Soma Mondal: Queen of Steel

The first woman chairman of SAIL is focussed on improving its finances and increasing its market share of high-value products

Soma Mondal, 57, Chairman, SAIL Soma Mondal, 57, Chairman, SAIL

Soma Mondal describes joining SAIL in 2017 as a director from NALCO (National Aluminium Company Limited) as a game-changer: "The move was definitely disruptive since I was very well settled in NALCO, having started as a graduate trainee and rising to the Board position. SAIL was a much bigger company by way of volume, market size and presence, manpower, product mix, diversity and complexities. I had to start afresh in a new work environment. Today, I am proud to say that the decision could not have been better." That she has done a good job of it is evident from the fact that she took charge as Chairman of the company—the first woman in the post—in January 2021, within four years of moving over.

Mondal, who also holds the additional posts of Director (Commercial) and Director (Personnel), has been focussed on reducing SAIL's borrowings by way of better productivity, techno-economics, and inventory management. Recovering from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic was particularly challenging in this respect. "Since we are in a continuous industry, we had to calibrate production and evacuation based on the market demand. We re-set our priorities without wasting any time," she says. Under her, the company has reduced its borrowings by more than 40 per cent (or Rs 13,000 crore) to below Rs 20,000 crore during the first half of the current financial year. She has now set her eyes on planning SAIL's next phase of modernisation and expansion. "Our low debt-equity ratio of about 0.44 provides us enough confidence and opportunity to embark on our next phase of capacity expansion," she says.

Mondal, who is a graduate in electrical engineering from the National Institute of Technology, Rourkela, says her next big focus is to enhance the share of high value and special steel production in her business.