“Things work out best for those who make the best of the way things work out,” once said the famous basketball coach, John Wooden. Ragu C, an entrepreneur from Tamil Nadu, India stands testimony to this quote with the way he has led his life. It has not been an easy journey, especially for someone like Ragu who comes from the Scheduled Tribe community, one of the most backward tribal communities in the country. The social background alone created many hindrances for him, added to the fact that his family was never financially well-off. However, with sheer grit and determination, Ragu has been able to turn the tables in life.
Even as a child, he was quite aware of the impact of the socio-economic condition of his family. For his tribal family that practices agriculture, money was scarce. He was also always concerned about his community and their status in the society. Ragu has two siblings and is the only earning member in the family. Once he completed his secondary education, he invested his life into becoming financially independent. Bringing his family out of the misery he grew up in and turning his dreams into reality motivated him to become the first person in the family to move into entrepreneurship.
Ragu started his career in 1992 as a lorry cleaner. In 2001, he joined a small manufacturing company called ‘Ganesh Cement Pipes Private Limited’ as a loader. It was here that he started learning about nitty-gritty of the ‘business of cement manufacturing’. While working as a loader, Ragu established contact with a Karur-based firm and started marketing their cement pipes in Chennai. Thus began his journey towards achieving his goals.
In 2009, Ragu incorporated his firm “Everest Cement Pipes” with an initial investment of INR 20,000. Though he was armed with a few sub-contract orders from the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board, he failed to obtain a business loan from any banks. The struggle continued for three long years and finally in 2012 a newly established IOB bank close to his business unit lent him INR 24,000 which he successfully repaid. When Ragu approached them for a second term loan in 2013, the bank suggested he seek assistance from BYST. From BYST Ragu learnt how to maintain all his records properly. Working with him for nearly a year, BYST successfully assisted him to take out a loan of INR 16 lakhs from Indian Overseas Bank, Mudichoor in 2014.
Ragu’s mentor Mr. Victor Joseph has been a pillar of support for Ragu right from the beginning. He especially helped him out during the period when the number of business orders Ragu was getting had become difficult for him to handle. His supply chain could not meet the demands of his customers. On Mr. Joseph’s advice, Ragu agreed to experiment with innovation and wanted to invest in mechanising the production process. His research revealed that all units in the market, like Ragu’s, were daily churning out 1000 Cable Turfs manually. He realised that inputs from his local market was not going to be enough for the scale of supply he was seeking. Ragu planned to scale up his production of turfs from 1000 to 30,000 per day. To do this, he travelled to Coimbatore and visited Akshaya Industries, a prominent machinery manufacturer, spent fifty 50 days with their technical team and accomplished in customising a “Cement Turf Manufacturing Machine” that would serve his needs.
Today, ECP is a certified company, and a leading manufacturer and supplier of a broad range of RCC products. They deliver customised designs based on specific customer requirements. With years of experience behind them in manufacturing RCC concrete products, their focus is now on evolving as a quality-centric company and beat their competition. ECP’s current product range includes RCC poles, RCC Tiles, RCC Drain Cover, RCC Tree Guard, RCC Drainage Pipes, RCC Hume Pipes, Cement Pipes, RCC Concrete Pipes, Septic Tank and more. Each product is carefully monitored and goes through a thorough quality control check, to fulfil the requirements of current market specifications. He gets most of his orders from TNEB as a subcontractor.
But Ragu also has quite a varied customer base, coming from different industries. These include reputed companies like KSA Power Infra, Sterling and Wilson, Lotus Wireless Technology VJN Builders, EK Infra, TJR, PMR Constructions, Marutham Apartments, Amar Prakash Builders, Naveen Construction, Swan Electricals, and more. Today, he even handles international companies based in Korea, like K&K and Kotak Infra.
Combining innovative ideas and perseverance, Ragu has become a successful businessman now. In the last financial year (2020-21) alone, Ragu’s business had a turnover of INR 3.25 crores. His business unit functions in a 90,000 square feet space in Perungalathur, near Chennai. The company owns four commercial vehicles and two four wheelers for logistical purposes.
Currently, he needs funds to further expand his business and progress to the next level where he wants to create jobs for at least 150 young people in his company and aims to cross a turnover of INR 50 crores. He is now a well-known player in the market with an ever-increasing order volume. Since his repayment record is well-maintained, he is now gearing up to take out a third loan with BYST’s support.
The pandemic has been a difficult time for businesses, and it has been difficult for Ragu to get payments on time from his vendors. However, Ragu did not let his workers suffer. He was able to get the 10% Corona fund out of the C.C amount of INR 25 lakhs from Indian bank. With this amount, he effectively paid out salaries and managed other business expenses. He has a very strong sense of duty.
This pushed him to contribute to government-led initiatives and he donated INR 5000 each to the ‘PM Relief Fund’ and ‘CM Relief Fund.’ He considers giving back to the community as one of his primary responsibilities. His tribal background plays a huge role in the way Ragu thinks and acts. He feels a huge responsibility to ensure proper livelihoods for his community. Therefore, from his profits, Ragu donates to the school for deaf & mute on an annual basis. He has also built a community hall and eight toilets for his community members. These are especially to be utilized for educational activities of children of scheduled tribe in the locality. He also plans to help children from his community pursue higher education.
Looking back at his life, Ragu sees how far he has come from owning just a bicycle when he started his career, to owning an Innova and riding a Royal Enfield today. Recently, Ragu also built a house worth INR 67 lakhs for his family. With BYST’s support and his own strong will, he rewrote his fate.