By Ed Attwood
Rajen Kilachand has built the Dodsal Group into a multi-billion-dollar empire. Next on his list? The mining and nuclear sectors
Now aged 61, Rajen Kilachand spends most of his time on philanthropy and activities outside the oil business. He’s earned it; as founder and president of the UAE-based Dodsal Group, he’s the architect of a conglomerate that runs a slew of businesses from mining in Tanzania to Pizza Hut franchises in India. From its foundation in 1948, the group now has a turnover in the billions, and employs more than 25,000 employees in 22 countries around the world.
Kilachand admits that the last eighteen months or so have been a period of consolidation, but says that there will be fireworks in 2012, as the firm moves towards commercial operations in East Africa, and nuclear plant components production in India. “From 2012-13 onwards, you are going to see enormous profits,” he says. “I don’t bother about the top line at all — my concern is value, value of the group businesses, and the surplus bottom line cash. We think we should be — without the mining — in the region of bottom-line cash about $100-$120m in cash.”
Kilachand adds that Dodsal has already struck gold in Tanzania, and is now going into the last phases of investigation prior to the launch of actual mining operations. Linked with the mining operation, the group will also begin drilling for gas in the country in the third quarter of next year. All that work is outside of the energy and civil engineering contracts that the firm is still winning in the Gulf.
In India, Kilachand is putting the finishing touches to the design of a heavy equipment manufacturing plant in Gujarat, which will be churning out parts for India’s booming nuclear power industry in two years’ time.
That facility could also provide vital components for the Gulf’s fledging atomic industry, which kicked off with the UAE's $20bn power plant construction deal, offered at the end of 2009.
“Why not? They’ve given it [the UAE’s first nuclear power contract] to the Koreans, but at the end of the day there is a lot of run-of-the-mill stuff which they’re not going to make, I’m pretty sure,” he says. “And we’re looking for certain areas even in oil and gas or wherever, to have a mini plant of this mothership, where we do a lot of final machinery assembling up here [in the UAE].”
Further plans for the plant could involve the production of parts for the aerospace and defence sectors as well.
“We [India] have a huge programme for space; components for aircraft, and perhaps even assembling private jets,” Kilachand says. “Not necessarily all based on technology from India, but it’s really about making a production facility, taking engineering from anywhere in the world and putting it together and producing it here in India.”
But Kilachand is also slowly making preparations to hand over his company to the next generation. When questioned as to whether he will list the firm, he says that this is likely between 2013 and 2014.
“There are capital requirements, and we have a great deal on our plate to implement,” Kilachand says. “And of course, we would like to ensure that the majority of the capital — which is the value of the company — part of that is in our bank accounts, in cash, to put it very simply.”
When questioned as to whether either group subsidiaries or the entire group itself would list, the president answers: “The majority”. But for now, Kilachand will continue to focus on the vital work he does outside his main role as head of the group. Two weeks ago, he donated $25m to Boston University — that institution’s biggest ever single endowment — and he has also previously handed out $10m to charities that combat AIDS.