20 companies to watch in 2008

Check out Business Today's annual listing of companies you need to keep your eye on.

Check out Business Today's annual listing of companies you need to keep your eye on.


Profiting from pain points

 Shashi Kiran Shetty likes it big. Soon after his 14-year old company debuted on the stock markets last year, the promoter of Allcargo Global Logistics announced the purchase of Ecu Line—a Belgium-based logistics company almost five times Allcargo’s size with 120 offices in 65 countries. It was the first global acquisition by an Indian logistics company. Evidently, investors like him betting big. Allcargo’s stock price almost doubled in the first six months of its IPO. Today, it quotes around Rs 946, a relatively high multiple of 25.43 on 2007-08 earnings.

What’s got investors all excited about Allcargo, which hopes to finish this fiscal with a topline (standalone) of Rs 415 crore and a bottom line of Rs 75 crore? Apart from the fact that it is already an end-to-end logistics company in India with a presence in multi-modal transport to container freight stations to project cargo handling, “we are planning to set up logistics parks of 50 to 100 acres in five key locations”, says Shetty, 50, Chairman and Managing Director. These parks would handle container depot and international cargo, and have warehousing complexes and distribution centres.

The project is expected to be part financed by a Rs 300-crore equity offering (Mumbai-based Shetty and his family, who own 90 per cent of the company, may dilute their own stake). Having cleaned up the balance sheet of Ecu Line, Shetty is planning to beef up his international operations. “We are eyeing regions like Abu Dhabi and Doha (Qatar),” says the golf enthusiast Shetty.

-- Anand Adhikari

Read about BILT


Ain’t no paper tiger

  Gautam Thapar is in a tearing hurry. The 46-year-old Chairman & CEO of Ballarpur Industries Ltd (BILT) wants to almost double capacity at his paper manufacturing company to 1 million tonnes a year and revenues to $1 billion (Rs 4,000 crore) by 2009.

If few seem sceptical of his plans, it’s because India’s No. 1 paper maker has been on a roll of late. For the quarter ended September 30 this year, it announced better-than-expected results. The consolidated bottom line jumped 25 per cent to Rs 73.07 crore, against Rs 58 crore in the first quarter of the last financial year and the topline rose 23 per cent to Rs 713 crore. “Our expansion plans will help us maintain leadership position in the coated wood-free paper segment,” says R. R. Vederah, MD, BILT.

BILT’s prospects may brighten further. Aside from spending close to Rs 1,200 crore on capacity expansion, it plans to rejig its product portfolio.

It intends to hive off its integrated paper units at Bhigwan, Ballarpur, and Kamalapuram along with Sabah Forest Industries (SFI), Malaysia, into a separate subsidiary incorporated in The Netherlands— BILT Graphic Paper Products Ltd (BGPPL)—with the idea of unlocking value in them. “We will be looking at more acquisitions to achieve our 1-million tpa target, but only after the consolidation is over in another 16-20 months,” says Thapar.

-- Pallavi Srivastava

Read about Cairn India

Cairn India

Hunter of hydrocarbons

  Cairn India hunts for oil with the same vigour that pirates of yore chased bounty-laden ships. Perhaps that’s why the Scottish energy major has been so successful in its hunt for oil (and gas) in India’s bleak offshore basins.

Three out of the seven biggest hydrocarbon discoveries between 2000 and 2005 have been made by Cairn India, including the Mangala basin, where it struck its biggest find in India (about 600 million barrels of oil equivalent, or BoE). Now, Cairn, which has 15 oil blocks currently, is preparing to bid for a new set of oil blocks.

Cairn India Group, which operates through Cairn India and 28 different subsidiaries, is yet to start evacuation of oil from its field in Rajasthan, which is expected to happen around early 2009.

It currently operates three of its fields —Ravva, Lakshmi and Gauri— producing approximately 80,000 BOE per day, selling it to four major refineries across India. The gas collected is sold to both public and private buyers. Cairn, which has a market cap of Rs 37,831 crore, now plans to invest $244 million on exploration of new gas fields over the next three years.

The company’s MD& CEO, Rahul Dhir, told Business Today recently that Cairn’s focus would also be on further developing the Rajasthan block and to maximise yield while lowering costs. It’s a skill Cairn will need to tap into India’s hardto-access hydrocarbon wealth.

-- Amit Mukherjee

Read about Grasim


Cementing its position

  Since August this year, Kumar Mangalam Birla’s flagship company has almost kept pace with the Sensex, rising 24.5 per cent to Rs 3545 versus the benchmark index’s 27.6-per cent gain.

Yet, Dalal Street isn’t entirely in love with the stock. Some of the analysts have asked investors to wait and watch before buying some more of the stock.

Why? Blame it on Grasim’s massive expansion plans. The diversified Aditya Birla Group company intends to double its cement capacity to 27.8 million tonnes by the end of March 2010, making it one of the most aggressive players in the industry. “The company is expected to spend Rs 7,500 crore in expanding its cement capacity,” says Ajit Motwani, Research Analyst with Emkay Research.

In viscose staple fibre, too, which accounts for 23 per cent of its revenues (going by the July-September quarter results), Grasim has ambitious expansion plans.

Its facility in Kharach, Gujarat, will be doubling its capacity by 63,875 TPA by March 2008, and its joint venture unit in China will double capacity by the second quarter of 2008-09. A new VSF plant at Vilayat (Gujarat) is also on the anvil at a cost of Rs 840 crore.

These investments may impact Grasim’s earnings in the short run (a reason why some analysts are wary of the stock), but Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla is thinking long term and global dominance.

-- T.V. Mahalingam

Read about Havells India

Havells India

Positive charge

  Earlier this year, the Noida-based Havells India stunned industry watchers by snapping up Germany’s lighting major SLI Sylvania for $300 million all cash.

Just a month later, another Indian electrical accessories company, Anchor Electricals, made news, too, but for selling out (80 per cent) to Matsushita Electric Works for Rs 2,000 crore. Was Havells, founded in 1958 as a trading company, making a mistake by trying to become a global player? Apparently, not.

If Havells Chairman and MD Qimat Rai Gupta needed any endorsement of his move, then it wasn’t too long in coming. Late October, private equity major Warburg Pincus picked up an 11.2 per cent stake in the company for $110 million, valuing the company at almost $1 billion.

The capital infusion will allow Havells to pay off a part of the debt it raised to fund the purchase of the $600-million-in-revenues Sylvania. “One of the reasons why we have been successful is that we have been quick to adapt ourselves to a changing market and think ahead,” says Gupta.

With Sylvania in its bag, Havells’ combined revenues now top $1 billion and it becomes a global player with manufacturing locations in Asia, Europe, Latin America and Africa. Says Gupta: “We see the Sylvania acquisition as our first step towards attaining a leading position in the global lighting industry.” In other words, Havells is a company to watch not just in 2008, but beyond.

-- Amit Mukherjee

Read about HDIL 


Realty’s regional king

 Where most people see dirt and squalour, Sarang Wadhawan sees opportunity. Not surprising at all. The Managing Director of Mumbai-based Housing Development and Infrastructure Ltd (HDIL) is betting on slum redevelopment in the city to transform the fortunes of his 11-year-old company.

It has already bagged the contract for Mumbai’s airport rehabilitation project, and is now eyeing the biggest pie of them all—redevelopment of one of Asia’s largest slums, Dharavi, for which it has tied up with Lehmann Brothers as an equity partner. “Slum rehabilitation and infrastructure are the keys to land-scarce Mumbai’s development,”Wadhawan points out.

Housing and commercial developments apart, HDIL plans to enter the infrastructure business of airports and power projects. “We have set up a fully-owned subsidiary, Privilege Power and Infrastructure, for that,” says Wadhawan.

Although HDIL has a presence in other cities such as Cochin, Hyderabad, and Pune, its stronghold is Mumbai, where it has 120 million square feet of land bank (98 per cent of which is owned by it).

 “We don’t mind being called a regional player,” says Wadhawan. For 2007-08, HDIL is expected to up revenues to Rs 2,000 crore from Rs 1,203 crore. But the big buzz is that HDIL is close to inking the biggest land deal in the country in Mumbai’s upcoming Bandra-Kurla Complex.

-- Tejeesh N.S. Behl

Read about Himadri Chemicals

Himadri Chemicals

A potent, new cocktail

 What’s there to get excited about manufacturing coal tar pitch? plenty, if you ask Anurag Choudhary, CEO of Kolkata-based Himadri Chemicals & Industries.

Already the largest producer of the product in the country, Himadri is aiming for global leadership by building a presence in China, either through an acquisition or a new facility.

“We have lined up Rs 750-crore investment in China,” says Choudhary. By 2010, Himadri’s coal tar capacity could jump to 1 million tonnes per annum (from 169,000 tpa) with 60 per cent of it coming from China.

The 16-year-old company, which is growing its topline at 25 per cent a year (2007-08 estimate: Rs 800 crore-plus) also plans to move downstream by setting up its own carbon black plant (and a power plant out of the waste gas generated at the carbon black unit).

The proposed investment in this: Rs 680 crore. Coal tar and its derivatives are critical inputs for the aluminium and graphite electrodes industries, both of which are looking up. To test its own capability to innovate, Himadri has just taken on two prestige projects—manufacturing special tar pitch for DRDO for use in Agni missiles, and also advanced carbon material for lithium ion batteries.

“By 2010, our fully integrated complex will be ready in Hooghly and from then on, a new journey will begin, when we eventually foray into highly value-added chemicals,” says the 35-year-old Choudhary. So, the next decade should prove eventful to Himadri.

-- Ritwik Mukherjee

Read about Hindustan Construction

Hindustan Construction

Widening its span

 For about seven years now, the Mumbai-based Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) has been growing at 30-35 per cent annually.

In that time, it has taken on some landmark projects such as the construction of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link project, which will use enough steel wires to go round the earth once.

Notwithstanding such engineering challenges, Ajit Gulabchand, Chairman and MD, HCC, thinks his 80-year-old company ought to be taking on newer challenges—like getting into real estate development. “Alongside construction, we are now getting into real estate development with HCC Real Estate, primarily focussed on Maharashtra,” says Gulabchand.

In Lavasa, about 100 km from Pune, HCC is setting up what has been dubbed as free India’s first fullyintegrated hill resort. Spread over 12,000 acres, the three-phase project will accommodate 150,000 residents, the first of whom are expected to start trickling in by 2009.

“We are also setting up HCC Infrastructure to focus on build-own-transfer (BOT) projects, especially those in the publicprivate partnership area,” says Gulabchand. That apart, HCC plans to bid for airports.

HCC isn’t yet looking at projects overseas, but given that its revenues are expected to touch Rs 3,000 crore in 2007-08 (from Rs 2,395 crore the previous year), Gulabchand needn’t be in a hurry to step out of India. For him, home, is surely, sweet home.

-- Tejeesh N.S. Behl

Read about Indian Hotels

Indian Hotels

Room for growth

 It is the oldest business of the Tata Group. But the growth that 104-year-old Indian Hotels Company (IHCL) has been showing over the past year or so belies its age. Its total income rose to Rs 731 crore during the first half of 2007-08, up by 18 per cent over the same period a year ago.

But financial numbers are just half the story. The company has plotted a grand plan for the future. To begin with, IHCL is coming out with a rights issue of approximately Rs 2,000 crore. In addition, it plans to nearly double its portfolio of properties.

“We have under construction, design or development, 54 new hotels or 10,000 additional rooms that we are adding to our capacity in the next 36 months,” says Raymond Bickson, MD, Indian Hotels. “Of the 54 new hotels, 4 hotels are outside India and 50 in India.” Of the latter, 20 will be Ginger budget hotels.

IHCL is also reintroducing its Gateway brand of hotels, which are essentially 3-star hotels or full-service hotels. Some 25 Gateway hotels are likely to come up in the next 36 months.

Once these properties come up, Indian Hotels will have close to 150 hotels. To maintain its dominance in the domestic market, IHCL will also expand into luxury residences, spas and wildlife resorts. That apart, it will expand its presence in key “source markets” (of its international business travellers) such as the US, the UK and Germany. Its acquisition of the Ritz in Boston, then, was a move in that direction.

-- T.V. Mahalingam

Read about Infosys


The transformer

 Just months after he took over as Ceo & MD of Infosys Technologies, S. ‘Kris’ Gopalakrishnan was faced with the biggest challenge of his career, as the rupee appreciated by 9 per cent in six months against the dollar and the collapsing US subprime market, too, slowed the company’s growth.

Gopalakrishnan was quick to react, reworking the company structure into six vertical business units and five horizontal ones, and in the process, creating strong focus on emerging markets in West Asia, Latin America and even the domestic market. Unlike arch rivals TCS and Wipro, both of whom get over 20 per cent of their revenues from the domestic market, Infosys has been slow to recognise the potential of this market.

But rather than this move, what has the industry abuzz is that Infosys is finally looking for a big-bang buy, with the company setting aside $500 million for it and already short-listing up to five companies. “We will use acquisitions to enter new markets or technologies,” Gopalakrishnan told the media recently.

Infosys has been linked with many companies in the last few months, including European tech giant Capgemini and Capco, an IT consulting firm, but has firmly refuted links to either company. “Acquiring capability abroad is a critical step in making the cut to being truly global,” says Sid Pai, Partner, TPI. Not surprisingly, that’s precisely what Gopalakrishnan is up to.

-- Rahul Sachitanand

Read about JBF Industries

JBF Industries

Polyester’s slick player

 Less than two years ago, Citigroup Ventural Capital and IL&FS coughed up Rs 46.50 a share to buy a piece of the promoters’ holding in a little-known JBF Industries.

As it turns out, the private equity investors knew something that others didn’t. JBF’s stock is up 268 per cent since. What is it about JBF that excites local and foreign institutional investors, who own 42 per cent of the Rs 1,500-crore (revenue) company?

For one, the Mumbai-based company is a leading manufacturer of polyester chips and synthetic yarn that’s used by garment manufacturers and PET bottle-makers. For another, JBF’s revenues and profits have grown at a three-year CAGR of 26 per cent and 37 per cent, respectively.

“Our low input and output cost has been the key reason for our higher margins of 12-13 per cent,” says Rakesh Gothi, MD & CEO, JBF. In the next two years, he wants to improve that figure to 14-15 per cent.

Meanwhile, to lower its dependency on the textile sector, JBF has set up a 60:40 joint venture in Ras al Khaimah, UAE, that will cater to the PET bottle and polyester film segment. By March 2010, he expects JBF to be a billion-dollar company. Small wonder, Citigroup is keen to invest some more in JBF.

-- Mahesh Nayak

Read baout JSW Steel

JSW Steel

Betting on the boom

 By 2012, India is expected to consume about 120 million tonnes of steel. That’s two times what the country currently consumes. Although that sounds a little too rosy, Sajjan Jindal isn’t worried.

The Vice Chairman and MD of JSW Steel is putting his money where his mouth is. He has announced plans to invest Rs 70,000 crore in two new steel plants in West Bengal and Jharkhand of 10 MTPA each. By 2011, Jindal expects his company to have a steel capacity of 10 MTPA versus 3.8 MTPA at present. “We have to take steps in advance to build capacity to take care of the demand,” he says as a matter of fact.

To start with, JSW will raise $500 million in equity in markets overseas. The two locations have been chosen because they offer close proximity to iron ore and coal mines, and hence, lower cost of production. In fact, JSW’s Jharkhand steel plant is expected to be the lowest cost producer of steel in the world.

Meanwhile, like other steel makers, JSW is clipping. For the second quarter of 2007-08, it clocked a record (consolidated) net profit of Rs 505 crore. What’s bringing in the big bucks is the company’s diversified product portfolio comprising hot-rolled and cold-rolled coils, and galvanised plain and corrugated sheets.

 “We will start rolling out long products in a big way by next year,” says Jindal. The only thing he needs to keep an eye on is steel prices. If they don’t hold up, then Jindal may need to go back to his drawing board.

-- Anand Adhikari

Read about Mphasis


The India edge

 Three months after getting the all-clear from the Karnataka High Court for its $380-million acquisition of Bangalore-based MphasiS, the Plano, Texas-based IT services giant, EDS, is quickly beginning to leverage complementary skills to grow its business.

While MphasiS was 11,000-strong at the time of the acquisition, it now has a headcount of over 24,000 and expects to hire around 10,000-11,000 people by the end of this year.

 While scale may have been a key reason for EDS to buy MphasiS in April 2006, the next few months should also see the IT services giant build and grow its complementary set of offerings. “We have more than $1 billion in order backlogs and expect to executive them over the next three to five years,” Deepak Patel, MD, MphasiS, told analysts after announcing the Q2 results.

In IT services, MphasiS is seen as a specialist in the $25-million outsourcing contracts, which are usually below the radar of behemoths such as EDS.

The latter may also use MphasiS’ India presence to target the booming domestic market and has already opened a BPO centre in Puducherry to service customers of Bharti Airtel. Says Rahul Bhasin, Managing Partner, Baring Private Equity Partners India, which sold 25 of its 35 per cent stake in Mphasis to EDS: “The EDSMphasiS combine has the best balance of both industry knowledge and technical expertise to match fastgrowing Indian companies as well as global giants.”

-- Rahul Sachitanand

Read about Patel Engineering

Patel Engineering

A bigger blueprint

 Not too long ago, Patel Engineering was an embattled company. It had revenues of just Rs 6 crore, a loss of Rs 50 lakh and, worse, the promoter families were locked in a bitter battle for control.

But in 1993, Pravin and Rupen Patel—father and son—took control of Patel Engineering and the Mumbaibased construction company hasn’t looked back since. In 2006-07, Patel had revenues of Rs 1,000 crore and a profit of Rs 110 crore. Its order book stands at Rs 5,400 crore.

But the turnaround is not the reason why Patel is on our list this year. “In the next five years we will become a $1.5-billion company,” says Rupen, the company’s Managing Director.

How? Apart from construction, the growth is expected to come from its recent forays into power and realty. It has a land bank of 1,000 acres in Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore that is valued at Rs 1,650 crore.

Patel plans to develop the land bank in a phased manner, starting with a commercial property in Mumbai, followed by two SEZs in Hyderabad and Bangalore, and an integrated township near its Bangalore SEZ. Recently, the company signed a deal with Arunachal Pradesh to set up a 100-MW Gongri hydroelectric power project in West Kameng district that is expected generate revenue of Rs 120 crore per annum.

-- Mahesh Nayak

Read about Tata Chemicals

Tata Chemicals

Sexy once more

 A lot of the old world businesses, commodity businesses which were written off in the past have suddenly become glamorous,” notes Homi R. Khusrokhan, MD, Tata Chemicals.

He is referring to the robust growth of the soda ash and fertiliser businesses of Tata Chemicals, third largest manufacturer of soda ash and sodium bicarbonate in the world. According to Khusrokhan, the soda ash business is flourishing thanks to the increasing demand from the glass industry, particularly architectural glass in China, India and South America.

“The developing world, which is heavily investing in infrastructure and construction, is the one that’s driving the growth of the glass industry.” He feels that prices of soda have not yet peaked. “As of now, it is still in short supply, and prices might go higher,” he adds.

In fertilisers, too, there seems to be an acute shortage of supply. “Some of it (shortage) is due to the bio-fuel demand. Also, the area of corn under cultivation in the US has increased, which has boosted the demand for DAP (diammonium phosphate), while palm oil has increased the demand for potash,” says Khusrokhan.

As for the future, the company is beefing up its R&D by setting up an innovation centre in Pune. It also plans to enter the fresh produce distribution business, starting with two centres in 2007-08 and growing to 20 in three years. Over the next 18 months, Tata Chemicals expects a plant in Nanded (Maharashtra) to be operational that will manufacture bio-fuels, a new area for the company.

-- T.V. Mahalingam

Read about Tata Motors

Tata Motors

Small car ahead

 This one is almost a no-brainer. why is Tata Motors one of the companies to watch in 2008? The answer is simple—the small car. Never perhaps in the history of the automobile industry, since the launch of Ford’s Model T, has a car promised to change the way the industry works.

“As far as the small car is concerned, a big surge will come from smaller towns,” says Ravi Kant, MD, Tata Motors. However, Kant believes that the small car is not the only reason why the company might shine during the year ahead. Another reason is the expansion of Tata Motors’ existing facilities and the coming on stream of new plants.

Like Kant explains, “During the last several decades, we set up three plants (Jamshedpur, Pune and Lucknow). In 2008 alone, four new plants will come on stream. Uttaranchal is almost operational, the small car plant will come on stream, the Fiat-Tata JV plant (Ranjangaon) and then perhaps the world’s largest bus plant (Dharwad),” he says.

The company will also commence production in Thailand and “one or two other places outside India” in 2008.

On the commercial vehicle front, too, the company has ambitious plans in 2008. It will make inroads into the rural mass transport market. In addition, it plans to take its popular mini-truck Ace (with sales of 6,500 units per month) international. Meanwhile, it’s the small car that India is looking forward to.

-- T.V. Mahalingam

Read about Usha Martin

Usha Martin

A high-wire act

 Kolkata is no longer the city where mega corporate dreams are born. But Usha Martin (and, of course, Himadri) may be the exception to the rule.

If things work out the way its Chairman B. K. Jhawar expects them to, then Usha Martin will become the world’s largest manufacturer of steel wire ropes. Currently, that distinction belongs to KiS of South Korea.

“We have charted out a roadmap for organic and inorganic growth so that by September 2008, our wire rope capacity will be 1 million tonne, three times out present capacity,” says the Kolkata-based Jhawar.

His strategy is simple: make high-end products in specialised steel and wire ropes, and cash in on the low-cost advantage of India. Accordingly, Usha Martin plans to invest Rs 500 crore to increase production capacity and another Rs 120 crore in possible acquisitions overseas, and integrate backwards into iron ore and coal in the next couple of years.

It bagged the mining rights for iron ore mines in Barajamda and Kathautia in Jharkhand and within 250 km of its factory. The idea: insulate earnings from rising raw material prices. “We’ll save Rs 130-150 crore in 2007-08,” says Jhawar.

Some of its other moves that should help include its Dutch acquisition, a joint venture in India with Germany’s Gustav Wolf for wire rope and steel cord, and the setting up of a distribution centre in Australia.

-- Ritwik Mukherjee

Read about Venus Remedies

Venus Remedies

The faithful shall not want

 Back in early 2004, when Chandigarh-based Venus Remedies started aggressively investing in its R&D and infrastructure facilities, it was a leap of faith for its Managing Director Pawan Chaudhary. His faith has been more than rewarded. Venus has grown at an astounding CAGR of 83 per cent compared to the pharma industry average of 13 per cent.

“We started as a me-too drug manufacturing company, but soon realised the enormous potential of R&D in building our strong presence in India as well as globally,” says Chaudhary, who has been spending more than 6 per cent of revenues on R&D last three years.

Today, Venus has a strong generics portfolio, including cephalosporins, carbapenems, and anti-cancer drugs, besides which 70 more products are said to be in the pipeline. More than three-fourths of Venus’ revenues come from the domestic market, where it sells drugs both under its own brands and in tie-ups with others.

It also contract manufactures and sells drugs through larger players such as Nicholas Piramal and Cadila Healthcare. “The twopronged strategy of tie-ups with bigger players to market our NDDSbased (read: innovative) products and setting up our own sales network is likely to pay off in the near future,” says Chaudhary.

In the export market, where 70 per cent of its revenues come from cancer drugs, Venus has a presence in Ukraine, Germany, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Yemen, but wants to widen its reach to countries such as Brazil, Argentina and those in the European Union.

By 2010, Chaudhary expects exports to fetch 40 per cent of Venus’ revenues. “Many drugs are going off-patent in the near future and this has created a great opportunity for us,” he says. By then, the Rs 141-crore company hopes to touch Rs 500 crore in revenues.

-- Manu Kaushik

Read about Vishal Retail

Vishal Retail

The small-town retailer

 Even as the big boys of modern retail fight it out in the big cities, Ram Chandra Agarwal’s Vishal Retail is quietly tapping into Tier II and III cities. So far, it has proved to be a smart strategy. Vishal is doubling revenues every year, and will close 2007-08 with a topline of Rs 1,200 crore.

“We will maintain this rate of growth over the next three to five years,” says a confident Agarwal, who began his career from a tiny 100 sq. ft shop in 1986 in Kolkata’s Lal Bazaar area, selling readymade garments before he launched Vishal Retail’s first hypermarket in 2003.

Having opened 66 stores across 36 smaller, but fast-growing cities, Agarwal intends to scale up and expand into newer markets. For starters, another 35 stores will come up, mainly in south and west India. “We have a target of 5 million sq. ft. of total retail space by March 2010.

With a strong presence in north India (60 per cent of Vishal’s sales come from this region), the plans are already in place to enter southern markets in a big way,” adds Agarwal.

Simultaneously, Vishal, which gets 63 per cent of its sales from apparel, will move into newer product categories such as mobile phones, packaged water, home appliances and consumer durables.

It will also beef up its private label (that is, store-owned brands) business. “Currently, around 15-16 per cent of our products across categories are private labels and we want it to be 25 per cent in the next twothree years,” says Agarwal. The reason for that is simple: private labels offer margins that are 4-5 per cent higher.

Agarwal also plans to launch quick-service restaurants. While that’s a different kettle of fish, investors in Vishal don’t seem too worried. Since it IPOed on July 4 this year, the stock is up 160 per cent, giving it a market cap of Rs 1,570.16 crore.

-- Manu Kaushik

Read about Welspun Gujarat Stahl Rohren

Welspun Gujarat Stahl Rohren

Piping hot growth

 It’s already among the top three (oil and gas) pipe manufacturers in the world and has 60 oil companies as its clients. So, where does Welspun Gujarat Stahl Rohren (simply Welspun here on in this copy) go from here? Farther up.

Over the last three years, its profits have clocked a near or more than 100 per cent growth—increasing 81 per cent in 2005-06 to Rs 61.4 crore and 132 per cent in 2006-07 to Rs 142.6 crore. Revenues too, have spiralled by 158 per cent over the 2004-05 levels to touch Rs 2,678.5 crore in 2006-07. Bal Krishan Goenka, Welspun’s 41-year-old VC and MD, though says there’s plenty of steam left.

The company, which derives 85 per cent of its revenues from exports, will be commissioning its coilcum-plate plant at Kandla in Gujarat early next year, followed by the soft launch of its $100-million plant in Little Rock, Arkansas, in February.

When that happens, Welspun’s total capacity will rise to 1.6 MTPA, going up to 2 MTPA by March 2009. Its order book, currently at Rs 5,500 crore, could vault to Rs 10,000 crore in 2008-09.

“With domestic oil and gas product rising courtesy Reliance, we expect our India revenues to double to 30 per cent of sales next year,” says Goenka.

Also on his radar is a potential acquisition overseas, and he says talks are on with a few companies. Interestingly enough, Welspun, which will log Rs 3,800 crore in revenues in 2007-08, has formed a joint venture with the Adani Group for oil exploration and production. The duo has two blocks in India— one each in Assam and Gujarat— and three blocks in Thailand.

“However, our primary focus will remain on being a leading oil and gas transportation equipment specialist, especially for the large diameter pipes,” says Goenka. With the oil and gas transportation sector expected to become a Rs 20,000 crore industry in the next three to four years, Goenka’s growth path seem neatly chalked out.

-- Tejeesh N.S. Behl