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Face to face: Jayant Balan, Voltas

Mixing caution with ambition has helped Voltas maintain a steady growth says Jayant Balan, senior VP and director of international operations business group at Voltas Limited

Jayant Balan, Senior Vice President and Director  International Operations.
Jayant Balan, Senior Vice President and Director International Operations.

With a market capitalisation of $2.7bn, Voltas Limited is part of the much larger $130bn TATA Group.

Voltas was established in 1954 in India and it offers engineering solutions for a wide spectrum of industries in areas such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning, refrigeration, electro-mechanical projects, textile machinery, mining and construction equipment, water management and treatment, cold chain solutions, building management systems and indoor air quality.

Talking about its international operations, Jayant Balan, senior vice president and director of international operations business group at Voltas Limited, says: “We established our international operations in 1978, and over the past four decades, we have operated in close to 35 countries across the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries.”

Balan gives a rundown of the Volta’s MEP business performance in 2017. He says: “Our financial year runs from April to March, and we closed the year ending March to our satisfaction. We had set out to consolidate and maintain our position as a premium tier-one provider of MEP solutions in the region, and are glad to say that, both in terms of financial performance and, equally and even more importantly, in terms of quality and delivery, we have executed and completed projects to the full satisfaction of our customers.”

The market continues to offer both opportunities and challenges, says Balan. “The bold and visionary approach of leaders in this region continues to offer opportunities, with several new developments being launched and taking shape in quick time.

“One could also safely say that there has been a shake out of sorts within the MEP industry where certain players, including major ones, having over extended themselves, have receded in presence and participation. While we are not immune to the challenges of both the economy and other industry specific challenges, we make conscious efforts to judiciously mix caution with our ambition to maintain and grow our business,” says Balan.

Talking about the company’s regional footprint, Balan adds that Voltas has been involved in several MEP projects, trading and manufacturing. He says: “We have executed projects in most GCC countries (for example, Jotun Paints Factory, Oman, Etihad Towers, Abu Dhabi, etc.) and also in the wider Middle East area as well in some African countries. We have an established presence in the UAE, Oman, KSA, etc. We have projects, operations, sales and management presence in these countries so that we are close to our customers. We are actively considering opportunities in Bahrain and Kuwait as well, where we have worked in the past. We also have our own duct fabrication and pre-fabricated module assembly facilities in the region, and apart from meeting requirements for our own projects, we supply these to other MEP contractors as well.”

Strategies and projects

Explaining some of the strategies in place at Voltas, Balan says: “We want to keep it simple and focus on basics and fundamentals. We methodically work on the following three key aspects that help build a successful organisation:

 - Business development, where we focus on a structured  risk-reward balanced approach to acquire new projects and clients.

 - Organisational development, where we focus on capacity building and skill development to hone future leaders of the organisation with a focus on engineering capability.

 - Execution and performance, where we focus on what is in our hands, within our control, and doing what we can do to increase our efficiency and productivity.

“No doubt, we need to be cognisant of and address external circumstances and challenges as well, which we do through a systematic risk assessment-based approach to opportunities.”

In the UAE, after successfully completing two phases of the Dubai Trade Centre District developments for DWTC in Dubai, Voltas has just commenced execution of the third phase. The company has also almost completed a hotel project in Abu Dhabi and executed the extension of the Ferrari World on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, Balan revealed. He says: “We have a few other projects going on in Dubai, ranging from a headquarter building for a health foundation, to a mixed-use complex for a sewage treatment plant. We are also completing a couple of hotel/apartment developments in Oman.”

MEP sector

Balan says that the MEP sector has good opportunities with several upcoming developments and with clients and main contractors seeking to partner with reliable players. “We do believe that that there are a good number of opportunities to keep us busy and allow us to sustain and grow our business,” says Balan.

However, he does admit that there are a lot of uncertainties in the market. “We continue to live in a world where uncertainty is the norm, and where we need to be constantly prepared to ‘unexpect the expected’. It is not good enough anymore to only ‘expect the unexpected’. Borrowing another term coined by commentators, we need to continue to tread carefully through a VUCA — volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous — world. Specifically for our industry, our challenges continue to be about the availability of budgets and funding; managing time and cost overruns; coordination and managing performance issues of fellow contractors on projects; and fair and reasonable compensation for variations and claims. Few other exogenous factors such as the regional geo-political tensions and the persistent low oil prices do add on to the challenges.”

Demand drivers

With oil prices looking to have settled to ‘new normal’ levels, the leaders of the region are rightly focusing on diversification to reduce the dependence on oil revenues, says Balan. “There are several infrastructure, industrial, housing, retail and entertainment, sports, convention/conference and even tourist projects being planned and launched. As we know, there are significant events in the near future, which are drivers for development. We also are aware of the longer term plans to 2030, that several of the regional governments have announced, and all this gives us confidence of continued investment in projects, which in turn should result in opportunities for us. Also, one wouldn’t want to dismiss the prospect of a rebound in oil prices, and the revival of opportunities in associated sectors,” adds Balan.

Optimism

“We respect our fellow players in the MEP industry and always look to learn and absorb good practices and approaches. As an established player, who has been in the market for several decades, our focus is on continuing to offer engineering capability, quality and cost effective solutions to our customers. This has been proven through repeat orders from customers, invitation to participate in iconic projects and expression of preference by major and respected developers. We continue to be considered to be among the top tier MEP contractors, and are seen to have the track record, expertise, capability and capacity to execute projects to a high standard and on time,” says Balan.

He concludes by saying: “We are cautiously optimistic of achieving our strategic goal and objective of sustained and profitable growth over the coming years. We are proud of the capability and efforts that our team put in to ensure that we execute and complete our projects to a high standard and to time, and therefore, to the satisfaction of our customers. As on organisation, we are committed to supporting, developing and providing learning and growth opportunities to all our people and across all of our business.”

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