Ajitpal Rana

Inspiring Excellence in Commercial Operations

Ajitpal Rana

General Manager Commercial Operations,

JSW Steel

In his 20+ odd years of professional journey till date, Ajitpal Singh Rana has traversed a path marked by unwavering dedication, continuous learning, and significant contributions to the industry. As the current General Manager of Commercial Operations at JSW Steel, Dolvi Plant, Ajitpal was declared as a ‘Future Fit’ leader. His career narrative is one imbued with diverse experiences and pivotal roles that have shaped his trajectory.
Firmly believing that change is the only constant, Ajitpal has travelled across various roles and responsibilities in companies that are sharks in their field. From his humble beginnings as a Graduate Engineer Trainee (GET) at JSW Bellary, where he gained invaluable insights across planning, project execution, and operations and maintenance, to his pivotal roles in Project procurement at Tata Power and Global Sourcing at ABB, Ajitpal’s journey reflects an unwavering commitment to adaptability and growth.
At Vedanta, the world’s largest aluminium complex in Jharsuguda, Ajitpal’s tenure was marked by multifaceted responsibilities within procurement. It was here that he internalised the mantra of change and embraced the dynamic nature of the industry with fervour. His stellar contributions earned him the prestigious title of Star of Business. Returning to JSW Steel, Ajitpal embarked on a homecoming journey, now entrusted with spearheading service procurement for one of the largest integrated steel plant complexes at Dolvi. His leadership is characterised by a proactive approach to leveraging technology and streamlining processes to meet the evolving needs of the industry.
Ajitpal’s unwavering integrity, compliance, and performance stem from his middleclass roots, shaping his professional ethos. Mentored by industry stalwarts like Abhijit Pati and Umesh Mehta at Vedanta, he fosters team trust and accountability. Further, Ajitpal expresses gratitude to his family—parents, wife Sapna, sisters Neelam and Keerthi, and son Aditya—for their unwavering support. He also acknowledges his team’s dedication, which was pivotal in his professional journey.
Driven by a commitment to giving back to society, a trait he learned during his stint with the Tata’s, Ajitpal exemplifies the values of leadership and service. TradeFlock interviewed him to learn more about his professional life. 

What are your top career achievements, and how did your strategic approach impact a project or operation positively?

In my career, leading a cost reduction programme for Vedanta Aluminium and Power Business stands out. By consolidating 42 high-spend categories and conducting auctions, we saved approximately $6 million in just six months. I also spearheaded sustainability and manufacturing excellence programmes for procurement.
At JSW Steel, I led procurement transformation for the Dolvi Site, implementing strategic long-term contracts to enhance safety, performance, and governance with performance-based metrics. Noteworthy achievements include contract consolidation for VL Jharsuguda, yielding $30 million in cost reduction, and implementing the Smart pot digitalisation contract on gain sharing model, with potential savings of $22 million over a decade. Additionally, I successfully concluded FG EXIM consolidation contracts for the Al Sector (BALCO and Jharsuguda) with significant savings of $6.6 million. At JSW Steel’s Dolvi site, I’ve led procurement transformation, implementing long-term contracts with top service providers to enhance plant safety, performance, and governance. These performance-based contracts, linked to KPIs and output, set an industry-leading standard. 

Transitioning between Vedanta, ABB, Tata Power, and JSW Steel, what challenges did you face and how did you adapt?

Transitioning between Vedanta Limited, ABB Global Industries, Tata Power Company, and JSW Steel posed diverse challenges, from supplier maturity to operational alignment. Initially, at ABB, addressing gaps in supplier capabilities for exports and sustainability demanded extensive efforts and technology adoption support. In ABB’s global sourcing team, qualifying suppliers for oil and gas clients required collaboration and stringent adherence to industry standards. Today, India’s manufacturing landscape has evolved, thanks to initiatives like Make in India, promoting upgraded capabilities and global competitiveness. At JSW Steel, procurement transformation necessitated alignment with operational teams, achieved through stakeholder engagement and structured due diligence. Adaptability and strategic alignment have been pivotal in navigating challenges across industries.

As GM of Commercial Operations at JSW Steel, what strategies drive procurement efficiency and operational enhancement?

I oversee service procurement for the 10 MTPA Integrated Steel Plant at Dolvi. Implemented strategies include contract consolidation, TCObased procurement, and strategic performancebased contracts linked to KPIs and output. Driving strategic outsourcing and performancebased contracting aims to transition contracts to output-based models for enhanced operational efficiency. These initiatives underscore our commitment to streamlining procurement processes and optimising operational performance at JSW Steel.

What's your vision for commercial leadership in India, especially in procurement and strategic sourcing?

In the dynamic Indian business landscape, my vision for commercial leadership revolves around revolutionising procurement and strategic sourcing practices. While India is a favoured manufacturing destination, procurement often adheres to traditional cost-centric approaches, neglecting strategic partnerships and longterm relationships. Embracing strategic sourcing and integrating sustainability into the supply chain is crucial. Flexible, agile supply chains adaptable to evolving market demands will spearhead industry advancements. By fostering a culture of strategic collaboration and sustainability, commercial leadership can propel Indian businesses to the forefront of global competitiveness, driving innovation and efficiency in procurement practices.

What are the key challenges and opportunities facing India's steel industry, and how do you plan to tackle them?

JSW Steel aims to tackle challenges like price volatility and supply chain disruptions in India’s steel industry. Leveraging opportunities in strategic sourcing, technology adoption, supplier collaboration, and sustainability initiatives will drive growth and competitiveness.

What's the roadmap for optimising operations, fostering innovation, and ensuring sustainable growth at JSW Steel?

Despite the current geopolitical situation, I view it as an opportunity for expansion. Recognising that every problem has a solution, we are proactive in seeking out opportunities amidst global uncertainty. Rather than solely focusing on expanding our own brand, we aim to assist individuals in establishing their own home-grown brands.
By leveraging our manufacturing capabilities, we plan to penetrate the global market while helping others realise their entrepreneurial aspirations. This approach allows us to adapt to the current landscape while continuing to grow and thrive in the domestic market. 

What advice do you have for emerging entrepreneurs?

At JSW Steel, our focus is on optimising commercial operations, cultivating innovation and achieving sustainable growth. We’re enhancing agility through collaboration with stakeholders and implementing initiatives within procurement. Our Centre of Excellence facilitates the cross-sharing of ideas and best practices. We’re leveraging data analytics, robotic process automation, and artificial intelligence to drive innovation. Digital transformation is a key area of focus, with efforts directed towards implementing end-to-end digital procurement across all verticals to ensure future readiness and shape the overall digital landscape for the procurement function.