From his young days, MP Ramachandran had a strange habit, a quirk he picked from his father. He would wear only white clothes, a habit he continues to this day. It was this habit and his quest to keep his white clothes bright that led him to develop a fabric whitener. His experiments resulted in Ujala, a game changer in liquid fabric whiteners, satisfying the laundry needs of millions of Indian households. This entrepreneurial story is an inspiring example of success in the entrepreneurial landscape worth adopting.
However, it was not all smooth sailing. In 1983, Ramachandran returned to Thrissur, Kerala, from Mumbai where he was working as an accountant and opened a small factory investing his life savings of Rs 5,000. A few months later, the business was faltering and he was ready to shut shop. That was when he received an order for 1,000 bottles of Ujala from a distributor in Malappuram. The tides started turning. Jyothy Laboratories, started with a capital of Rs 5000, a single product and five employees, slowly, but steadily shifted into a consumer products firm with several successful brands. Ujala is the biggest brand in the company portfolio and contributes to a major share of the company revenues.
THE BRILLIANT SHINE
Today, more than 5,000 people work at Jyothy Laboratories Ltd, including Ramachandran’s daughter, after whom the company is named. From a proprietary concern making a single brand, JLL has today become a trusted brand of millions. It is now the multi-brand company manufacturing and marketing fabric whiteners, mosquito coils, soaps, detergents and incense sticks. Ujala products are exported to 17 countries. They have also started a laundry business set up with an initial cost of Rs. 40 crore. The company has established a subsidiary Jyothy Fabricare Services Ltd (JFSL) for the purpose, which would provide premium service through Fabric Spa.
Jyothy acquired 50.9 percent in the beleaguered Henkel India in 2011, a deal that attracted criticism from many quarters. But Ramachandran and the joint managing director of JLL, Ullas Kamath, were convinced it was the right move to attract urban markets. Jyothy has a high degree of penetration in rural markets with 70 percent of its sales coming from rural India. For Henkel, it is the reverse; 70 percent of its sales are from the urban Indian market. Ramachandran wanted to capitalize on this and give Jyothi a deeper hold of urban India as well as attract strong global partners through the Henkel deal.
Ramachandran’s success is not just in establishing a company, but also in providing employment to local people. He always gives priority to new faces. JLL has also generated employment mainly in rural India of which 60% are women. Ramachandran is said to visit all the factories at least once a year to motivate his staff and inquire about their welfare.
The path ahead
From a modest beginning, Ramachandran along with Kamath has battled several odds to take JLL along the path of success. He dreams of further growth for his company and firmly believes that he has a lot more to accomplish. With increased revenues and overseas expansion, he aspires to catapult JLL to India’s largest consumer goods company. His determination, insight and vision accompanying him, Ramachandran is walking steadily on the course to conquer that peak in the entrepreneurial landscape.
Lessons from this brilliant entrepreneurial journey
As a business mentor and coach, I am spellbound by the confidence of this entrepreneur in trusting his passion and sacrificing a safe profession. The care he shows for his employees and his sense of social responsibility are indeed inspiring. His astute market positioning, focusing on the extensive rural market, too brings out his sharp business acumen.
A great lesson in entrepreneurial excellence built from scratch and soaring high, well beyond imagination!