Nerves of Steel


India Today - - PROFILE - BY MRIDU RAI

Dur­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with Sminu Jin­dal, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, Jin­dal Saw, the sub­ject just as eas­ily moves from men to ma­chines as it does from Pi­casso to Prem­c­hand. “I’ve a new found re­spect for Pi­casso,” she says. “I didn’t know that his early paint­ings were so re­al­is­tic and he switched to cu­bism when he was at the peak of his ca­reer. It’s like Raza sud­denly start­ing to paint squares in­stead of cir­cles,” she adds. As much as she ad­mires art, it is ma­chines that have her heart. “For me ma­chines are like po­etry in mo­tion. I love how each groove has to match ex­actly with the other one. The whole move­ment is so mes­meris­ing,” says Jin­dal with child­like ex­cite­ment.

As a Mar­wari woman who heads a lead­ing in­dus­trial firm de­spite be­ing wheel­chair- bound, Jin­dal has bro­ken sev­eral stereo­types. “It was a very tough pe­riod,” she says speak­ing about a car ac­ci­dent she had while re­turn­ing home from her board­ing school in Jaipur when she was a teenager. She sus­tained a se­vere spinal in­jury in the ac­ci­dent that left the lower half of her body paral­ysed. “I knew I would prob­a­bly never walk again but I was also de­ter­mined to get back on track. Why waste a life?” she asks.

This re­silience has also helped Jin­dal Saw’s earn­ings rise from Rs 400 crore to Rs 7,500 crore since she took the helm. Jin­dal has also helped the com­pany ven­ture into new busi­ness ar­eas other than pipes in­clud­ing ur­ban de­vel­op­ment and do­mes­tic trans­port and lo­gis­tics among oth­ers un­der the com­pany’s sub­sidiary Jin­dal ITF ( JITF).

One of th­ese ven­tures is JITF Vec­tor, which looks into sea and river trans­port. Jin­dal ex­plains that while China gen­er­ates about 40 per cent of GDP from the Yangtze river, In­dia’s coast­line, that’s 7,500 kilo­me­tres long, is highly un­der­used. “The Ganga, Brahma­pu­tra, Pallavi Shroff at her New Delhi of­fice Ya­muna, Go­davari and Kr­ishna are all nav­i­ga­ble rivers. If we use th­ese wa­ter re­sources for trans­porta­tion of goods then it eases pres­sure on the roads. It’s also cheaper. The fuel used is just one- third as com­pared to trucks,” she says.

Ac­cord­ing to Jin­dal th­ese newer busi­ness ven­tures, how­ever, aren’t 100 per cent suc­cess­ful at the mo­ment be­cause by the time the ideas were im­ple­mented the coun­try’s econ­omy nose­dived. “But I can pic­ture my­self there very soon,” she be­lieves.

Pos­i­tiv­ity then, it seems, is in­trin­sic to Jin­dal. “It’s how we’re built men­tally,” she says. Adding, “You don’t have to sac­ri­fice your dreams for any­thing. Least of all for be­ing a woman.”

When asked how she got in­ter­ested in the fam­ily busi­ness since both her younger sis­ters are home­mak­ers, she’s quick to credit her fa­ther, Prithvi­raj Jin­dal and grand­fa­ther, O. P. Jin­dal. “One day my grand­fa­ther took the whole fam­ily out for din­ner. Since we’re a big fam­ily the bill came to a few thou­sands. My grand­fa­ther felt that it was a huge amount and af­ter pay­ing the bill he left Rs 5 as a tip. My fa­ther then had to qui­etly slip in more money when my grand­fa­ther wasn’t look­ing,” she laughs. “My grand­fa­ther has worked very hard and has had a very hum­ble up­bring­ing. He in­stilled th­ese same val­ues in us. I’m glad we were brought up that way. It keeps me grounded,” she says.

Per­haps, it’s th­ese per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences that make Jin­dal so com­mit­ted to mak­ing pub­lic in­fra­struc­ture ac­ces­si­ble for the age­ing and the phys­i­cally chal­lenged through her char­ity ini­tia­tive Svayam. “It’s an ex­tremely im­por­tant task. I was for­tu­nate be­cause my par­ents had the means to build and change in­fra­struc­ture around to suit my needs. But not all have this priv­i­lege,” says Jin­dal.

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