Even at 57, she is a boundary-pushing, out-of-the-box innovator who has never failed to surprise people. Harshbeena Zaveri had majored in urban studies and anthropology at Wellesley College, Massachusetts, which focusses on developing women leaders; she was a teacher in a Mumbai school and finally joined her father's business in 1986 as a management trainee.
"When I joined, I aimed to become as knowledgeable as a shareholder and promoter before I returned to the US to study law or public policy," recalls Zaveri. But for the next few years, she worked hands-on and across departments that honed her foresight and increased her adaptability. She was always ready to pick up knowledge nuggets and led by a discussion with her 14-year-old son, set up a research and development (R&D) centre in mid-2000. Now NRB has a 20,000 sq. ft R&D centre in Rabale, Navi Mumbai, and a process innovation centre in Waluj in Aurangabad district, Maharashtra.
Zaveri says product innovation has been NRB's biggest strength. "In the late 1990s when digitisation was just taking off, I realised where technology was headed. I had an opportunity to leverage India's information technology and mechanical engineering strengths and evolved into a high-precision friction solutions provider instead of being a commodity bearing supplier."
According to data from Ball & Roller Bearing Manufacturers Association, the Indian market was worth about Rs 5,500 crore in 2016/17 and NRB held 13 per cent of the domestic market. The company claims about 90 per cent of the Indian vehicles run on its bearings and auto parts while its subsidiaries in Thailand and Germany are key suppliers to the global market. NRB offers over 5,500 types of customised friction solutions and caters to global behemoths, including Audi, Daimler, Mercedes, Honda and Mazda as well as ZF and Getrag (two of Europe's largest gearbox manufacturers) and all Japanese two-wheeler manufacturers. It also supplies bearings to Lamborghini and Maserati through its ancillaries.
In spite of the slowdown post the Volkswagen shake-up, Zaveri had pulled the company through. In 2016/17, the company recorded consolidated revenues of Rs 718 crore and Rs 55 crore in net profit compared to Rs 674 crore and Rs 43 crore, respectively, in 2015/16. "Although the market was slow, we clocked an export growth of 20 per cent in dollar terms. NRB aims to achieve 10 per cent of the global market share in each segment targeted," says Zaveri.
A multifaceted person, she has co-founded Ashoka University and is a regular speaker at many leading business schools. "I believe one has to give time to the commitments that matter and I find time to nurture young women leaders. Reading and cooking are two interests we all share as a family, and when we are together, we often cook together," she says.
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