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The Rajha of Rajapalayam...

After graduation from the Loyola College, Chennai in the early 1950s, the young man thought of getting hands-on experience in a textile mill in Europe. But father P A C  Ramasamy Raja, an ardent nationalist and Congressman, thought otherwise. He put his only son Ram for training as a worker at the then flourishing B&C Mills in Chennai. The latter gained a wealth of experience as an employee first at Binnys and later at the Madura Mills. 

P R Ramasubrahmaneya Rajha (PRR) recalled this as a precious experience that immensely contributed to his evolution as a textile magnate in quick time and as a multifaceted entrepreneur with deep concerns for social issues. His Rajapalayam Mills has maintained a high reputation for the quality of yarn produced that continues to demand a premium in several export markets. For decades the company has been a leader in the spinning sector earning consistent, substantial revenues and profits. 

PRR assumed the mantle on the demise of his father at a relatively young age. He focused on technology and modern management. Madras Cements was among the early cement units in India to have adapted the energy-efficient dry process. It expanded capacities in quick succession at its cement plants in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh and revved up Ramco Industries to produce cement products. He extended his manufacturing to West Bengal and complimented the Left government for its investment-friendly disposition. 


VIPs flocked to Rajapalayam

Our connection with Ramco dates back to almost right from IE’s inception. In 1971 IE released a special issue on the company when President V V Giri unveiled a bust of founder Ramasamy Raja at Rajapalayam. Later in the 1980s, IE published a comprehensive cover feature after visiting the plants of Ramco Group in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. It was a great experience not just looking at the high-class manufacturing facilities but also the wide range of social welfare activities of PRR. The group spent liberally on several socially ameliorative activities, far ahead of the current focus on CSR: schools, polytechnics, medical facilities and a well-endowed Veda patasala were liberally funded through the charities of the Ramco Group. 

PRR regularly expanded capacities of his various manufacturing units. Son P R Venketrama Raja developed Ramco Systems as a sophisticated IT unit. PRV pursued higher studies at Michigan and was a student of management guru C K Prahlad. 


Recipient of IE Business Excellence Award

IE had yet another occasion to applaud PRR’s leadership and his business units when Madras Cements was selected for the IE Business Excellence Award in 1994. When we called on PRR to inform the IEBEA committee’s selection and apprised him of the  details, he graciously asked whether he could help contribute to meeting the cost of the award function that would have NDDB’s Verghese Kurien as the Chief guest. I thanked him and told that IE instituted the award to honour a southern corporate for business excellence at its initiative and cost. I related this to Bachi Karkaria’s humorous reference at the ET awards function: “there was no free lunch and that the expense of the cocktail was met by the awardee!”

During 2009 PRR invited me to address the annual meeting of the Rajapalayam Chamber of Commerce. My wife and I spent four delightful days at Ramamandiram when both PRR and his wife Sudarsanam were perfect hosts taking great care of us. We spent time looking at several temples, the Veda Patasala and educational institutions supported by the PRR charities. 

PRR chose to live in Rajapalayam and enriched life around the town. Rajapalayam evolved as a vibrant and productive business centre, and much of it is owed to PRR. 

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IE, the business magazine from south was launched in 1968 and pioneered business journalism in south. Through the 45 years IE has been focusing on well-presented and well-researched articles. When giants in the industry stumbled to keep pace with the digital revolution, IE stayed affixed embracing technology.
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