Making A Sustainable Difference
Riju Jhunjhunwala, Chairman and Managing Director, Rajasthan Spinning & Weaving Mills (RSWM) Limited—the textile vertical of LNJ Bhilwara business conglomerate—feels fortunate to have been born and raised in a humble Marwari family. He studied at Don Bosco School, New Delhi, and pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from the University of Bradford, England. In 1999, he joined RSWM as a management trainee.
Jhunjhunwala is also the Managing Director of Bhilwara Energy Limited (BEL), and Vice Chairman of HEG (Hindustan Electro-Graphites Limited). Bhilwara Energy Limited is the conglomerate’s power generation vertical, which caters to energy generation from green energy sources.Having joined BEL, he saw an opportunity in the areas of solar and wind power. Today, the company generates 300+ MW of green energy. HEG Limited is the world’s largest single-site graphite electrode plant spread over 170 acres, with an annual processing capacity of 80,000 MT.
Reels and responsibilities
Speaking about the phenomenal growth achieved by RSWM under his leadership, Jhunjhunwala says, “Starting out as a trainee gave me exposure to finance, operations, exports and marketing. I was fortunate to have learned from the absolute best.” He continues, “We started with 12,000 spindles. Currently, we have ten manufacturing facilities in Rajasthan with 4,78,000 spindles and 136 looms, producing cotton, mélange, synthetic, sustainable and novelty yarns, as well as denim and knitted fabrics, and exporting to 78 countries worldwide.”
In 2007, he launched LNJ Denim, RSWM’s denim fabric manufacturing unit and in 2011, RSWM set up SJ11, a fully automated plant and thus he proved his mettle at a young age. Jhunjhunwala’s commitment to sustainable business practices led the company to set up a recycled polyester fibre plant near Jaipur, which uses waste PET bottles to produce polyester fibre. “Taking charge of a business at a young age comes with huge responsibilities. People look up to you to drive growth. The greatest advantage of being a young leader is that you have time on your side. However, one is always wary of making decisions that could be harmful to the business,” he says. Over the years, RSWM has been awarded several certifications by international organisations.
Jhunjhunwala at the launch of Jawahar Foundation
Towards community development
Passionate about community development, he participates in various activities through his organisation Jawahar Foundation that was launched in October 2019. It plays a key role in literacy, environmental issues, women empowerment, health care, and sanitation campaigns in Ajmer and Bhilwara. Just when things were getting started, the pandemic toppled the world, which led them to improvise the model. The Foundation distributed ration kits, masks and sanitisers, augmented the health care infrastructure at government hospitals, and organised oxygen pipelines, oxygen concentrators and Covid-19 beds. Currently, it is running three projects in digital education, food security and safe drinking water.
Swabhiman Shiksha, the Foundation’s digital literacy project is about imparting functional knowledge of computers to students aged 12-20 years to make them cyber-savvy. It runs a short-term certificate course to educate adolescents in the areas of digital transactions, Microsoft Office fundamentals, internet browsing and typing. The programme has benefited 8000+ students, and has been instrumental in a 23% increase in attendance at government schools. Swabhiman Bhoj, the food security project operational in Jaipur, Ajmer, Bhilwara and Banswara, is a series of community kitchens that serve fresh meals at an unbelievable price of just one rupee! Till date, the programme has served 3,00,000 meals and continues to notch up new milestones.
Swabhiman Jal is involved in water conservation and installation of water ATMs to solve water scarcity issues in Bhilwara. “Rajasthan has been long deprived of clean drinking water, especially in remote areas. We created an affordable solution to drinking water scarcity through Swabhiman Jal, a water ATM project. Member households can fill their vessels with drinking water 24/7 at just a tap of the smart card issued. It is currently operational in Banera in Bhilwara and Sursura in Ajmer,” he says.
Leanings and learnings
Jhunjhunwala’s successful journey can be attributed to his immense business acumen and the ideologies and leadership lessons passed down to him by his father. He concurs, “My father, Ravi Jhunjhunwala, who carried the legacy of his father, LN Jhunjhunwala, believed that there is no short cut to success. He taught us to be humble and build an ecosystem which is conducive to employee benefit.” Sharing the practices he has imbibed from his Marwari leanings and family culture, the proud Marwari businessman says, “My grandfather LN Jhunjhunwala says, ‘A rupee saved is a rupee earned’. We try to follow this in our office through our project, Kifayat. Another learning, for me, has been about leading with ethics in all relationships’.
He enjoys reading, spending time with family, and has a keen interest in politics and philanthropy. Travel is a big hobby, and so was golf, until his accident, after which he had to give up the sport. He is open minded and opinionated and loves cricket and tennis in addition to being passionate and straightforward about his ambitions and ideologies.
With Shri Ashok Gehlot, Chief Minister of Rajasthan
Onwards and upwards
Jhunjhunwala served as the President of the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation in the past (Delhi Chapter). At 30, he is one of EO’s youngest Presidents, has performed admirably at work and established himself as a prosperous businessman, and is ready to take RSWM from strength to strength.
Discussing his future plans, he says, “The Capex announced in Q1FY22 of R410 crore in expansion of denim fabric, manufacturing capacity at Kharigram, Gulabpura, and modernisation, balancing equipment, and knitting units are progressing as per schedule. The Board has approved an additional Capex of R315 crore for expanding its spinning capacity at the Lodha, Banswara unit by 51,000 spindles to cater to higher demand. We expect an incremental contribution of approximately R650-700 crore from this capacity addition.”
Going forward, he intends to prioritise solvency ratios for RSWM above everything else. “Modernisation of all spinning facilities, as and when required, is the next big thing on the list. We have the vision to double the capacity from what it is today, with some degree of forward integration. Of course, the company also wants to focus on being carbon neutral in a big way,” he concludes.