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When SPIC spawned star managers...

It was 1969. The 1600 tpd urea plant of SPIC was under construction at Tuticorin. It was the largest such project in the joint sector with TIDCO. S Ramayya, as General Manager - Administration, organised a visit to the plant for media men.

The train journey to Madurai and thence by bus to Tuticorin made it memorable. KR Srivatsa, who headed SPIC, had rich experience of Japanese practices. He presented an interesting manner of symbolising commencement of work: a ten-minute curtain raiser each at the ammonia, urea, utilities and other sections!

At the lunch, media men were provided the opportunity to interact with the three groups of management. Main promoter TIDCO represented by IAS officers like the brilliant S Venkitaramanan, the private promoter group headed by Chairman M A Chidambaram and the professional group of brilliant technocrats headed by K R Srivatsa.

Quietly and efficiently helping media to cover this mega event was S Ramayya (SR).  A member of the IPS who served in Gujarat, like Srivatsa, IAS who earlier headed Gujarat State Fertilizer Company, SR, quit IPS and joined SPIC.

SPIC suffered twin tragedies: the massive impact of the oil crisis of 1973 that shot up capital expenditure by over 50 per cent and the failure of the heat exchangers supplied by Humphreys and Glasgow of UK. Thus the company was born sick. Venkitaramanan turned it around by brilliant strategies of waiver and funding of interest and marketing imported fertilizers with SPIC brand name. Ramayya organised a press meet at SPIC Centre when Venkitaramanan announced handsome performance results. When I queried whether it were all due to engineering excellence or financial engineering, Ramayya hushed in my ear “what a mischievous query!”

IE featured a cover story with the caption ‘Spic and Span. Thank you IAS.’ SR expressed his admiration through a telephone call.

For over a decade, SPIC expanded and expanded into the production of LAB, a range of petrochemicals, pharma, electronics, plantations and management services. Ramayya headed the SPIC Maintenance Organisation, extending rich expertise in engineering and management.

When I took charge as Secretary General of Madras Press Club in 1976 and assembled a star-studded executive committee headed by The Hindu’s K Balaraman, Ramayya joined as a committee member. He helped in the hectic programmes organised. A sample: soon after the Janata government assumed charge MPC organised in March 1977 meetings addressed by George Fernandes, P Ramachandran, L K Advani, Subramaniam Swamy and Piloo Modi, all in a span of three weeks. A few weeks later Morarji Desai addressed the press club, the first and only occasion when a prime minister did this in Chennai.

Intensely religious, SR was a regular visitor to Kapali temple and donated an exquisite Nartana Ganapati idol to Madhya Kailash.

To have headed the administration of SPIC in its glorious star-studded days, SR put in his best efforts and raised it to international standards. In his demise the management world has lost one of its bright stars.

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