Interviews

Investors Diaries: Brexit is an opportunity to further scale investments

7 min read

26 December 2018

Reporter, Real Business

Real Business speaks with Indian businessman Suresh M. Lodha, who is investing in a UK company despite the ever-looming Brexit.

Suresh M. Lodha began his career leading Indsur Group – a $150 million valued Mumbai-based global business house. He is now one of India’s formidable business figures, accredited with scaling businesses for sustained growth.

One such company is UK-based Western Thermal Group, whom he’s the chair of.

Here he discusses Western Thermal’s growth journey – and emphasises thoughts on Brexit as a business opportunity.

Your legacy:

The thermal engineering sector is quite fragmented in the UK. There is a good opportunity for consolidation. We are doing exactly that. As part of our expansion and consolidation, we acquired Henderson Site services – a company that complements our business.

Our hope is that in the next five years we will be one of the top players in the thermal engineering space. Western Thermal has already embarked outside the UK market. We completed major projects in Denmark and Sweden.

Our export revenue was over 8% last year and is going to go up further.

I want the business to continue to be remembered for its leading specialism and for our inclination towards ventures overseas. We already have a strong foothold.

Your business model:

We have a simple and effective business model. We acquire middle-sized companies and then scale their operations. For instance, today Indsur Global is a market leader in making steel castings for railways, power infrastructures, as well as auto components in India.

It is one of a market leader of in Europe, with state of the art manufacturing facilities. Since our acquisition, we have grown quite significantly on a YOY basis.

My team and I personally believe in following strict ethical practices. We feel we should act as custodian to our stakeholders.

How do you measure success?

Success is a relative term – and I don’t grow and measure my success. We want to be a respected, consistent and stable supplier of all our products.

Our inorganic growth by way of acquisitions has been good and reasonably successful. Whether it was a China acquisition, casting and gear business in India or Western Thermal in the UK. My instinct and trust in dealing with promoters in taking over business has been good.

Do you plan to enter new markets in the next 12 months?

We have been very successful in India and will continue to do business there for the foreseeable future.

However, my take on the question would be that we must grow at least 20% on year-on-year basis. It is already happening in spite of changing market dynamics.

Most of our products are in the support industry. This helps in retaining customers for a longer period and it also makes them dependable.

How did you fund your business?

I started in a very small way. Getting bank finance in India was very difficult in those days. But, because of the trust and confidence I had in handling banks during my stint in the corporate world, it made my life easy.

Things gradually started moving. One thing that was clear to me was that bank money was public money. I have to be a custodian so that the trust and confidence is not shaken. I am happy that I have maintained this fact and all our businesses are current with our lenders.

In five years:

Over the next five years, I see plenty of opportunities for growth for the business.

As explained, we are focusing on growth despite the change in market dynamics.

I see Brexit as an opportunity to further scale my investments in the UK and not a hindrance. We are well prepared and ready for anything that comes our way. As a result we will flourish in what is a difficult time for the industry.

Your highest point…

My satisfaction is that all our acquisitions have been successful and are showing positive growth.

Your lowest point…

I have not had any low points in business because those low points have actually made me a better businessman and a person.

However, one of the most difficult decisions I had to make was to let go of a steel plant we had a few years ago. While difficult, it allowed me to focus my interests on scaling up other businesses.

What would tell your younger self?

I always told myself that one day I would make it in business.

This gave me the determination and drive to succeed and I still tell myself this daily.

Your policy wish list:

I want to see honesty, vision and readiness. There is too much politics in politics. This is what is causing all the division. A democracy can’t be perfect, but if someone tries to give it their all for everyone that is good enough for me.

In terms of the construction industry, I want faith in us to push on and become indispensable to the economy, in giving more opportunities to construction the government will certainly reap the rewards.

Your biggest piece of advice to other entrepreneurs…

Don’t be over-confident, plan properly, don’t go after money, create and retain customers. Act as a custodian of stakeholders.

But most importantly, you should be honest, have a positive attitude and be a team builder. The business world changes every day. If you have these qualities you will be able to get through even the most difficult periods.

Guilty pleasure..

To read good books – mainly autobiographies on inspirational business leaders.

What would make you a better leader?

To be more compassionate. Everyone in a position of leadership should show strength and compassion.