A Friend of Fiji
The M R Dayal Group has been a pillar of Fijian industry and social contribution for more than 80 years, the most recent venture into steel milling providing yet more opportunities for growth
Writer: Tom Wadlow | Project Manager: Joshua Mann
For any organisation, reaching an 80th anniversary is no small achievement.
In Fiji, the M R Dayal Group is celebrating this landmark, testament to its standing as a reliable, successful and caring corporate citizen which has supported industry and socioeconomic development across the country.
The group is something of a family dynasty, a source of immense pride for current Executive Director Jay Dayal, who is also Managing Director of the organisation’s newest venture, Dayals Steels.
“The M R Dayal Group was founded by my grandfather in his early days, and now stands 80 years tall in Fiji,” he says. “The pioneer businessman, Late Ram Dayal, whose father Mahadeo Singh was an immigrant from Bihar in India in 1900, was a social entrepreneur – he was very closely attached to giving back to the community.
“One of his notable contributions to his local area, Ba, was the supply of free water through pipes to over 300 residents when the government of Fiji was not able to provide facilities in those early days. With many charitable deeds, the family has earned a strong reputation and goodwill in Fiji and abroad, especially amongst those Fijian migrants settled overseas – everyone knows the Dayal family of Ba.”
Today the group consists of three subsidiaries – Dayals Quarries, Dayals Sawmillers and Dayals Steels – all of which hold leading positions within the Fijian marketplace.
Jay Dayal’s father, Prakash, co-founded the quarrying venture with his elder brother Brij, which serves as one of the largest civil engineering works, earthmoving and road construction businesses in Fiji. The business is now managed by Jay’s uncle, Brij Dayal, and his two sons, and produces various concrete related products such as concrete blocks, pavements, culverts, roadside kerbs, quarry and crushed stones for roads.
It would seem a natural step for Jay to step into the family business, but he admits that this was not originally on his career radar, the Executive Director initially planning to enter the legal profession.
“I always felt that there were enough capable leaders within the family to steer the business,” he recalls. “However, with the growth as it was, it required more close supervision and family involvement.
“When my father ventured into the sawmilling business in 1994, he asked me to extend my support to him – the company was poised to grow but required tight management of operations.
“Dayals Sawmillers Pte Ltd is now 25 years old and is Fiji’s largest processor and exporter of plantation grown genuine mahogany lumber and ready to use decking and flooring to many markets, including the USA, Central America, Dominican Republic, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China and South Korea.”
The Mahogany log purchase license with the Fijian government was negotiated by Jay in 2013, followed by its renewal in 2017, and the product markets introduced by him are currently benefitting the timber trade.
Steel – the new venture
Today, Jay Dayal’s major responsibility lies in running the steel business, the group’s most recent investment which was founded in 2015 as his vision.
The foundation for this project actually arose out of water, Jay being a co-founder of a bottling business (Island Chill) in 2005 which enjoyed tremendous success before being sold in 2014, the profits being used to fund the emergence of Dayals Steels.
And it is an exciting time to be in Fijian industry right now – although there are challenges with bureaucratic red tape, a strong construction industry continues to drive up demand for building materials saw as steel, wood and concrete.
Dayals Steels continues to serve the sector as Fiji’s largest and fully locally owned steel rolling mill, specialising in round reinforcement bars, structural purlins and roofing iron and accessories and mesh wire in various specifications.
So far, the venture has received $35 million in investment, backing which enables it to produce 100,000 tonnes of steel product a year.
“With further due diligence into the overall local and export market steel demand, we increased our product lines by adding roofing iron in pre-painted galvanised roofing sheets and Alu-Zinc with rainwater goods, heavy coated steel purlins, welded mesh wire products and galvanised strapping – all in multitude of specifications,” Jay says.
“Dayals Steels wishes to be a household name for steel products in Fiji. Many other product lines are currently planned which will significantly boost the economy of Fiji in coming years.”
Such was the determination to establish the steel milling operation, the company had to install its own power generators to plug the gap in local electricity supply.
And today Dayals Steels helps other companies in regard to their own ecological footprint – its furnaces operate at around 1,300 degrees Celsius, allowing it to dispose of waste fuel and oil without doing harm to the environment. Further, its hot rolling process is internationally recognised with ISO 14001 for Environmental Management System accreditation.
The Managing Director is also quick to praise the professionalism of his 130 employees at the steel business, a factor which he believes sets the company apart from the competition.
“With Dayals Steels producing a top-quality product, timely and exceptional customer service has been the hallmark of our success,” Jay adds.
“Our market share since 2018 has been continuously growing, and if we stay focused on our current growth trajectory, by the end of 2021 we should be the dominant player in the Fijian steel industry.
“With competition now extending to our retailers entering manufacturing, we will soon open retail outlets all over Viti Levu to counter that move. Our trained technical staff have a grip of the product quality standards and customer service.”
The same can be said of the 470 employees who work for the other Dayal companies, many of them being the third generation of their families who have all worked within the group.
It underlines the family’s standing as a key socioeconomic pillar in Fijian society, and leaves Jay optimistic that the group will be in safe hands for many more generations to come. Concluding the conversation, he outlines his short-term ambitions for the ever-growing steel division.
“I stand confident that having not only created a $35 million steel venture for Ba but for the whole of Fiji, this business will become a leader in the Pacific very soon. We have many ambitious plans – some have been temporarily shelved due to COVID-19, but we will soon be back on track once businesses normalise in 2021.”