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Marching Towards Navratna
Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers Ltd (RCF), the public sector fertilizer giant that was set up 52 years ago, is all set to scale new heights. The turning point came in 1984 when a giant urea plant, based on natural gas from the Bombay High as feedstock, was set up at Thal in Raigad district.

THROUGH THE THREE decades, Thal Unit maintains its record for large scale production of urea. RCF, along with the  mother plants at Trombay, produces a whopping 7200 tonnes of urea per day. This is in addition to 6 lakh plus tonnes of complex fertilizers and a vast range of industrial chemicals annually.

Operations during the year have been gratifying with sales and profits already exceeding the performance of the whole of 2013-14.


Transformation of Trombay

I have been visiting RCF since the early 1970s. In this period I have been witnessing the company continuously modernising and expanding its facilities. When the project was conceived as part of Fertilizer Corporation of India (FCI), Trombay was a distant suburb of Mumbai reserved for the setting up of large industrial units. The refineries of Burma Shell (now BPCL) and Esso (now HPCL) and the sprawling complex of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre were set up at Chembur/Trombay. An old timer, Dr M R Iyer, who worked for BARC, recalls the sparse population, the transformation of agricultural fields and the massive influx of population in the following decades.

Growing all the time...

RCF was then part of the giant FCI whose operations extended through different cities from Chembur to Haldia and from Gorakhpur to Ramagundam. Over the years eight units of FCI have been closed down; but RCF, formed as a separate company, survived the vicissitudes and rapid transformation of the fertilizer industry, all the while recording growth. Chairman and Managing Director R G Rajan attributed this to the care bestowed on keeping pace with changing technology, adopting newer concepts of management and continuously revamping and upgrading the facilities. These have helped keep the health of the five decades plus old Trombay unit in good condition: “specific energy consumption has been coming down. Operating in a thickly populated area, the company has been focusing sharply on environmental safety. Pollution levels are continuously monitored and are strictly under control. With focus on automation and digitised controls, productivity has been maintained at high levels. The work culture at RCF and a participatory management system have contributed to the continuous growth and prosperity of RCF,” said Rajan.

In my visit in the early years I could smell ammonia in the neighbourhood of the plant. In the recent visit, despite deep sniffing, I couldn’t get the smell of ammonia even inside the plant! There are sophisticated meters monitoring the air that are openly displayed realtime for public!  The old Trombay complex still accounting for nearly half the revenues of RCF is clearly an evidence of managerial efficiency.

Rajan pointed to the huge increase in manpower productivity. RCF once employed around 6000. Today it manages both the Trombay and Thal facilities which together produce around three million tonnes of fertilizers and chemical products, with just around 4000!

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