03 January 2019

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High Performance Entrepreneur

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Dr KR MenonAccording to a famous Chinese proverb -- a single conversation across the table with a wise man is worth a month’s study of books. That is what I felt when I conversed casually with Dr. K.R Menon, the managing director of Hariharathmaja Chemicals, based at Ernakulam, Kochi.

Into his early eighties, he is still the enthusiastic entrepreneur, as he has always been. An ever questing scientist at heart, Dr Menon has a doctorate in zoology from the prestigious Wilson College in Mumbai.

Dr Menon is warm and genial by personality. He has an air of quiet authority about him, which immediately commands respect. Despite being an octogenarian, he still retains the enthusiasm and zest for life. He seemed to literally come alive, vibrantly so, when he commenced to talk about his pet topic, his endeavor, to which he had put in his life and soul to building up. He ran his fingers through his salt and pepper hair and settled down comfortably to travel back in time to the days when he had struggled to set up his chemical industry.

DR. K.R.Menon, set up the factory manufacturing sodium alginate and related chemicals in the year 1979, with financial help from Kerala Financial Corporation. He named it Hariharathmaja Chemicals, in dedication to his favorite deity, Lord Ayyappa.

Sodium alginate is extracted from brown algae or sea weeds. There are two varieties of brown algae available in India -- Sargassum and Turbenaria. Hariharathmaja Chemicals procures its raw materials from the eastern coast, precisely, Ramnad district in Tamil Nadu.  Sodium Alginate is a versatile product and is used in various industries. For example it is used in printing medium, as a lubricant in welding electrode manufacture, as a thickening medium in various food products, as an antacid in the pharmaceutical industry.

Hariharathmaja Chemicals caters to the demand of well known names in varied industries mentioned previously. The textile industries in Tirupur and Erode districts of Tamil Nadu use Sodium Alginate as their printing medium. Ador Welding, previously Advani Oerlikon in Chennai and Esab are just two of their clients in the welding industry. Their vast clientele is spread all over northern India.

Initially only textile grade Alginate was manufactured. In the year 1984, the nation wide strike in the textile industry almost forced the closure of the unit but it survived by diversifying into manufacture of electrode grade sodium alginate thereby emerged the electrode grade chemicals – Calcium Alginate and Potassium Alginate. Esab as mentioned earlier is one of their clients.

Another hurdle the unit had to face was, when in the year 1996 the Kerala Government imposed hundred percent power cut in the industrial sector. This too was overcome by working entirely on Genset alone and won the confidence and accolade of their clientele all over India. In the year 2005, the unit started catering to the Pharma industry by manufacturing Alginic Acid. Yet another product they diversified into was the manufacture of waterproofing compound Plastiseal.

The saga continues as they have further projects of opening units in Tamil Nadu. A few years back Dr. K.R Menon passed on the mantel to his very able and level headed son Mr. Balachandran Krishnan who is now in charge of running the show and elevating it to greater heights and unexplored terrains.

Dr.Menon still wakes up at the break of dawn and gets ready each day to visit his factory, forever the enthusiastic enterprising entrepreneur. After such an interaction, I mentally saluted Dr. Menon, the high performance entrepreneur for his indomitable spirit.



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