Sheer ambition and enterprise Saurashtra Fuels Pvt Ltd, Dhanbad

Sitting comfortably on eight plants worldwide, his plans for diversification could not have come at a more opportune time. Surendra Sinha, MD, Saurashtra Fuel Pvt. Ltd, plans to foray into infrastructure and shipping logistics. He already runs a refractory unit in Dhanbad to supplement his coke plants as well as to augment the earnings by supplying furnace tiles to clients. His elder son Navin handles two pig iron plants in Gujarat and with his younger son Harsh planning to join him, there is enough on the platter of this entrepreneur. It takes long to believe that a man with a childlike smile can also be a serious business thinker. He debunks the regular stereotype of tycoons as he comes across as an astute but down-to-earth entrepreneur.

From an engineering dropout to undisputed coke king, the ascent of this iconic businessman has been phenomenal.

"My father was a farmer who would fetch wheat from our native village Chhapra and barter with coal which he would sell in exchange for cash.

Gradually he started coal trading in Jharia which introduced him to his first real income. This was where he first got the real taste of black gold- coal. In 1952 he bought his first coal mine and kept acquiring them one after the other. He got into a steady business and life got better. At that time we realised that this was the line that was ours and where we can grow," reminisces Sinha. But as luck would have it, the Government decided in favour of nationalisation of coal mines in 1971. All the mining licenses were cancelled. This was a huge setback for the family. The compensation too was delayed and they sank into destitution. Young Surendra then had to quit pursuing engineering and look for a job. But then since he wasn’t adequately educated he could not find a decent, sufficiently rewarding one.

"He debunks the regular stereotype of tycoons as he comes across as an astute but down-to-earth entrepreneur"

Left with no choice, he decided to start his own business. He started from where his father left off and took up the manufacturing of coke. He started with a small plant with a monthly turnover of 300 tons where even he himself worked as a mason.

In 1992 the government laid ceiling on the quantity of coal to be supplied to private miners and froze the issuance of new licenses. As per the scenario of halted growth and a stagnant industry, he decided to move to Gujarat in 1994 where he started a joint venture with a friend. Fortunately during that period the industry received lucrative sops and infrastructural aid from the government and he made full use of it. Sensing opportunity, he erected a one million ton plant in Kutch. He went public with his company, Saurashtra Fuel Pvt. Ltd. He acquired coal mines in New Zealand and Australia to supply raw material to his coke plants back home.

"A person dies the day his aspirations die. The sense of positive dissatisfaction fuels your ambitions"

This move catapulted him in the league of top coke manufacturers of the country. "In modern day business, technology drives the edge. Investment in technology readily translates into growth. Research and development should, therefore, constitute an important ingredient of business as it leads to both operational and cost efficiency," is Surendra’s expert opinion.

He adopted a model for manufacturing medium coking coal by a talented scientist Kunda Singh, which was rejected by the CFRI (Central Fuel Research Institute), the agency that was to grant permission for its usage. He persuaded him to work with him. Meanwhile he was deprived of every help and insurance by the agency. Fighting all odds, with his current experience, he also added risk-embracing ability as a vital ingredient for enterprise, to his belief in the power of technology. Today he is a busy man shuttling between Dhanbad and Gujarat, not to mention occasional foreign tours, taking care of his ever expanding empire. "A person dies the day his aspirations die. The sense of positive dissatisfaction fuels your ambitions. I have seen many famous and successful people fading into oblivion once they quit, reason being their dampened spirits.

"Remember to choose a profession on the basis of its scope and your interest and then take the path less taken."

And this is where your family proves to be a great support. I live a very happy and fulfilled life with my wife and sons firmly at my side and my daughters happily married. A fulfilled personal life promises a healthy professional life," avers Sinha playing with his two-and-a-half-year-old grandson.

His grand mansion is shared by the three brothers, witnessing frequent gettogethers and parties. Sinha being a socialite, is very popular in the social circuit. He leads a healthy life waking up at 5:30 am and in approximately two hours, is through with the first phase of meetings with officials, to set the agenda for the day. Regular badminton keeps him fit and he keeps himself updated with the latest developments in the field of technology by browsing through latest literature pertaining to his industry. He is a regular paper presenter at seminars and conferences abroad and the required dose of academics invariably comes from the books that he often keeps up with.

"There are no fixed rules to success but certainly there has to be a gameplan. First remember to choose a profession on the basis of its scope and your interest and then take the path less taken.

This will sure buttress your chances of success. Thereafter, the real clincher lies in the passion with which you pursue it," is the mantra Surendra swears by.

Like any time-tested veteran, he is a firm believer of moral values. For him honesty still is the best policy, that at times seems to be rewarding only in the long run.

But one cannot deny the satisfaction of having done ‘the right thing’. No wonder his 2,500 plus workers are all praise for the generosity of one who is also one of the highest taxpayers of the city. Besides business his family keeps him busy too.

"He has given us a lot of freedom. This confidence comes from the fact that he is never afraid of failure himself. We really don’t have to look for a role model elsewhere. He is the one, right amongst us," beams his younger son Harsh with his brother Navin nodding in agreement.

So, to sum up, Surendra Sinha today, with the way his business graph has shaped up and from the feedback gathered about him as a person, has proved beyond a doubt that for attaining success in life, first and foremost, it is important to be a good human being.