maternity leave, we provide flexible working hours to women in our organization. Simply by hiring more women than other factories we can make our environment more conducive to women. Finally, this can only change if men start taking more responsibility at home. This requires a cultural shift and our society will take some time to get there but we are moving in the right direction.
Q. Advice for young women wanting to pursue a career in manufacturing? What should they be prepared for and how can they best equip themselves?
A. My advice to young women wanting to pursue manufacturing is to not be afraid of being different. Sometimes there is merit in being a minority. Generally, it’s a very result oriented industry and hence most people don’t care whether you are a man or a woman. Also think of your career as a 40 year long graph, so don’t try to peak out in the first 5-10 years. Make mistakes, collect experiences and take it slow when you need to!
Vinati Saraf Mutreja is the MD & CEO of Vinati Organics Limited. She holds a dual degree – Bachelors of Science in Economics (Finance) from The Wharton School and Bachelors in Applied Science from the School of Engineering (University of Pennsylvania). She has also completed the Owner/President Management program from Harvard Business School. She has been on the management team of Vinati Organics Limited since 2006 and balances the technical/manufacturing execution with her marketing abilities combined with new age aggression. This has resulted in revenues increasing by 15 folds and market capitalization leapfrogging by more than 400 times. Vinati Saraf Mutreja, along with her father Vinod Saraf, has been very innovative in selecting chemical processes and products, which have long-term demand and are commercially attractive. Ms. Vinati Saraf Mutreja was chosen as the Outstanding Woman Business Leader for 2018 by the jury of The Economic Times Family Business Awards. She was also named as part of Forbes India W-Power Trailblazers 2019 and is part of the ET Women ahead list in 2019. She is a member of The Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) & Young President Organization (YPO) – Mumbai Chapter.
She has been on the management team of Vinati Organics Limited since 2006 and balances the technical/manufacturing execution with her marketing abilities combined with new age aggression.