Business Today

We cannot sit in the US and make decisions for India - Charles O. Holliday Jr

CEO & Chairman of DuPont, Charles O. Holliday Jr was in India recently to address issues of his employees and customers. He spoke to BT’s Anusha Subramanianin an exclusive interview.

Print Edition: February 10, 2008

Charles O. Holliday Jr, CEO and Chairman/ Dupont
Charles Holliday Jr,
Teflon and lycra are just two of the countless products DuPont is known for. The company that was founded in 1802 has earned its spurs for innovation in various sectors right from agriculture to electronics to transportation to apparel. Charles O. Holliday Jr, or Chad to those who know him, has been the CEO & Chairman of the $27.4 billion (Rs 1,09,600 crore) Goliath since 1999. The 59-year-old Holliday, who has been with the US’ largest chemical company for over three decades now, was responsible for driving growth in the Asia-Pacific in the ’90s. In fact, it’s his success in this region that played a decisive role in him being elevated to the top post. On a recent visit to India, Holliday met up with his employees and customers to understand their issues and also talk about the opportunities that they see. He also found time for an exclusive interview with Business Today’s Assistant Editor Anusha Subramanian. Excerpts:

Over the years, DuPont has gone through several transitions. More recently, it has moved from being a chemicals company to a science-based products and services company. What was the purpose behind the transition and how has it helped the company?
I meet with great companies around the world and they look at DuPont as a company that has been around for 205 years with the same name, same headquarters and they ask: How did you do it? Even after 200 years, how have you managed to be a strong global company? And I say to them we were able to lead to that new growth curve before it was obvious. And if we had waited until it became obvious that our old products are getting too old, then we would have just been left too far behind the competition. Ten years ago, we did the right planning and took the right decision of transitioning. We decided to move from pure chemistry into biotechnology and nanotechnology. We looked at environmental pressures, energy shortages, populations growing so fast as a result of which they will put pressure on food and water supply. We, therefore, looked at a whole new suite of products that we could come up with new technologies and aimed to solve these problems. We are feeling good about the steps we have taken but time will only tell if we have done the right thing.

What has been your company’s overall growth strategy?
 We have three strategies and these are our buzzwords: One, put science to work—listen to your customers and make what they want. We are focussed on the customer domain. Our emphasis is on understanding their unique challenges and providing science-based solutions that create more value for them. If customers win, so do we. It’s about creating sustainable solutions essential to a better, safer and healthier life for people everywhere. Two, we go where there is growth. And, three, (we believe in) the power of one DuPont.

Where does India fit in that strategy?

 “India is our 13th largest market, and it is among the top three growing markets for DuPont”
We are applying the same strategy to India as well. In India, we do have a knowledge centre that is focussed on basic research, application development and other knowledge services for global and local markets. This centre is consistent with our company strategy of going where the growth is. Our intent is to leverage Indian science and engineering talent for the benefit of DuPont customers and its shareholders.

The India subsidiary has been growing at 25 per cent annually for the last five years. How do the company’s future performance and prospects look?
In 2006, DuPont sales in India exceeded $360 million (Rs 1,620 crore). India is in a very good spot at this point in time and I am expecting DuPont India to grow faster than 25 per cent in the coming years. Agriculture is a big need in this country and our largest business platform is in the Agriculture and Nutrition segment, followed by Performance Materials, Coatings and Colour Technologies, Safety & Protection, and Electronics and Communication Technologies.

DuPont is now betting big on emerging markets (recently, it opened office in Serbia). How much do emerging markets on the whole contribute to DuPont’s overall revenues? And where does India rank in importance amongst emerging markets?
We figured out a long time ago that we cannot clearly define emerging markets by country. We, therefore, break down countries into different regions. There is an aspect about the Indian economy that is very developed and there are aspects that are not developed and we treat both these aspects differently. India, for us today, is the 13th largest market; and it is growing at a rate of 25 per cent year-on-year. From a growth perspective, it is among the top three growing markets for DuPont.

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