26 Jan 2018 17:51 IST

Glass that spells class

Here’s the story of Borosil, a pioneer of glassware in India

In 2017, an advertisement that showed workers at Borosil Glass Works Ltd. reproducing the national anthem with sounds made from different glass items, made waves. What was intriguing was that the workers themselves were kept in the dark about this operation: they had been asked to merely tap a glass stick against the items they were working on. The different sounds thus produced were recorded and blended to create the anthem. It was then played for the workers, who were left spellbound.

 

That’s Borosil for you — glass that spells class.

Borosil Glass Works Ltd. (BGWL), said to be the pioneer of glassware in India, was established in 1962 in Gujarat. It was started by an Indian scientist, Dr SR Lele, in collaboration with Corning Glass Works, US. Gradually, the foreign partner bought out Lele. It was only in 1988 that Corning divested its share.

BL Kheruka, who was running a glass manufacturing business in Kolkata, bought a majority stake from Corning, moved to Mumbai and started looking at ways to make the brand stand out. The company moved from strength to strength and today, its products are used even by the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and other nuclear and defence installations in India. The name ‘Borosil’ has become synonymous with microwaveable kitchenware. Such is the quality of the product and the name the brand has built that if a laboratory wants to get ISO 9001 certification, the usage of Borosil certified A-class glassware is recommended.

Family and companies

Three generations of the Kheruka family are involved in running BGWL today: BL Kheruka is the Executive Chairman, his son PK Kheruka is Vice Chairman and grandson Shreevar Kheruka is MD and CEO.

The Borosil Group comprises two independent companies — Borosil Glass Works Ltd. (BGWL) and Gujarat Borosil Ltd. (GBL — the first manufacturer of solar glass in India). Borosil solar glass is reportedly the world’s highest rated product, with the SPF Institute in Switzerland awarding it an efficiency rating of 95.2 per cent!

The brand is not just the leading speciality glassware company in India, but is also the leader in microwaveable kitchenware and laboratory glassware, with a 60 per cent domestic market share.

BGWL has manufacturing facilities at Jaipur in Rajasthan, Bharuch in Gujarat (household products, laboratory glassware and high-quality patterned glass), and Tarapur and Nashik in Maharashtra. These facilities have been certified as being compliant with key quality standards and have received the latest testing and calibration certifications.

The two divisions

The company has two divisions — the Scientific and Industrial Products (SIP) division and the Consumer Products Division (CPD). A network of more than 250 authorised dealers handles its sales.

The SIP Division sells laboratory glassware (burettes, pipettes, volumetric flasks, distilling apparatus, stoppers, and test tubes among others), liquid handling systems (dispensers, micropipettes, culture plates, and vials), instruments, disposable plastics and explosion-proof lighting glassware (from general purpose lanterns and street lights to airfield lighting).

It is the single largest manufacturer of the entire range of volumetric glassware (used in school and college laboratories and pharmaceutical companies) in India.

The CPD sells microwavable and flame-proof kitchenware and appliances like induction cookers and sandwich makers.

The company also offers extra clear patterned glass (a byproduct of solar glass manufacturing) and pharmaceutical packaging. In fact, the packing is said to be one of the best in the industry.

International reach

All the 2000 different products from Borosil conform to national and international standards and are exported to over 40 countries across the globe. To help Borosil showcase its entire range of products via one outlet, its e-commerce website was launched and it is said to be doing very well.

Plans are afoot to enter the lunchbox, water jug and even baby feeding bottle segments, with the ‘chemical-free’ tag — as more and more consumers become aware of the hazards of plastic, Borosil is hoping to cash in with glassware that is less brittle.

The company has never felt the need to advertise its products aggressively — its quality always made itself felt. But as it enters other fields, it is going all out to woo the consumers. Its lunch box ad ‘Borosil Glass Lunch Box: Yeh Khane Mein Chemicals Nahi Chodta (this does not leach chemicals into the food)’ emphasises its commitment.

BGWL weathered a major crisis in 2006-2007, when it had to battle a sudden surge in electricity prices as well as labour problems and declining production. It overcame them to become stronger than ever.

Growth and accolades

Borosil acquired Jaipur-based Hopewell Tableware (manufacturers of opal tableware under the brand name ‘Larah’) and Klasspack Pvt Ltd. of Nashik (makers of packaging materials like ampoules for pharmaceutical companies) in 2016. Alongside these acquisitions, it is also planning to grow organically.

Borosil’s turnover in 2017 was around ₹267 crore. The company has won the 2014-15 Capexil Special Export Award. In 2015, Forbes recognised it as one of Asia’s 200 best performing companies under a billion.

Giving back

The company has a very clear-cut CSR policy applied across diverse areas. In healthcare, it conducts cancer detection camps, offers financial assistance to poor patients and donates towards hospital construction and infrastructure as well as for purchasing hospital equipment and accessories.

In the field of education, it conducts educational workshops and runs a highly subsidised, CBSE-certified school. It has also made substantial contributions towards the renovation of historic buildings; towards the upliftment of tribals through education, health and welfare activities; to Samarth for the Lead India 2020 programme; and to the JSW Foundation (the social development arm of the JSW Group of companies) for Indian Institute of Sport.

Environment friendly

Borosil has several firsts to its credit, chief among them being the world’s first 2mm tempered glass production process at its Bharuch facility. The solar glass manufactured here is claimed to be the world’s first and only toxin-free glass, as the company has successfully managed to remove antimony. This means that solar panels can be crushed after use and disposed of safely as landfill material.

It takes effort to be an environment-friendly company — investing in rain water harvesting at its facilities, utilising wind energy for electricity, using solar power and following other energy-saving measures like advanced waste heat recovery systems. The company claims to meet not just Indian but also European pollution norms. Borosil was awarded the National Energy Conservation Award in 2006.

It has even done its bit towards protecting wildlife — Borosil is one of the sponsors of ARTiger, an artistic initiative to raise funds to protect the Bengal Tiger.

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