Building success by doing things differently
As Pradeep Karhade, Director of TANATEX India, prepares to retire, he looks back over his career and explains why doing things differently has proved such a successful strategy.
Pradeep Karhade has spent his entire career in the chemicals industry. He joined Ciba Specialty Chemicals India in 1986 and moved from there to mastermind the launch of a new venture. This became TANATEX Chemicals India in 2007. Since then, he has built a thriving operation with a strong team and reputation for premium products.
Establishing brand equity in India
A strong reputation was at the heart of Pradeep’s launch strategy. A number of multi-nationals were already active in the market and he didn’t believe it would be sustainable to simply follow in their footsteps. He chose a more difficult route. “The commodities route would have been quicker,” he says. “The sale of speciality products requires more meetings and more time but this was the route I chose in order to establish the TANATEX brand equity. It is the most sustainable route for a company with a premium product.”
It also meant that his first investment request was for an applications lab – even before an initial sale had been sealed!
The launch of TANATEX into the Indian market didn’t just create a strong reputation for the company, it established a new market for more environmentally friendly processing chemicals. “We were (and still are) a world leader and pioneer in clay-based products and I thought this is the difference I can use to open doors for me,” Pradeep explains with some pride in his voice. “Mineral-based products like ours hadn’t been seen in India and they offered advantages that textile producers were not getting with oil-based products. As a result, we created a market for these products that had not existed before.”
When Pradeep looks back over his career, he is most proud and grateful to team India who helped carve out the company’s reputation as a premium brand in a crowded market place. “My philosophy is that everyone is important in making a good impression for customers. When products arrive on time, when people have a good experience on arriving at our company, when the order process is well managed, it all impacts positively on sales. I wanted our company to be good in every department, so when I say I am proud of team India, it really is the whole team.”
He has considerable gratitude too for CEO Marco de Koning: “Whatever I have achieved would not have been possible without the complete empowerment I had from Marco. I am highly indebted to him for letting me follow what I believed and giving me the space to do things differently. That autonomy is one of the things I have enjoyed most about my work.”
From performance development to personal development
Pradeep’s approach to the training and development of his team reflects his philosophy. “I wanted to make everyone a better individual,” he continues. “My focus was never simply on commercial activities and sales, I linked objectives to people’s personal development, like improving their language, problem solving or presentation skills.”
Customers too have experienced Pradeep’s unconventional approach. In one of his favourite memories, he recalls telling a long-standing customer that he simply wouldn’t be interested in a new product being launched: “Having piqued the customer’s interest, a sale was later confirmed and proved to be a turning point for TANNEX® NOVECO in India.”
Pradeep’s favourite product is TANNEX® TERGEO because he was involved from conception through to launch. “TANNEX® NOVECO was already popular in India, but it became clear an updated solution was required that more closely met customers’ evolving needs. The team in India had some ideas and carried out initial experiments and passed their suggestions to R&D in Europe. TANNEX® TERGEO was the result. It was satisfying to go from idea to launch and be 100% involved. I was really glad it could see the light of day,” says Pradeep.
Now Pradeep has a very different future ahead of him. In December 2018 he retires and is planning travels with his backpack to meet new people, absorb different cultures and enjoy the world’s national parks, as well as work with NGOs on social projects.