A Leading Company in the Paint Sector
Kansai Nerolac Paints Ltd. (“the Company” or “KNPL ”) manufactures and supplies paint catering to the coating solutions of customers. Paints are used on the finishing lines of electrical components, material handling equipment, automotive industries , and other general-purpose industries. KNPL is the largest industrial and third-largest decorative paint company in India, having an overall market share of 10.9% as of FY19, according to Statista. The Company is a subsidiary of the largest paint company in Japan, the Kansai Paint . As of 31st March 2020, the Company had 6 manufacturing plants and 25,000 dealers across the Country.
How was Kansai Nerolac formed?
A man who was a merchant and trader , and then after World War 1 became an active supporter of Japan’s efforts to minimize the reliance on imported goods, Katsujiro Lwai, launched one of the world’s largest paint company, Kansai Paint in 1918 . Because of the economic instability, Kansai struggled to survive in the initial years, but when the company launched the first lacquer paint, it established a strong foothold. By 1933, the Company had spread its wings outside Japan. Fast-forwarding to the late 20th century, the Company was looking at Asian markets for further growth. Then, the Company acquired 64.5% stake in India’s second-biggest Paint Company at that time, Goodlass Nerolac . Till 2005, Kansai boosted up its shareholding to 80% and finally, Kansai Nerolac was formed.
Indian Paint Industry
- According to Statista, the paint industry has grown at double digits historically, with a growth rate of 12% (volume) and 15% (value) in FY19. The industry shows a strong correlation with GDP, as a rise in GDP leads to an increase in spending capacity thereby resulting in rising discretionary spending.
- With the expansion of the organized market and increasing penetration in the rural market , the sector is growing at an extremely fast pace. As per CARE ratings, until 2017, the organized players had a market share of around 65% which post-GST implementation was increased to 80%, in 2018.
- In 2019, the trade value of the Indian paint industry stood at Rs.57 trillion.
The increased share of imports signifies the growth prospects which lie in India, for the industry.
- The tremendous scope for growth can also be seen by the per capita consumption of paint standing at 4kg in India as compared to 15kg globally. The low consumption as compared with other developing nations provides scope for more market penetration.
- The current trend in the industry is manufacturing water-based paints which are less susceptible to volatility in crude oil prices (a major component of the raw materials). The other reason for the increase in demand for water-based paints is due to ease of cleaning walls, corrosion protection, and high gloss properties.
- Though the industry as a whole is growing, it is also prone to the major risk of change in raw material prices, such as resins, pigments, solvents, additives, and oils, which can hamper the growth of the industry.
- Besides creating low Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) and eco-friendly paints, industry players are innovating to create nano-paints, a type of paint that can alter the properties of the surface according to user-defined parameters. This recent innovation has helped manufacturers to develop a product that can improve energy efficiency by helping structures absorb and reflect thermal energy. The key areas include reducing the use of Formaldehyde for indoor pollution as well as fast painting turnaround through quick drying and no odour formulations.
One of the most important factors to be considered for a paint company is its supply and distribution network. KNPL has a Pan-India presence with 104 sales locations and a large supply base totalling 500 plus material suppliers. Out of this, around 350 are local suppliers. To promote local growth, the Company tries to source its raw materials from local vendors; but some specialized raw materials are imported as the Company has no other alternative.
The supply chain process starts with a production plan that is the output of the planning phase. This provides input to the Manufacturing Unit in terms of finished goods and also to the Purchase Unit for raw materials to be procured to fulfill the demand. The purchasing of required materials and manufacturing of paint is carried out as per the production plan. The final product then goes to the regional distribution center and depots from where it can be collected by the customer .
The Company operates in two segments:
- Industrial Segment- KNPL is the market leader in this segment having a market share of around 40%. For FY20, the industrial segment registered a de-growth of around 19% due to lower sales owing to the slowdown in the automotive industry. The Company is likely to increase its focus towards the non-auto segment to offset loss from the auto segment and to reduce its concentration risk.
- Decorative Segment- KNPL is the 3rd largest paint company in the segment. The volume growth for the Company for the segment was around 5% for FY20. For this segment, the Company is shifting its focus towards the bottom of the pyramid i.e. cheaper paints which are gaining huge traction. E.g.-‘Soldier Paints’ brand recorded a growth of 18% in FY20.
To expand its portfolio of paint products, KNPL started diversifying its business inorganically through the acquisition of Marpol in FY18 and Perma Aids in FY19. The Company also forayed into powder coatings and adhesives, coil coatings, water-proofing, epoxy in chemical space to bring different kinds of chemical products under a single roof.
COVID-19 Impact on the Company
COVID-19 has severely impacted the industry. The Company’s supply chains have been affected and the production has come to a halt. KNPL had recorded nil sales for April. As the demand in the industrial segment comes from automobiles, construction, etc. these sectors are also in the trough phase of the business cycle corroborated by the fact that auto sales were almost nil in April , and construction activities also look bleak. On the decorative front, middle- and low-income group customers are likely to delay discretionary spending, like renovating homes, on the back of fear of lay-offs and pay-cuts. The pandemic has also resulted in the lack of workforce due to migration of laborers to their hometowns, thereby companies should focus on monitoring their supply chain and responding with agility to the changing scenarios.
KNPL has 3 Indian and 3 overseas subsidiaries located in Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh . The Company acquired Marpol to increase its leadership in the Powder Coating Segment . To enhance growth and to de-risk the business, the Company forayed into the business of Adhesives and Construction Chemicals. The Company also acquired Perma Construction for construction chemicals and entered a joint venture with Polygel to set up a new company ‘Nerofix’ for adhesives. The Company is also looking forward to having its footprints globally, thereby increasing operations inorganically.
- Strategic locations-
-All the manufacturing plants are strategically located near the key OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturer) which gives the Company a strong competitive edge. For instance, Maruti, one of the key customers of KNPL has plants located in Manesar, Gurugram, and Gujarat. To cater to the demand by Maruti in the North, Nerolac has plants located in Bawal in Haryana and Sayakha in Gujarat. This strategy helps them to provide an uninterrupted flow of products to their clientele.
- Cost leadership-
– One of the core competencies of KNPL is Cost Leadership. The Company mainly focuses on tightening the overhead cost and embracing digital capabilities. It gives the Company a competitive advantage in a way that the Company can do better pricing of its products which will help in improving the operating profitability.
-The overhead cost for the Company decreased by 4.7% and the operating profitability increased by 15.8% in FY20. Raw materials consumed as a percentage of total revenue have been reduced to 55% in FY20 from 62% in FY10.
-As KNPL considers employees as one of its greatest assets, the Company’s employee expenditure has grown by almost 34% as they have taken various initiatives like in-house portal and digital university to improve the employee skills and experience. The Company also provides extensive cross-functional experience to its employees and ensures manning of position as per the business need so that they don’t have to lay off the employees during a crisis.
- Environmental Conscious brand-
-Since its very beginning, the company tried to compete with Asian Paint’s positioning in the decorative segment. Earlier the Company tried to position its products as a beauty-enhancing product having the tagline ‘Ye Rang jo hai, Zindagi ko Chootha hai’ , but that didn’t work in the favor of the Company. So, to differentiate itself, KNPL branded itself as a healthy paint. The Company pioneered the concept of healthy home paints by introducing low VOC and metal-free paint. The Company’s brand purpose is ‘Creating environments for a healthy and beautiful future ’.
-KNPL has adopted Green Procurement Guidelines, which the Company has extended to its suppliers. These guidelines require suppliers to mandatorily avoid the usage of harmful substances like lead, mercury, etc.
- Technological advantage-
– KNPL’s hallmark of success is technological innovation a nd its immense focus on R&D. It has helped the Company to deliver high-quality service with a quick turnaround, cost savings, and reduced the environmental impact of harmful chemicals.
– The Company uses advanced digital tools like Machine Learning, Internet of Things (IoT) to secure business benefits. Recently, they have shifted from text-based content to digital content which includes augmented reality ads and 360-degree videos whi ch gives consumers more immersive experience.
- Branding and Marketing Strategy-
-KNPL has always been a step ahead when it comes to promotions and marketing.
-The Company had chosen its brand ambassador the bollywood biggies, like Amitabh Bachchan and Shahrukh Khan who further pushed the brand to greater heights.
-Creative ads and taglines by the Company like “Jab Ghar Ki Ronak Badani Ho, Deewaro Ko Sajana Ho, NEROLAC, NEROLAC” have bo osted the popularity of the product.
– One of the Company’s innovative marketing strategies was representing 250 shade colors on the luggage conveyor at Mumbai Airport.
– ‘Little bit of Nerolac’ was another strategy adopted by the Company. In this unique advertisement strategy, the brand rides on its B2B equity, by claiming that many household appliances like washing machines, refrigerators, etc. are coated with Nerolac, to boost its preference in the retail market.
– In the past, it had partnered with IPL teams- Delhi Daredevils and Sun Risers Hyderabad as a part of their promotion plan. Also, as a part of outdoor marketing communications, the Company painted murals across the Country to connect with the audience and strengthen its brand recall
- Robust Supply chain-
-The Company has deployed cutting edge IT tools to make its supply chain and sales process more efficient. The Company has adopted SAP Leonardo which brings together ML, IoT, Blockchain, and Big Data .
- Vertical Integration-
-Generally, manufacturing Companies achieve vertical integration where they control the elements in a value chain beyond their central manufacturing product. This helps them to improve the efficiency of the processes. KNPL is no exception to this as the Company has a vertically integrated supply chain that helps to serve decorative and industrial customers better.
- Research and Development-
-KNPL currently has 1 R&D center in India. KNPL’s R&D center is equipped with the latest labs for testing facilities . To build a robust R&D ecosystem, KNPL commissioned a state-of-the-art R&D facility at Vashi, Navi Mumbai. The center is equipped with the latest labs for catering to various markets and testing facilities.
-In the automotive sector, it is the market leader and has pioneered many important technological breakthroughs like:
- The Company has developed a functional coating that reduces indoor pollution of formaldehyde and is odorless.
- KNPL also introduced Blue Cathodic Electro Deposition (CED) Paint not only in India but at a global level. This innovation by the Company helped customers to eliminate topcoat applications for the inside area of sheet metal parts of tractors.
- Change in customer’s preference-
-In the decorative segment, customer’s demand may change and products may become obsolete due to rapid urbanization and increasing disposable income. As per Mordon Intelligence Report, demand for vinyl-based wallpaper is expected to grow by 28.5% CAGR over 2019-2024.
- Geographical Market-
-The Company does not have a well-diversified geographical market. Most of its plants are located in the north and few in southern and western India. The Eastern part is almost unexplored by the Company for expansion purpose. KNPL can try expanding in the Eastern region and it will help the Company in getting easier access to its Bangladesh subsidiary, subsequently minimizing transportation cost and time.
- Boost to the housing sector-
– In India, low consumption of paint offers huge growth potential for the paint companies. Recently, the Government has taken some steps to promote the housing sector. E.g.-the extension of CLSS (Credit Linked Subsidy Scheme) till 31st March 2021.
– CLSS for Middle Income Groups provides interest subvention to the families having annual household income in the range of Rs.6lakh to Rs.18lakh, seeking housing loans from Banks, Housing Finance Companies.
– It is estimated that this move will benefit around 0.3 million middle-class families by encouraging them to realize their dream of buying houses amidst economic challenges. As the demand for the housing sector increases, the demand for paint will also soar.
- New Market segments-
– The Company can foray into new market segments having huge potential for growth like adhesives, coil coatings, etc.
– Globally there are very few players who produce insect repellent paints. These paints can be used to repel or kill insects by the active insecticidal ingredients that are present in the paint. Currently, no paint company in India has manufactured such kinds of paint. Thus, KNPL can try capturing this opportunity.
- Tapping Rural Segment-
-The Company should tap into the rural markets more aggressively as paint industry penetration in the Country is too low. So the Company can try launching more separate brands and products as it did in the past by launching ‘Soldier Paints’.
- High Competition-
-Although KNPL is the market leader in the industrial segment, there is a threat of getting replaced due to tough competition and continuous technological innovation by other organized players like Asian Paints, Berger Paints, etc. In the foreign market also, there is high competition from International as well as domestic players.
- Changes in government rules and regulations-
-The majority of paints manufactured in India contain a huge amount of harmful substances like mercury, lead, etc. During the painting process, these paints emit a significant amount of VOCs also into the atmosphere, which can affect health and air quality. Subsequently, stricter regulations and environment policies due to climate change can affect the Company. E.g.–Titanium Dioxide, which is derived from Ilmenite, is one of the key raw materials used in the production of paints. Indian Paint Companies mainly import it from China which is the major supplier of this raw material. But due to environmental concerns, a no. of companies (Ilmenite producers) were shut down in China. This resulted in a decline in the supply, thereby leading to a spike in prices. Big players were able to take the hit but small players were adversely affected. To compensate for this shortage and to boost Make in India initiative, the Government banned the exports of Ilmenite.
-Changes in the policies of a state can affect the earnings of the Company. E.g.-Changes in the policy in Kashmir i.e. scrapping of article 370 where the Company is a market leader in the decorative segment. During this period of unrest, everything was shut, telephone and internet services were suspended which effected the normal business operations of the Company.
Michael Porter 5 Force Analysis
- Barriers to entry-
– Distribution Network- The top companies in the list have a wide sales and distribution network spanning all across the Country as well as outside thus making it difficult for a new player to enter.
-High Working Capital – The procurement of imported raw materials in bulk generally takes time for the paint companies due to the shortage of products, volatility in the prices of raw materials. Once the raw materials are obtained, the companies need a high amount of working capital for managing the inventory. Also, the time taken by the companies to receive money from their debtors takes around a month. So, Paint companies require high working capital to fill this gap.
– Technology- The industrial segment is more technology-intensive as compared to the decorative segment. Most of the unorganized players cater to the decorative segment due to nil or very little access to the technology. Organized players have access to technology and cater to both decorative and industrial segments.
- Bargaining power of suppliers-
-Raw materials expenses (solvents, resins, additives, and pigments) constitute around 60%-70% of the total revenue depending on the company size. Most of the raw materials are petro-based derivatives thus making paint industries critically dependent on suppliers. Therefore, the bargaining power of suppliers is moderate to high. E.g.-one of the raw materials, Titanium dioxide, is facing a global supply shortage which has led to higher prices by suppliers.
- Bargaining power of buyers-
– In the industry, the business contractors and the end customer are the majority of buyers who purchase in bulk quantities. Customers are price sensitive and decisions are made based on quality and other differentiating factors like eco-friendly paint, low VOC paint, etc. Also, easily available substitutes available from other competitors increases the bargaining power of buyers.
- Rivalry among competitors-
– There is tough competition in this oligopolistic industry as there are not too many players in the organized sector. There is very little differentiation among the products, hence advertising and distribution play a key role in positioning. In the unorganized sector, competition is majorly done based on pricing.
- The threat of substitutes-
-The threat of substitutes is very low. Earlier, the limewash was used in rural areas as a substitute for paint. The only substitute to paint, which is currently being used is wallpapers, but the buyer’s propensity to substitute is low due to high price and low durability.
Branding & Other Initiatives
- The Nerolac brand has increased its brand equity through various marketing initiatives. Contractors and painters are the essential influencers for the brand even though the ultimate decision is made by the end-users. KNPL gives importance to regional and simple communication at the store level .
- ‘Rishta Rangon Ke Sang’ is an exclusive paint contractor’s loyalty program which is designed to give a chance to contractors to earn points on their purchase.
- The Company also launched the ‘Nerolac Premium Painters’ club loyalty program as a part of the strategic move to enroll painters and train them on their painting skills through practical sessions. The Company leads a network of over 20,000 painters through its loyalty program.
- KNPL launched the “Color My Space ” app which allows its customers to see their house painted with a choice of Nerolac shade. Over 1 lakh users have downloaded this app and the no. is still growing. The Company also launched a chatbot which allows the customers to test any shade on a wall of their choice.
- The Company also piloted with Virtual Reality Units at its dealers which enabled consumers to get the feel of walking in their entire house painted with Nerolac.
- KNPL’s focus on the learning and development of its employees- KNPL vision is to enable an organization where people can act like entrepreneurs and business owners. For this purpose, they have created a digital university to up-skill their employees. The Company also has an in-house management portal that can be used by the employees to know about business elements.
- The Company plans to increase the usage of bio-fuel and renewable energy as an alternative for electric power consumption. KNPL aims to source 41% of the total energy consumption through renewable energy in FY21, which will predominantly control expenses too.
- Profitability, not an issue – The Profit after Tax (PAT) has been in the range and not much volatility is witnessed in the past 10 years except for FY16. The PAT margin showed an unusual spike in FY16. Profit before Tax increased by Rs.535 crores which can be attributed to the monetization of surplus assets from the sale of the Company’s land and building at Perungudi, Chennai in FY16 . The Chennai unit was shut down due to high wages, low productivity, obsolete machinery, and expansion infeasibility.
The Company’s operating profit margin as compared to FY19 increased due to the concentrated effort on dynamic formulation management, product mix change, and overhead control measures. The EPS also stood at Rs.9.9 as compared to Rs.8.7 in FY19. Due to corporate tax cut and low raw material prices, KNPL’s net profit soared by a whopping 15.21% at Rs.515 crore and net profit margin at 12.97%.
- Very Low Debt- KNPL finances the CAPEX majorly through internal accruals and only minimal is done through debt financing. The Company’s debt level has declined from FY10 till FY17 as the Company had been repaying its debt. However, after FY17, the Company’s debt level has started rising again as the Company took term loans and overdrafts for the acquisition of assets under management and to fund its short-term requirements . But it doesn’t pose a problem for the Company because they have sufficient cash to repay the debt. The adjusted net debt i.e. (total debt-cash & bank balance) for the Company is negative. Also, the equity of the Company has increased in a greater proportion as compared to the increase in the debt over the past years. The debt to equity ratio for the Company has always remained below 1 suggesting that the Company has sufficient funds to pay off the liabilities.
- Sufficient cash and cash equivalent – KNPL has sufficient current assets that can be quickly turned into cash . The significant increase in the cash and cash equivalent (CC&E) in FY16 is due to the sale of fixed assets and an increase in trade payables. The decrease in CC&E in FY19 was led by an increase in the inventory of raw materials standing at Rs.259crores vs. 126crores in FY18, this was due to a decline in demand which resulted in more money stuck as working capital. A significant increase in cash outflow amounting to Rs.183crores was attributed to the purchase of Property, Plant, and Equipment for expansion purposes like–
-Acquisition of Perma Constructions to give a boost to chemical business,
-Setting up a dedicated manufacturing unit for coil coating
-Started a dedicated manufacturing capability for wood finish
-Took some steps to boost its Nepal business. E.g.-The company started a project to upgrade their Birgunj Plant and implemented SAP ERP to make their operational processes more efficient
- Return on Equity (RoE) – RoE has been declining due to low asset turnover. Over the last five years, the demand for the paint products has largely been subdued due to unfavourable macro-economic factors like demonetization, GST, infrastructure slowdown, inflation, exchange rate volatility, and environmental legislation in China. Thus, lower sales have led to a depressed turnover ratio.
Financial leverage tells whether the Company is taking more debt to pump up its RoE. The financial leverage of the company has decreased from 1.61 in FY11 to 1.29 in FY20.
Howeve r, KNPL’s Debt/Equity ratio is very low suggesting that RoE is mainly driven by profits rather than a huge debt burden. Although COVID-19 will dampen the sales, in the long run until the demand for personal transport picks up, the Company has sufficient funds to fuel its growth in the coming future without taking huge debt .
- Cash Conversion Cycle- The Cash Conversion Days for KNPL for FY20 stands at 87 days whereas for the past 10 years the average stood at around 60 days . This increase can mainly be attributed to the increase in the inventory days on account of slowdown in the demand. The cash conversion cycle of KNPL is high as compared to its peer Asian Paints. Asian Paints has the network to restock their suppliers quickly, thereby leading to low inventory days and thereby lower cash conversion cycle .
- Cyclicality of the industry- Paint industry is a cyclical industry and KNPL’s majority sales come from the industrial segment. A slowdown in economic growth along with other seasonal variations can affect the operations and financials of the Company.
- Commodity Risk- Paint industry uses around 300 raw materials out of which around 150 are petro-based derivatives. As the price of crude oil is volatile depending upon macroeconomic factors, the price of raw material also fluctuates. However, KNPL does not undertake hedging activities to hedge this risk.
- Financial Risk- Risk from the currency fluctuations and market volatility can have a potential impact on the earnings.
- Competition- Intense competition with other brands in the decorative segment and with existing players entering into the industrial segment, the company might lose its market share to its competitors.
- Environmental risk- Changes in government regulations regarding climate change can impact the earnings of KNPL. E.g.–In 2016 a notification by GOI mentioned fixing all the lead content in decorative paints as it caused lead poisoning.
- The Company’s board consisted of 8 directors out of which 4 are independent directors including 1 woman director. This composition complies with SEBI (LODR) Regulations.
- None of the directors are related to each other .
- 2 separate meetings were held among the independent directors on 2nd May 2019 and 1st November 2019 in the presence of internal and statutory auditors where they reviewed the performance of non-independent directors, chairman of the company . They also assessed the quality, quantity, and timeliness of the flow of information between Company management and Board.
- No Shares are pledged by the promoters and total promoter holding is 75%.
- The macro-environment during the last few years had been quite volatile and uncertain. COVID-19 has further deteriorated the situation by bringing businesses to a standstill. With social distancing becoming the norm, households are reluctant to allow painters at their places. The lower-income group accounts for strong demand during the festive season but with the reduced financial stability, the demand for discretionary items such as paints will shrink. It becomes a matter of concern as to the time which will be taken by the industry to recover.
- The Company continues to expand its portfolio of premium customers by inking an agreement with an Italian Wood Finishing company ‘ICRO Coatings’. Also, the Company will focus to increase its market share in the new segments i.e. Powder Coatings and Performance Coatings.
- In the long term, KNPL has plans to expand and strengthen its footprint outside India organically and inorganically.
- As per KPMG, it is expected that due to liquidity crunch, sales in the residential sector will shrink to 3 lakh units in FY21, which will adversely impact the demand for paints. However, increasing urbanization and steps taken by the Government such as a boost of Rs.70,000crores. to the housing sector will act as a tailwind for the Company.
Stock Price Chart for the past 10 years
A sharp decline in the price is because the Company announced a stock split on 26th March, 2015 in the ratio of 1:10
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Contributor: Team Leveraged Growth
Co-Contributor: Mohnish Gujral
Research Desk | Leveraged Growth