Nerves of Steel
SMINU JINDAL, MD JINDAL SAW, HAS MADE FIGHTING FOR THE RIGHTS OF THE PHYSICALLY CHALLENGED HER MISSION.
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.