Empire builders

Published : Feb 15, 2008 00:00 IST

Motors lined up for quality check at Stark Motors unit. - S. SIVA SARAVANAN

Motors lined up for quality check at Stark Motors unit. - S. SIVA SARAVANAN

The district has thrown up a plethora of innovators, who have gone on to establish business empires.

Motors lined up

COIMBATORE district is home to several industries that manufacture switches, transformers, innovative energy savers, machines for manufacturing paper bags and cups; companies that offer turnkey energy solutions; and transport companies that have grown into business empires.

Salzer Electronics Limited has become the largest manufacturer of rotary switches and channels in Asia. The Salzer group has five companies with international connections. Salzer Electronics was set up at Samichettipalayam, Coimbatore, in 1985 to design and manufacture cam-operated rotary switches in technical collaboration with Saelzer Schaltgerate Fabrick, GmbH, Germany. D. Rajesh Kumar, joint managing director, Salzer group, said: At that point of time, nobody was making rotary switches in India. It was a new concept. We struggled for four or five years Today, we are the largest manufacturer of rotary switches and channels in Asia.

After Salzer Controls Limited was founded in 1991, the group started making modular switches, proximity switches, load break switches, automobile switches and toroidal transformers in collaboration with Plitron Manufacturing Inc., Canada. In 2000, Salzer Electronics and Salzer Controls were merged. The group now has three manufacturing plants one in Coimbatore and the other two in Una and Bhakra Nangal, Himachal Pradesh. Salzer Cables Limited, which was set up in Coimbatore with 40 per cent equity from Larsen & Toubro, manufactures copper cables. Modular switches is an area where we expect real growth. The overall market size in India is Rs.700 crore, Rajesh Kumar said.

Salzers energy-saving device saves 30 per cent of electricity consumption in normal working conditions, and this has caught the attention of municipal corporations and industries. Rajesh Kumar calls it a wonderful equipment for street and outdoor lighting. Clyde Gonsalvez, senior executive, Salzer Electronics, said the device economised power consumption by reducing voltage and taking care to maintain lux levels. We have got a trial order from the Chennai Municipal Corporation. We have sold equipment to it worth Rs.35 lakh, Rajesh Kumar said.

Yenyeskey Machine Tools is perhaps the only company in India to make nine types of machines for making paper cups. N.S. Kumar, chairman of the company, said: We manufacture only machines that produce eco-friendly products. He is proud of the paper-bag making web offset machine, with a printing width of 1,900 mm, which his company has designed and developed. Nobody has developed this machine at the international level. We worked on it for three years, Kumar said. The company also manufactures slitter rewinder machines of different types and sizes, film lamination machines and web rewinder machines. The machines have been exported to 28 countries. Kumar, who has also been Yenyeskeys marketing man for 23 years, said: We manufacture and sell.

V.S. Prakasam Kummar has a yen for converting the most unlikely things such as mullu chedi (juliflora), coconut shells, saw dust, cashew shells and rice husk and other biomass into sources of electricity. His company, Arrya Hitech Energy (AHE), converts the thorny bushes growing in the wild into producer gas, which runs an engine to generate electricity. Such biomass materials are ideal for captive power generation. Biomass gasification is natures alternative to generation of electricity using fossil fuel. Small islands, which use diesel to generate electricity, can instead take to biomass gasification to generate power, Prakasam Kummar said. Biomass, for the purpose of gasification, includes natural resources such as the ubiquitous juliflora, casuarina and agricultural waste.

While these can be used in their natural form, powdery waste such as groundnut shells, sawdust and rice husk can be converted into briquettes.

The AHE obtained this technology from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore. It has been licensed to use this technology by Advanced Bioresidue Energy Technologies Society (ABETS), which is part of the Combustion Gasification and Propulsion Laboratory of the IISc.

The greatest advantage is that companies can use this technology for captive generation of power. It can be a tailor-made plant. The capacity can range from 10 kW to 1.5 MW, Kummar said. In January 2005, the AHE installed its first plant at Sultanpet, near Palladam close to Coimbatore. The installation of four plants, including one for Beach Minerals Company Private Limited in Tuticorin, is under way.

ABT Limited seems to be rediscovering its roots. In August 2006, as part of its platinum jubilee celebrations, the company launched ABT X Travels to provide comfortable travel in air-conditioned buses between important cities in South India. On August 28, 1931, P. Nachimuthu Gounder founded the Anamallai Bus Transport Limited (ABT), a passenger transport company, at Pollachi near Coimbatore. The company was running 150 buses on 110 routes in the Coimbatore region in 1972 when the State government nationalised bus transport.

Today, in just 16 months after ABT X Travels came into being, we have established that we are different from other operators, said N. Shanmugasundaram, chief executive, ABT Limited. ABT X Travels operates buses between Chennai and Coimbatore, Nagercoil and Bangalore, and Nagercoil and Chennai. With well-metalled highways becoming a reality and tourism on the rise, Shanmugasundaram said that road transportation will become vibrant.

S. Swaminathan, deputy general manager (operations), ABT X Travels, said, We have become a role model in bus passenger transportation.

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