Chairman, director, and chief executive officer, Rohm & Haas Company
Born: December 23, 1945, in Muzzafarnager, India.
Education: Indian Institute of Technology, BS, 1967; Cornell University, MS, 1969; Drexel University, MBA, 1971.
Family: Son of Phool Prakash and Rukmini Sahai; married Kamal Varshney, 1968; children: two.
Career: Scott Paper Company, 1969–1971, scientific analysis manager; Rohm & Haas, 1971–1974, manager and treasurer; 1974–1976, assistant to the CEO; 1976–1979, financial planning manager; 1981–1983, planning director in London; 1983–1984, director general in Paris; Ducolite International, 1984–1987, director general; Rohm & Haas, 1987–1989, plastics business director; 1989–1993, global business director; 1989–1993, vice president of Pacific Region; 1996–1998, chairman of Electronics Materials Business Group; 1998–1999, vice chairman; 1999–, chairman and CEO.
Awards: Award for Executive Excellence, Commercial Development and Marketing Association, 2002.
Address: Rohm & Haas Company, 100 Independence Mall West, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19105; http://www.rohmhaas.com.
■ As chairman and CEO of Rohm & Haas Company, Rajiv L. Gupta was in every sense a global leader. Born and educated in India, beginning in 1999 he was head of the Philadelphia-based $6 billion specialty-materials company running operations in more than 25 countries. Gupta served Rohm & Haas in 13 different positions in three different regions of the world, including Europe and Asia Pacific. In 2002 he was recognized for his outstanding leadership by the Commercial Development and Marketing Association, and in 2003 Rohm & Haas ranked second on Fortune magazine's list of America's most-admired companies; among the eight key attributes of reputation, its quality of management was ranked with a near perfect score.
Gupta's trip from Muzzafarnager, India, to the home of Rohm & Haas half a world away in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was a most direct one. He was born in December 1945, graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology in 1967, and received a master's degree from Cornell University in 1969 and a master's in business administration from Philadelphia's Drexel University in 1971. Gupta joined Rohm & Haas that same year as a financial analyst and, except for a three-year stint with another company in the United Kingdom, moved steadily upward, and outward, through its ranks over the next 30 years.
Gupta developed a global breadth of management experience throughout his career with Rohm & Haas, a company generally classified as a specialty-chemical company, but which describes itself as a specialty-materials company making products for the personal-care, grocery, home, and construction markets as well as the electronics industry. In 1999 the company acquired Morton International, a producer of salt and also a diversified specialty-chemical company. The acquisition expanded Rohm & Haas's plastic-additives assets and added a global electronics-materials business, a specialty-adhesives division, and more. Gupta was vice chairman of Rohm & Haas at the time of the Morton deal but was already lined up to succeed the chairman and CEO J. Lawrence Wilson upon his retirement at the end of 1999.
At the start of 2000, when Gupta took over the top position at Rohm & Haas, the economic environment was taking a major downturn that lasted for several years. In 2001 he told Alex Tullo of Chemical & Engineering News , "The external economic environment of the past 12 months has sharpened our resolve to make Rohm & Haas a less complex company" (May 7, 2001). The manufacturing assets were streamlined through cutbacks in facilities and the elimination of the liquid-polysulfide sealants business, which cut approximately 1,200 jobs of a total of 18,000.
Gupta maintained a long-term goal for Rohm & Haas of 4 to 6 percent sales growth, to be achieved through new product development, expanded presence in Asia, and the implementation of improved information technology and an Enter prise Resource Planning (ERP) system throughout the company. ERP is a set of business-planning and scheduling tools designed to sharpen decision-making and enhance coor dination and teamwork in the supply chain for more effective preparation for the future. Implemented properly, ERP, com bined with well-designed system-wide information technology, can give a company a competitive edge through improved customer service and productivity while at the same time low ering costs and inventories.
Gupta saw technology differentiation as a way to gain a greater market share at any time—but particularly in difficult times. Innovation typically increases with investment in research and development; where Rohm & Haas spent only 11 percent of its R&D funds on growth projects in 1997, under Gupta's leadership growth-project spending was increased to approximately 35 percent of R&D funds in 2003.
One of the reasons Gupta received the Commercial Development and Marketing Association award in 2002 and was recognized by Forbes for outstanding management leadership was his attention to societal responsibility. Rohm & Haas committed R&D funds to reducing energy consumption by one percent each year, the ultimate goal being to reach total reductions of 15 percent from 1999 totals. The company's largest energy consumer, a plant in Houston, reached a 15 percent reduction from 1999 figures in a span of only three years. Gupta recognized that maximizing operating efficiency benefited both the environment and the company's profitability.
Gupta led Rohm & Haas through hard times with a strong product portfolio that was continuously refined through aggressive R&D and through incorporation of the ERP system in order to drive productivity and efficiency. At the same time, Gupta stressed the importance of good corporate governance practices at all levels. Rohm & Haas required all salaried employees to attend compliance training and be certified annually with the company's Code of Business Conduct.
One more essential action that Gupta took to ensure Rohm & Haas's corporate survival was to geographically reposition its manufacturing to meet the changing global environment. As of 2004 Rohm & Haas had over 100 manufacturing and technical locations in over 25 countries. Between 1999 and 2003 the company opened six sites in the Asia-Pacific region, meanwhile closing manufacturing facilities in North America and Europe. In 2002 Rohm & Haas started construction of a $20 million plant in India designed to annually produce up to 23,000 metric tons of water-based latex polymers used in coatings.
Beginning in 1979 the company set up and maintained operations in China, where more than $300 million were invested after that date. Gupta was quick to point out that in spite of discrepancies among regulations across international boundaries, the company had set up its own policy for environmentally responsible manufacturing in China. He told a press conference in Shanghai in 2003, "We will support and implement the 'Green China' policy with the help of China's rich resources, market growth, and labor as the way to success" (March 5, 2003).
See also entry on Rohm & Haas Company in International Directory of Company Histories .
Rohm & Haas, "Rohm & Haas Chairman and CEO Raj L. Gupta Visits Shanghai and Discusses Company's Plans for Ongoing Investment in China," news release, March 5, 2003, http://onlinepressroom.net/rohmhaas/ .
Tullo, Alex, "Rohm & Haas Also Streamlines Operations," Chemical & Engineering News , May 7, 2001, http://pubs.acs.org/cen/topstory/7919/7919notw2.html .
"2003 America's Most-Admired Companies," Fortune , http://www.fortune.com/fortune/mostadmired .
Wallace, Thomas F., et al., ERP: Making It Happen , New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2001.
—M. C. Nagel