Technology, Innovation, People: Growth and diversification in India

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Nishant Arya - Executive Director, JBM Group, Automotive component manufacturer, India

In this year’s Survey, 57% of those questioned believe that family businesses are able to re-invent themselves with each new generation.  But there are few firms that can demonstrate it as powerfully as the JBM Group in India, recognised for the second year in a row as one of the fastest-growing companies in Fortune India’s Next 500.

The Arya family were originally active in textiles, in the ‘50s, but moved  to the manufacturing of Liquid Petroleum Gas cylinders in the ‘80s, setting up a manufacturing facility in less than six months, largely in response to government incentives. However, less than three years later, government policy changed. Nishant Arya, the founder’s son, explains, “My father had set up the manufacturing site from scratch, but he suddenly found himself with a brand-new facility and state-of-the-art technology, and nothing to do with it. This change of circumstances did not deter his spirit and he started to explore opportunities in the upcoming automotive industry.”

Nishant Arya

Nishant Arya, Executive Director - JBM Group

JBM started its ‘re-invention’ by manufacturing auto components for Maruti Suzuki (I) Ltd. Since then JBM Group has grown into a US$1.35bn business with interests in automobile, bus manufacturing, renewable energy, engineering & design and railways. Much of its growth has come through astute alliances: “As the global multinationals started to expand in India, we set up joint ventures with American, European and Japanese companies and established facilities all over India. We’ve also moved from just manufacturing to having expertise in engineering design and technology. In fact technology is one of three pillars that the business is built on: Technology, Innovation, and People (TIP). My father has always encouraged technology - he has always been prepared to invest in it, and takes risks to be a front runner in the field of technological advancement.  He had a dream to create JBM as the equivalent of ‘Intel Inside’ for the automotive industry. He wanted ‘JBM Inside’ to be as powerful a mark of quality as Intel is. I think we’ve realised that and are now aiming beyond.”

JBM Group plant, India

JBM Group plant, India

As for Innovation, JBM has more than 300 people working in R&D, “looking for new ways to exploit the best technology that hasn’t been commercialised yet.” For example, after partnering with an international bus manufacturer, JBM is at the forefront of efforts to develop and deploy electric buses in India. “For us, this isn’t about building buses per se, it’s about providing a holistic transport solution that addresses a whole range of challenges in the Indian public transportation domain, from the need for more sustainable transport, to the problem of air pollution in India’s cities, to the need for longer-lasting batteries. It would normally take about 60 months to get something like this off the ground – we took 30.  And I’m proud to say we are among the first companies in the world integrating all three–battery technology, the bus and the charging ecosystem. The next challenge is to make sure the electricity is produced from renewables, rather than coal. We’re really excited about our latest foray into renewable energy and again, our perspective is towards making a contribution to wider society, and not just our own business. We’ve also invested in skill development centres, education projects, training schemes, and community development, and supported villages affected by floods - giving something back is really important to us as a family and JBM.”

The last of the three principles is People. “Though actually, that comes first. Our people are our biggest differentiators. We have around 20,000 people at 40 plants. We recruit from the best universities, and our group supervisory board includes professionals from leading organisations, so we can benchmark ourselves against the best. We also have a really prestigious leadership development programme which is called ‘Drive’. Several hundred people go through that every year – it’s a huge investment for us.”
The entrepreneurial drive to re-invent is as dynamic in JBM now as it was 30 years ago, with Nishant awarded Family Entrepreneur of the Year in 2015 by Entrepreneur India. As he says, “In our family, we say nothing is permanent except change. And we like it that way.”

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