29 Nov 2019 19:35 IST

Ramco Cements and its concrete growth plan

Ramco Cements plant

Some entrepreneurs, like founder Ramasamy Raja, are destined to change the fortunes of a region

The founder of Ramco Cements, PAC Ramasamy Raja, fondly called PACR, named after the Rameswaram deity, was born in Rajapalayam, a lush and panoramic but backward area at the foothills of the Western Ghats. He tried his hand at several professions before travelling abroad and observing the way mills were run in foreign countries. On his return, he took the far-sighted step of setting up a cotton mill at Rajapalayam, providing employment to many people and paving the way for the region’s development. The mill was inaugurated in 1938 and was the first of many ventures that would transform Rajapalayam. The Ramaraju Surgical Cotton mills was another such venture.

It was, however, the setting up of a cement unit which made the brand a name to reckon with. Since the cement industry involves huge capital outlay, setting up one was not easy. Despite this, at the urging of the then Central Industries Minister, Manubhai Shah, PACR launched Ramco Cements Ltd (RCL) in 1961, reportedly with part of the capital being supplied by the State government.

The first plant was commissioned at Virudhunagar and production began the very next year. Initial manufacturing used the wet process technology but by the 1970s, the plant switched over to the more efficient dry process. A natural expansion was into cement products including fibre cement sheets and boards with Ramco Industries.

Other plants soon followed at Jayanthipuram, Alathiyur and Ariyalur, and the company was soon notching up steady growth. With the acquisition of Gokul Cements in 2000, RCL proved its determination to take the lead through both organic and inorganic growth routes.

Well diversified

RCL is today one of the top ten cement producers in the country, with an estimated capacity of 15.5 million tonnes per annum (mtpa). It has five integrated cement plants, five grinding units, one packing centre, one ready-mix concrete plant, and one dry mortar plant spread across Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and West Bengal. A greenfield unit at Kurnool will be commissioned in 2020, and other expansion projects are planned.

All R&D activities are carried out at the Ramco Research Development Centre (RRDC) in Chennai. This centre not only tests cement and concrete to find answers to all customer needs but tries to find sustainable solutions to use the waste generated.

From individual houses and corporate buildings to dams and bridges, Ramco Cements has a product to suit all types of constructions. Its main product is Portland Cement. The company, which has a strong Southern presence, offers various items under cements and dry-mix products. MACE (masons, architects, contractors and engineers) from RCL offer technical assistance through mobile technical services or on-site testing and guidance, including water pH testing. The company brings out a monthly publication Tech Mantra for professionals in the field. Recently, RCL introduced Ramco Supercrete, touted as “India’s first crack-resistant premium-blended cement”.

Normally, the cement industry believes only in minimal advertising for its products. Of late, however, due to increasing competition, advertising for cement brands has seen an upswing. RCL has also entered the fray with ads that focus on strength and durability, at the same time, emphasising the sheer size and span of some projects.

Dust-free, clean factory

For a cement company whose focus is on construction activity, a high-pollution area, RCL has proved remarkably adept at being environment-friendly. It set up its first wind farm to generate clean energy in 1993. While some of the energy generated is meant for captive use, RCL also sells energy back to the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board grid as well.

It has won the CII Environmental Best Practices Award, the award for cleaner production measures from the AP Pollution Control Board and the Green Award 2012 for the Alathiyur Factory from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board. RCL Ariyalur is reportedly the only cement factory in the South to receive the gold medal for green manufacturing. RCL is also the only Indian cement company to have won the Four Leaves Award instituted by the Centre for Science and Environment for dust-free and clean factory premises.

Accolades

The different plants of RCL have won several performance awards — the Mine Safety Award from the Government of AP, the Good Industrial Relations & State Safety Awards from the Tamil Nadu and AP governments, the CAPEXIL Export Performance Award, the Business Excellence Award from the Industrial Economist, Visvesvariah Industrial Award from the All-India Manufacturers Organisation, and the Analyst Award given by the Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts of India.

RCL has an impressive CSR record. It has built a range of educational institutions, from kindergarten schools to engineering colleges, aided in renovating religious institutions, organised medical relief, contributed to water conservation, provided aid and flood relief measures during the Kerala and Chennai floods, and offered financial support to the families of martyred army men. RCL has won Asia’s Best CSR Practices Award, Overall Best CSR Excellence Award by ZEE Business and Best CSR Impact Award for 2019.

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