Anant Singhania, CEO, JK Enterprises and President, Indian Merchants Chamber of Commerce & Industry (IMC), and his wife Roma Singhania, President of Ladies’ Wing, play a key role in taking IMC to greater heights and helping it reach a larger audience.
Anant Singhania is a fifth generation industrialist and the CEO of JK Enterprises, a group entity of the 138-year old illustrious JK Organisation, owned and operated by the Singhania family that is present across several business verticals including paper, cement, garments, defence, engineering, pharma, real estate and finance.
His entrepreneurial journey has been an enriching one that allowed him to grow both personally and professionally. “I have learnt a lot from my gurus, teachers, seniors, elders, and peers. The visionary, industrialist and spiritual Singhania family has taught me how to be progressive and ahead of the times,” he affirms. JK Organisation is credited with being the first in India to manufacture Hydrosulphite of soda, TVs and steel belted radials. Today, some of the businesses in the organisation are the largest players in the world. “None of this would have been possible without the inward focus of our core business values,” he adds. In 1998, the industrialist married his high school sweetheart
Roma who has stood by him through thick and thin. “She is my pillar of strength. I am blessed to have her in my life,” he quips. The couple has two beautiful children—21-year-old son Aadya is studying in the US and 15-year-old daughter Ananddi will soon pass out from school.
Anant is the current President of the century-old IMC, and the former Co-Chairman of FICCI—Maharashtra State Council and Past President of Bombay Management Association. IMC is a 115-year old not-for-profit organisation that seeks to advance the economic and commercial interests of its members. Roma is a longstanding member and the President of the IMC Ladies’ Wing—the prestigious organisation that has been championing the cause of women’s economic betterment, for over 50 years. IMC’s annual Women Entrepreneurs Exhibition—now in its 35th year—is a much-awaited event on Mumbai’s social calendar and distinguished by the fact that its participants are all women without a retail presence. Under the couple’s leadership, the Chamber and the Ladies’ Wing have undertaken community initiatives that span education, cyber safety and commerce.
During a conversation with MARWAR, the spirited couple talk about their journey together and their initiatives at IMC. Both unanimously say for them it is “Family first” always. As parents, they are a team and equals. Roma mentions, in spite of Anant’s busy schedule, he is always there for the school meetings, events, family outings, etc. She mentions their courtship was a fairytale and her husband is a romantic. And he cherishes her loving nature, clarity, simplicity and values. Over to them:
Anant, tell us about your allencompassing role in creating a strong base and taking forward the proud legacy of IMC.
The Indian Merchants Chamber of Commerce and Industry, popularly known as IMC, is not-for-profit organisation. In recognition of the Chamber’s contribution to nation building, Shri Mahatma Gandhi accepted its honorary membership, the only Chamber which has this distinction. Heading this prestigious Chamber as one of the youngest-ever Presidents is an arduous task given the rich legacy that one has to build upon. The Chamber’s activities resonate with the theme chosen by me i.e. Partnering for Growth, and the programmes are based on its overarching premise. I have taken the initiative of having a series of industrial visits for our members to the Mumbai Port, GIFT City, Pradeep Metals and Maker Mela so far which has been received very well. Meeting, networking and partnering with organisations has helped IMC reach a larger audience.
During my tenure, an unprecedented number of high-level meetings at the centre and at the state level led IMC to be on top of the mind of our legislators. I have had the pleasure to interact with the (then) Vice President of India Shri Venkaiah Naidu, present Finance Minister Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman, CMs of UP, Punjab and Maharashtra, and several other high-ranking Union Ministers in Delhi. The Union Minister for Shipping, Ports and Waterways Shri Sabaranand Sonowal and Union Minister for MSME Shri Narayan Rane interacted with a large number of IMC members at our Mumbai premises. Over a dozen MOUs have been signed with educational institutions to bring about a larger interaction between industry and academia. My role entails planning, conceptualising events and coordinating the needs of the Chairpersons of IMC’s 22 core committees headed by experts in their respective fields.
How does IMC shape the business environment and build awareness in society?
Several pathbreaking contributions have been made in various fields. IMC and I were proud to flag off the ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ campaign last year, by Shri Piyush Goyal, Union Minister for Commerce & Industry towards nation building. Our members waved the Indian flag at their offices and homes and posted selfies with pride. We promoted the One District One Product (ODOP) programme for value chain development and alignment of support infrastructure amongst our members.
IMC members participated in the 75-day Coastal Clean-up campaign initiated by Minister of State (Independent Charge) Earth Sciences and MoS PMO, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr Jitendra Singh by cleaning up the Chowpatty Beach of Mumbai. This initiative led to the reduction of plastic waste.
The visit to the successful foreign joint venture of Kokoyu Camlin Ltd., Patalganga by diplomats showcased the opportunities and robustness of Indian manufacturing. The Chamber has already hosted over 15 foreign delegations of various countries to increase bilateral trade in the past six months alone.
These initiatives are aiding our members to grow together in a win-win environment. Interactive events, workshops and knowledge sessions on current issues like Digital Rupee, Use of 5G, Artificial Intelligence, use of Carbon credit have shaped the business environment.
Mrs Singhania, what community initiatives have you undertaken as the President of IMC Ladies Wing?
I feel elated for being at the helm of the IMC Ladies’ Wing. I got the opportunity to hold the 35th Women Entrepreneurs Exhibition 2022 at the Jio World Convention Center, where we gave a platform to women entrepreneurs to showcase their creativity. We introduced teenage budding entrepreneurs and broke many records with 250 happy participants and 18,000 visitors besides generating a record surplus which was keeping in tune of my theme for the year ‘Keep Going Keep Growing’.
Another initiative very close to my heart is ‘Aamchi Mumbai Safe Mumbai’ where we are focusing on awareness of cybercrime in partnership with the Mumbai Police, Rotary Clubs and Responsible Netism. A poster competition organised with Camlin is creating awareness about the ills of cybercrime in schoolchildren. This is our way to give back to society. Other programmes on property rights for women, movie screenings, book lectures, sessions on mental health and visits to exclusive events have found place in the path towards empowerment and emancipation of women. A much-awaited annual event is Impact where Sri Sri Ravishankarji will be sharing his pearls of wisdom.
Anant, what have been your key business learnings as the CEO of JK Enterprises?
I began my journey encapsuled in a legacy. Whilst in college, a large part of my summers was spent training, learning, observing how businesses function at our factories at Thane across various verticals. I visited the shop floor of each of the factories and learnt how fabrics, garments, cosmetics and engineering products were manufactured. After graduation, I started my journey as a trainee in the engineering division of our Group, working tirelessly. The learnings as I look back were priceless, and taught me things at the very basic level: how to solve problems, how to deal with personnel—we had over 8,000 workers at our Thane location at that time. Initially, I was appointed as Officer on Special Duty and thereafter I rose to the role of Executive Director and then as Wholetime Director of Raymond Limited.
Fast forward to present day. I manage the affairs of JK Enterprises, a groupentity of JK Organisation. I am a Director in JK Organisation, Platinum Fashion Apparels Pvt Ltd and Subash Silk Mills Ltd. I am also the Managing Partner ofGolden Fibonacci Property Developers LLP besides being the President of IMC Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
I have been involved in the activities of educational institutions, organisations and charitable trusts in the JK Organisation and elsewhere. I was a Trustee of JK Trust, India’s largest private NGO in the animal husbandry field and a Trustee in a few other public Charitable trusts in education and medical facilities.
Apart from business, I have been a member of the Executive Committee of the Indo-Italian Chamber of Commerce, the former Co-Chairman of FICCI-Maharashtra State Council and have also been the youngest President of Bombay Management Association.
Tell us about your upbringing in an industrialist Marwari family?
I have been blessed to be born to my parents late Ajaypat and Veena Singhania, who instilled in me honesty, fairness, gratitude and respect for others. My father taught me to be humble, polite and fair to all around me irrespective of their background. He ensured that I was enrolled in a simple co-ed school to get a robust foundation. Unfortunately, I lost him to cancer at a young age.
I have fond memories of growing up in a large joint family, celebrating Diwali each year in Kanpur and visiting our century-old temple. We grew up as one big family with several brothers and sisters. We ate together, on one large dining table, and the times we spent together were priceless and unforgettable. There was a lot of respect for elders and often we learnt life lessons simply by observing how they dealt with adversity.
What does the business leader Anant Singhania of today have to say to his younger version?
If I look back, I will tell younger Anant to manage time better, plan for the future and look at the big picture. Over the years, I have learnt that hard work is important but planning and strategising are equally important to achieve one’s long-term goals. We all grow with our experiences and change is inevitable. One needs to focus on the goal and overcome all obstacles. As as my son tells me, just relax and all will be fine.
How do you balance work and time with your family?
Honestly, I am finding it difficult to meet the pressures of work and the Chamber activities—since the Chamber has over 120 events, of which a very large number I need to attend and participate in. The invitations for networking and external speaking slots take up a lot of my personal time. Nevertheless, I follow my passion for motor racing, occasionally participating in events and watch Formula 1. Family time is special, when we spend time together—swimming, putting, go-karting and family holidays are the perfect time to bond and put your feet up. Technology is my passion and I try to keep abreast with the latest developments.
Tell us about your children and the value systems passed on to them.
Our two children Aadya and Ananddi are making us proud. Aadya performed exceedingly well in the IBDP and was a topper at ABWA, Mumbai, and he received several awards at school. He is currently on the Dean’s List at Northeastern University, Boston. He is a go-getter and has designed and created his own custom water-cooled PC in a small form factor. Ananddi, a budding entrepreneur at 15, has created Habibi Acrylics and has been doing trade shows displaying her products. She is currently in high school and has a keen interest in photography, and is full of empathy for others. They are grounded, family oriented and have good value systems. We have often heard from their teachers that they have been brought up well. Our kids are our reflection—both are unique and special. They are spiritual and have a desire to innovate and be the change. Our three dogs—Snoopy, Coco and Cola— are also an intrinsic part of our family.