Investing Rs 20K each, how 5 friends built a Rs 2,563 Cr turnover company, and other top SMB stories of the week
Galaxy Surfactants was founded by five friends — U Shekhar, Geera Ramakrishnan, Shashi Shanbhag, CR Ramakrishna, and Sudhir Patil — all hailing from different professions such as chemical engineering, pharmacy, accountancy, etc.
But they were all bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and had the desire to start something independently.
“Hailing from middle-class families, the only capital we had was our education. So we used to meet over several cups of tea and brainstorm ideas. We soon realised that it would be right for us to enter the manufacturing sector,” says U Shekhar, Managing Director, Galaxy Surfactants.
At the time, Geera Ramakrishnan worked with Colgate-Palmolive, and the friends went to meet the company’s manufacturing head. They asked him if they could do something to meet the needs of Colgate, to which he replied, “Why don't you manufacture Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES) TLS?”
U Shekhar didn't know what it was, so he simply agreed. The manufacturing head told them that manufacturing SLES TLS — a chemical used in making shampoos — doesn't need much of an investment.
With bank loans and personal investment of Rs 20,000 by each one, the five friends started Galaxy Surfactants in 1980 to make SLES TLS for Colgate.
Today, the company manufactures a wide range of speciality chemicals, including surfactants, mild surfactants, rheology modifiers, pearling agents, etc. It boasts an impressive lineup of clientele including CavinKare, Colgate-Palmolive (India), Dabur India, Henkel, Himalaya, L’ORÉAL, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, and more.
In FY20, the company clocked a turnover of Rs 2,563 crore.
Other top stories of the week:
Making a mark in India’s crowded market for non-alcoholic beverages is Mumbai-based beverage company Xotik Frujus. Founded in 2007 by Rajeev Sehgal, the beverage business is now run by him and his three children – Ankita, Vishakha, and Dishank Sehgal. It is now operational in 17 states in India along with in the UK, the US, and Canada.
Xotik is known for its core product, Jeeru, the popular apple juice-based masala drink. The beverage is available in modern retail chains such as Big Bazaar, DMart, Food Bazaar, Reliance Retail, Walmart, and others.
Rajeev says the jeera masala drink market is big in India, but is dominated by unorganised players. He started Xotik Frujus with an initial investment of Rs 2 crore amassed from his savings, and also raised some funds from banks.
“Most other sellers would buy old Bacardi Breezer bottles from scrap dealers and reuse them. Barring one or two companies, everyone was following suit. This brought down the cost of production but the look was very shabby. This was somehow acceptable because the rate was a primary concern in this market,” he says.
The scenario was in sharp contrast to Xotik’s modern manufacturing six-storied vertical facility in Andheri East, which was making products on fully automatic lines. Today, the company owns two manufacturing facilities – in Daman and Diu, and West Bengal – and has three contract units in Indore, Bhopal, and Sri Lanka. Raw materials are sourced from its Indian partners.
A hundred years ago, on the banks of the Ganges, three British men started a small carpet-making enterprise. It was 1920, shortly after World War I, and the founders were looking to capitalise on the rising popularity of Indian carpets in the West.
FH Oakley, FH Bowden, and JAL Taylor gathered the finest local craftsmen in Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh, and began manufacturing carpets.
Their business was started as Oakley Bowden & Taylor, and the enterprise derived its brand name Obeetee from the founders’ initials (OBT). Over the last century, Obeetee built its legacy as one of India’s largest handmade carpet and rug makers.
Gaurav Sharma, MD, Obeetee, says, “We have strong manufacturing processes and artisans trained in the fine art of carpet weaving. Some of our finest artisans can tie up to 9,000 knots a day. Our hand-knotted qualities range from 15 knots to 300 knots per square inch, which take anywhere between four to 18 months of weaving time.”
Gaurav says if someone buys an Obeetee carpet, they are buying a piece of history and participating in a 500-year-old tradition, which dates to the reign of Mughal emperor Akbar who was particularly fond of carpets.
Candle making, calligraphy, decoupage, mixed media, engraving, wood crafting, soap-making and several such craft hobbies have people running to different retail stores in search of quality raw material.
In 2004, Itsy Bitsy was founded as a one-stop-shop for craft materials – from the manufacturer to retailers – making life easy for many craft lovers. Before getting into the business, founders, and husband and wife duo, Harish Closepet and Rashmi Closepet lived in Australia for 10 years, working with discount retailers, and getting a first-hand experience of everything from supply chain to pricing.
"The idea came to me from my experience as a consultant, while in Singapore, in the early 90s. As part of our work, we guided the government of Karnataka in helping local artisans to export to a retail store in Singapore. Although that did not take off at scale, it did trigger the idea to start a company that can manufacture products for art, and design and craft industries in India,” Harish says, adding:
“But, it took my wife and me a good 12 years to become entrepreneurs. The idea was to manufacture and supply to global retailers hobby crafts and DIY products industry, and that's what we began in 2004.”
Today, Itsy Bitsy is India's largest art and craft manufacturing to retail to D2C stack in the country. The company has raked in revenues of Rs 70 crore, as of FY2020, with 50 percent of it coming from exports. They also have 26 stores across the country and primarily in cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai, Pune, Panjim, Ahmedabad, Mysore, Shimoga, and Delhi.
Edited by Kanishk Singh