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Published on: Jan. 23, 2022, 4:07 p.m.
Mallcom and its safety first mantra
  • Ajay Kumar Mall: we offer a large product basket; Photos: Sajal Bose

By Sajal Bose. Deputy Editor, Business India

Unlike previous years, safety in the workplace is now the rule of the game, and various industries are concerned with the safety of their workforce and take steps to ensure this. Industrial PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) such as safety helmets, eye protectors, safety hand gloves, shoes and clothing are used in industry as a second line of defence to safeguard the life and limbs of workers who are exposed to physical, chemical and biological hazards.

There has been a quantum leap in the industrial PPE segment in the last 10-15 years due to public awareness, and the result has been effective safety supervision by management and strict implementation of laws. However, the segment faces a major threat from the unorganised sector, which controls more than half of the total Rs8,000 crore domestic market.

Facing challenges from counterfeit and spurious products, organised manufacturers have been focusing on new technologies, and one of these is the Ajay Kumar Mall-owned Mallcom India Limited. With a workforce of 3,000, the Kolkata-based, BSE listed company is one of the largest producers of industrial PPE and has been investing substantially to develop modern application engineering and strengthen its competitive advantage. 

The company serves as an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) vendor to the world with customers spread across Europe, USA, South America and Oceania. It also sells under its brand name ‘Mallcom’ in the Indian sub-continent and Middle East through its dealer network. “Our USP is failsafe quality and the largest product basket in the industry. We are the customer’s first choice and meets his needs,” says Mall, founder and chairman of the company. 

Identifying opportunities

Mallcom is the success story of a bootstrap start-up. Mall was born and brought up in Calcutta. His father was a marketing professional and worked in several large business groups in Calcutta such as Bangurs, Birlas and ITC. After obtaining his CA degree, young Mall started his own firm to offer accounting services to corporates and individuals. But after a while the ambitious young man realised it was not very exciting and nothing ‘big’ could happen. He then decided to get into the export business, taking a lead from his father.

With a knack for identifying opportunities, he began his journey with the indenting business. Mall would get tender for log exporters from Malaysia and Singapore. He made a fortune with several deals. “The huge commission I earned was the seed capital for my present business,” recalls Mall, 62. 

In 1983, he founded Mallcom India as an export house and started exporting industrial leather gloves. The volume and the product range increased gradually. In 1986, Mallcom sent its first large consignment: Rs2 lakh worth of safety gears to Germany. Further, to explore the overseas market, Mall started visiting OEMs and dealers in industrial protective gear in Europe.

“It was a stepping stone for us. This has given me huge exposure to the export market and international trade tricks,” says Mall. He then decided to set up his own manufacturing unit in 1988 and his second factory came up two years later in 1990. Mall also replaced his Chetak scooter with a second-hand Ambassador car for his family. The company steadily strengthened its OEMs and customers spread in the overseas market. Today, Mallcom is a reputed name in the industry.

From such a small beginning in 1983 with a first-year turnover of merely a few lakhs, Mallcom India has grown to become a Rs330 crore company, which presently employs 3,000 people, over 30 per cent of them women. Mall is now joined by his only son Rohit, 29, who is an MBA from IESE Business School, Barcelona. He was instrumental in starting the head protection unit in 2020 under the guidance of his father.

The unit is situated at Bantala leather complex in Kolkata and has an annual capacity of 1.2 million pieces of safety helmets and 150 million pieces of face masks (industrial and surgical). “We have to move with the times. The head protection market has been growing at 10 per cent and we expect to generate 20 per cent revenue from it in the next five years,” says Rohit. He is also actively involved in the company’s digitisation, branding and also developing new product lines. 

Last year, Mallcom forayed into industrial garmenting and set up a unit at GIDC Apparel Park SEZ, Ahmedabad with an investment of Rs22 crore. This unit will be producing high quality protective clothing and rainwear for European customers. The second project is coming up at Ghatakpukur, to the east of Kolkata, on a 7.5-acre plot. The first phase of the Rs50 crore unit will be operational in July this year. The unit will cater to both the domestic and export markets. “We have a strong balance sheet with net cash. All our expansions are being funded through internal accruals,” says Shyam Agarwal, CFO of the company. It expects to generate a significant topline growth from these units in the next three years. 

Mallcom India presently has 13 manufacturing facilities across three states: West Bengal, Gujarat and Uttarakhand, of which 11 are in and around Kolkata. It provides the entire gamut of protection from head to toe, such as safety helmets, bump caps, face masks, several types of hand protection, safety shoes, etc.

These products are supplied across several industries like aerospace and aviation, agriculture, automobile and auto ancillary, oil and gas, petrochemical, biotechnology, glass and ceramics, healthcare, cement, chemicals, and the infrastructure sector. “Our aim is to bring the highest quality products to every worker and encourage a safer environment,” says Mall. During the second wave of Covid, the company diversified into medical PPE. It also donated face masks and disposable PPE to the West Bengal government. 

All the company’s facilities are compliant with ISO, SA, SEDEX and Fair Wear as well as modern lab standards as per European, Indian and American norms. The workmen are trained to comply with these international quality standards. It also pays attention to aesthetics and cost efficiency. Products go through stringent quality parameters before rolling out from its units.

Mallcom has also launched the world’s strongest hand protective gear made of Dyneema fibre. This patented product is manufactured in Falta, near Kolkata. The dipping unit here uniformly coats products with Acro-Nitrile Butadiene Rubber which helps in taking care of the major stress points of industrial gloves. However, the company needs to improve its housekeeping in the plant premises. 

Mallcom also owns a small tannery and knitting facility as part of its backward integration. All this has not gone unnoticed by international OEMs in the segment, which has strengthened the company’s exports. Today, exports contribute to over 60 per cent of its revenue with the balance from the domestic market. Honeywell, Bunzl and Ansell are some of the global giants which source Mallcom’s products.

“Mallcom has partnered with us to develop a new range of high-performance work wear every season for some years now. Their consistency and commitment have allowed us to offer best-in-class products to our customers across the Benelux market region,” says an exporter. 

Customising products

Technology and innovation play a major role in manufacturing. The company spends 3-4 per cent of its revenue on R&D. “We also customise products according to customers’ required specifications. Our products are designed with the finest materials and are crafted with premium workmanship, available at the most competitive prices,” explains Giriraj Mall, executive director and younger brother of Ajay Kumar Mall.

The company has over 300 SKUs. Saint Gobain, Maruti Suzuki, Renault Nissan, ITC, ABB, Tata, Aditya Birla Group, Siemens are some of the coveted domestic customers of the company. Mallcom is the second-largest player, after the Karam Group in Kanpur. It also competes with Bata and Liberty in safety shoes. 

“The export market is a tough one for Indian producers but Mallcom has demonstrated it is capable of producing quality products for this market. It has won the hearts of customers. The company is widely recognised in industrial PPE,” says Hemant Sapra, cofounder and global president of the Karam Group – a popular manufacturer for fall protection gear. 

Mallcom reported gross sales of Rs330 crore in March 2021 as against Rs288 crore in March 2020. Net profit rose to Rs25.52 crore in 2021 from Rs18.26 crore in March 2020. The market cap of the company is Rs541 crore while the current stock price is Rs867 a share. The promoter owns 73.78 per cent of the company while the remaining 26.22 per cent is with the public. “Our business grew across all our segments, both in the domestic and export markets and we have demonstrated good results in the last few years; we are confident of presenting a good report card in the coming years,” says Agarwal.

The company achieved a gross turnover of Rs160 crore for the six months ended September 2021 as against Rs123.68 crore during the corresponding previous period. Net profit for the six months till September 2021 increased to Rs14.60 crore as against Rs9.78 crore in September 2020. 

The global industrial PPE market size is worth $60 billion and India’s share is miniscule at the moment. China, which once controlled almost 30 per cent of the global market, is now gradually losing this to India. Post the Covid pandemic, the western market is somewhat wary of China and so buyers are shifting towards India. This is helping the Indian market to excel in safety wear. Sapra, who is also president of the Safety Appliance Manufacturing Association (SAMA) is bullish on the growth in the segment. 

Mallcom has shown it is capable of remaining a significant player in the segment. With workmen safety likely to increase, the company has set a target to achieve a top line growth of Rs500 crore in the next two years.

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