10 Aug 2018 21:35 IST

Circling the earth 1,300 times!

That’s the length of cables — 51 million km — superbrand Finolex has manufactured till date

Just imagine a cable-free existence: the entire world would grind to a standstill! All human beings are veritable puppets today, depending on cables of all lengths and sizes to live their daily lives in reasonable comfort — to communicate, to commute, to work, to illuminate, to cook, to entertain and be entertained — the list goes on and on.

And in that context, here is an impressive statistic: 51 million kilometres of cables, capable of circling the earth about 1,300 times: that is Finolex’ output to date. In India, Finolex is a name that has very strong brand recall, especially in association with cables – whether it is power, electricity or telecommunication, to name just a few.

The founders were from a Sindhi family — the Chhabrias — that lived in Karachi before the Partition. The family moved to Mumbai (then Bombay) in 1945. Two of the sons — Prahlad and Kishan — tried their hand at some business ventures before shifting base to Pune and opening a small retail shop selling electrical accessories. The shop was reasonably successful. In the 1950s, the brothers had a stroke of good fortune when they obtained an order from India’s Defence department for wire harnesses for trucks and tanks. Understanding that, in the long run, making cables would prove more profitable than merely trading in them, they moved into manufacturing.

Breakthrough for Chhabria brothers

In 1958, the business first began as a partnership firm named ‘Indian Cable Industries’. Reportedly, after some initial disappointments, they finally got an order to lay flat copper braiding on cables used in military tanks. They took a loan and imported the necessary machines from Japan to make this. More orders followed.

In 1959, the Chhabrias made a major breakthrough by becoming one of the first companies to produce PVC cables in India; the country had, until then, been importing them from England and Germany. The name ‘Finolex’ — indicative of fine and flexible copper cables — is said to have been coined the same year.

The year 1960 saw them setting up a Light Duty Cables Plan at Pimpri, Maharashtra. In 1972, Alpha Rubber Co. was acquired and the company name was changed to Finolex Cables Ltd. By 1974, Indian Cable Industries was dissolved and the business was taken over by Finolex Cables Ltd. In 1983, Finolex became a public limited company.

The 1980s and 1990s saw Finolex setting up several plants for the manufacture of different types of cables. First came a low voltage power cables plant at Pimpri; this was followed by a Jelly Filled Telephone Cables (JFTC) plant at the same location. JFTC were supplied to the Department of Telecommunications; Finolex was reportedly the first private sector manufacturer of JFTC to supply telephone cables to the Government of India.

This paved the way for Optical Fibre Cables (OFC). The diversification continued into the 2000s with Finolex entering the switchgear segment, and later the household appliances segment with fans and water heaters. These years also saw some fruitful joint ventures with Norddeutsche Seekabelwerke (NSW), Germany; Essex Inc, US; AT&T, US; Sumitomo of Japan; and Corning.

Strict quality control

Finolex is said to manufacture cables for every requirement. These cover every width, length and size for applications in different sectors — from Optic Fibre Cables thinner than human hair to power cables wider than truck tyres. Its USP has always been Quality, Safety and Reliability. Finolex manufactures some critical components in-house and keeps control over quality and consistency of both raw materials and the finished products. It pioneered the manufacture of Flame Retardant Low Smoke (FRLS) electrical cables in India, which is of great use in the modern construction industry.

Today, the complete range of products from Finolex cover not just cables (PVC insulated range, Rodent Repellant Multicore variety, JFTC, Auto & Battery, Co-axial and CATV, Computer, TV & VSAT networks, LAN, Switchboard, High Voltage Power, Fibre Optic, Solar etc.) but also electrical switches, miniature circuit breakers (MCB), lighting products like CFLs and LEDs, water heaters and fans.

Products planned for the future include aerial cables for Networking applications, OFC with power cords for broadband applications, CAT 5 cables for petrol pump applications, and so on. Finolex may also introduce Zero Halogen Cables for construction, thus following global environmental standards.

Group companies, turnover

The Finolex Group has four major companies — Finolex Cables Ltd. or FCL (the only cable company in India with Superbrand status); Finolex Industries Ltd (set up in 1981 and dealing in PVC resins and rigid PVC Pipes and fittings for the agricultural sector); Finolex Plasson Industries Pvt. Ltd (FPIPL), the first joint venture by an Indian company with Israel, set up in 1992 and offering products and solutions for micro irrigation; and Finolex-J Power Systems Pvt. Ltd. (FJPS), set up in 2008 and offering turnkey solutions for HV/EHV cable systems.

The total turnover of the Finolex Group today is said to be in the range of ₹6,000 crore, of which Finolex Cables accounts for more than ₹2,600 crore.

The Indian wires and cables market is said to be worth around ₹24,000 crore today. Finolex reportedly has a market share of around 9 per cent. The recent focus on digitisation has brought Finolex’ telecom cable business (which contributes around ₹220 crore of the turnover) into the spotlight.

Its manufacturing units are located at Pimpri (Pune), Urse (Pune), Goa and Roorkee (Uttarakhand). All the plants are ISO 9001, and all (except Roorkee) are ISO 14001 (Environmental Management Systems) certified. Finolex Cables has around 4,000 distributors and 30,000 dealers.

Brand recall is very high, not just among its target audience of builders and electricians but also with the common man. This is due to its advertisements (both print and TV) and promotion of sports events and activities (it was the official sponsor of Kings XI Punjab for IPL 2018).

Exports, awards, philanthropy

Its products are exported to several countries — Africa, the West Asian region, the US, Nepal, Sri Lanka, China, Germany, France, the UK, South Africa and Spain.

The company has received many awards and honours with its commitment to quality and excellence. These include the Harvard Business School-Economic Times Award for ‘Corporate Excellence’; the ‘Top Telecom Company Award’ in 2003 sponsored by Voice and Data magazine; and the Export Promotion Certificate from Export Promotion Council.

It found a place in Business India’s ‘Super 500 Corporations’ and was listed among the ‘Best Wealth Creating Companies of India’ in a Business Today-Stern Standard survey. World Link, Geneva, featured it among the ‘Top 150 Hidden Champions of the World’.

Finolex believes in giving back to society through contributions in the fields of medicine and education. This is done through the Hope Foundation and Research Centre, a public charitable trust established in 1979. The Finolex Academy of Management and Technology, Ratnagiri, and the International Institute of Information Technology, Pune, offer courses for disadvantaged students. The Kalpana Mammography Centre offers free cancer treatment, medicines, and financial assistance to poor patients

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