V Udaya Sankar : Taking Customer-Centric Approach To A New Level | CEOInsights Vendor
V Udaya Sankar : Taking Customer-Centric Approach To A New Level

V Udaya Sankar : Taking Customer-Centric Approach To A New Level

 V Udaya Sankar ,  MD

V Udaya Sankar


A leader encourages people to achieve new heights and work for a higher cause. Through out history, all great leaders of the world have had similar qualities and solved existing challenges. Udaya Sankar, the MD of Refratechnik (India), is one such prominent name in Andhra Pradesh who climbed up the corporate ladder quickly in his 35 years of career, because of his sheer dedication and quality of work. He later joined as country head to become the MD of a renowned multinational organization head- quartered at Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. Uday has come a long way. In this interview, Uday shares his experience in the refractory industry and sheds light on his career journey.

Can you please describe your career journey for us?

With an experience of 18 years in major refractory industries such as Dalmia OCL, Orient Abrasives, RHI Clasil, my journey at Refratechnik group began 17 years ago. I started with Refratechnik Steel in 2007 as country head, as one man and pursued the growth of Refratechnik Steel, a subsidiary of Refratechnik Holding, Munich, to achieve required momentum, sales, and to have its own plant in India at Visakhapatnam.

The experience taught me the lessons that bring growth in the organizations I worked for. The critical lesson is understanding and meeting the customer requirements. By focusing on the needs of the market and our customers, and by evolving our products and services to align with customer demands, we have driven Refra-technik Steel to a significant level of growth in India.

What are the strategies that you have implemented to help Refra-technik grow?

Refratechnik group has substantial presence in the cement markets worldwide including India, and reasonably good market share in European market. However, Refratechnik's share in India in 2007 was very small. As I understood the Refratechnik quality standards and product reach, I slowly introduced Refratechnik in different steel plants with proven performance. The cost of refractories is one of the major input costs in steel making.

Though the initial costs of Refratechnik are on a higher side,
with higher performance guarantees and consistency, we could gain the confidence of the customers and market share. Slowly and steadily, we could expand similar strategies with the other customers. This led to a reasonably good market share which encouraged the Refratechnik group to invest to bring the production nearer to the market. At the same time, the Atmanirbhar Bharat call of the Government encouraged us to set up a state-of-the-art plant in Visakhapatnam.

Udaya Sankar's leader- ship at Refratechnik showcases how a relentless focus on customer needs & employee focus through a participatory manage- ment style can transform a company & inspire a team to reach new heights

The company invested over €30 Million in this state-of-the-art facility, which is poised to support the Indian steel and aluminium industries with highquality refractory products. The new greenfield manufacturing hub will play a significant role in making India self-reliant, as it aims to substitute imports and shape the future of the Indian refractory industry.

Could you share some examples of imported or technologically advanced equipment that your company has brought in, demonstrating your competency in the digital era?

The refractory industry, which primarily serves the steel and non-ferrous sectors, hasn't been significantly impacted by digitalization yet. This is because, our focus is on producing refractory materials essential for metal production. Without these materials, metal production isn't possible. Although we are moving towards increased digitalization, the refractory industry is still in the early stages of utilizing digital technologies.

However, within our industry, we strive to use the most modern equipment available. Our newly established plant in India is a state-of-the-art facility, making it the newest and most advanced in the Indian refractory sector. This plant helps us deliver consistent, high-quality products to our customers.

We have integrated the latest technology into our manufacturing processes. This includes implementing complete automation systems and automating order processing using SAP. These advancements ensure error-free service delivery and meet customer requirements without any gaps.
Could you share some of the guidelines or methodologies you currently follow in your leadership approach?

My leadership style is participatory management and leading by example. It's not just technology that drives industry growth; it's also the focus on people. Customers are the driving force for the growth of an organization. There is a saying that, 'If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients'. Therefore, you need to take care of your employees. The employees take care of implementing the right systems to produce right products. We prioritize recruiting the right people, train them, retain them, and involve them in all the decision-making processes.

A key strength of mine is understanding that, while decisions are often thought to be made by top management, real responsibility and ownership comes when you involve employees. Involving people in the decision-making process, even at the corporate level, results in valuable suggestions and greater ownership of decisions. This leads to effective implementation of those decisions.

This participatory approach has a cascading effect: it leads to better products, improved performance, and increased market share. Refratechnik's approach is to have a culture revolving around people and customers.

What kind of impacts or developments can we look forward to from you as a leader?

Moving forward, we focus on three main areas. First, we aim to provide more technological advantages to our customers by enhancing the quality of our products, to deliver better performance and cost-effectiveness. Second, we work on expanding our product range and increase our market share. To achieve these goals, we need to implement changes in our industry, such as advancements in R&D, updating our systems and equipment, and comprehensive training to our employees to meet the evolving requirements. These are the key tasks we have integrated into our planning systems. Our goal is to be among the top three companies in the industry in India, and we are actively taking the necessary actions to reach that position.

V Udaya Sankar, MD, Refratechnik

Udaya Sankar, Managing Director, Refra-technik (India) brings over 35 years of experience in the refractory industry. He has previously worked for industry leading organizations such as Dalmia OCL, Orient Abrasives, and RHI Clasil before joining Refratechnik in 2007. As a leader, Udaya believes in following participatory management and leading by example.

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