Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hot and spicy!


COLUMN: AT THE HELM

C.V. Jacob has been running the Synthite Group with great success for the past four decades

By Shevlin Sebastian

C.V. Jacob, the chairman and managing director of the Synthite Group arrives at his office at the very early hour of 8.30 a.m. This is in the village of Kadayiruppu, Kolencherry, 30 kilometres from Kochi.

His office is large and spacious. One wall is dominated by a glass-paned window through which you can see manicured lawns, smooth cement paths, and neatly painted buildings.

The Synthite Group is an Rs 500 crore company, employing 2000 people. It’s most successful business is spice oils and oleoresins. They are converted into liquid form and exported to more than 70 countries.

“Currently, Synthite contributes 50 per cent of India’s exports of spice oleoresins, and this is equivalent to 35 per cent of the world demand,” says Jacob. The company has won several national awards for outstanding export performance from the government of India.

The group has factories in Maradur (Tamil Nadu), Harihar (Karnataka), Khammam (Andhra Pradesh) and at Kolenchery, Pancode, and Calicut. They started Riveira Suites, the first apartment hotel of its kind in Kerala, and the five-star hotel, Ramada Lake Resort and Spa at Kochi.

One of the first things Jacob does when he arrives at the office is to check the raw material purchases, as well as the sales of finished products.

At 10 a.m. he goes out to oversee the reconstruction work of the government hospital nearby. The Synthite Group is spending Rs 80 lakhs for it. After that Jacob makes short visits to the Medical Mission hospital, run by the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, where he is an advisor, and the St Peter’s College where he has been the secretary for the past 18 years.

Jacob also steps into the family-run English medium senior secondary school, St. Peter’s. “There are 2100 students,” he says.

Once a week, Jacob goes to the office of the Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) at Nedumbassery, where he is a director of the board.

“Jacob oversaw the upgradation of the ten-year-old runway which had been in bad shape,” says Krishnadas Nair, the MD of CIAL. “The work was completed in just a few months.”

Meanwhile, at Synthite, Jacob concentrates on finance and purchases. “I have delegated a lot of the responsibility to my sons, Viju and Aju Jacob, and nephew, George Paul,” says Jacob, 77.

He now devotes quite a bit of time for social work. The CVJ Foundation helps those in need of money for cataract and heart surgery. They also provide scholarships for poor students as well as assistance to buy houses. There is an insurance scheme for the poor.

“We try to help the needy as much as we can,” says Jacob. The family displays this helpful attitude in their company also.

When a person becomes a permanent employee he is entitled to a motorcycle or a car, depending on the salary. Other perks include medical reimbursements, education and housing loans. “All workers are entitled to interest-free housing loans,” says Jacob.

The company also has a pension scheme for staff members.

Thanks to happy employees, the Synthite group has no union. Jacob says that many attempts were made to start one, but the workers resisted. “They are more attached to me,” he says, with a smile. As a result, the company has not lost a single working day to labour unrest in the past 36 years.

Jacob says that he has also not experienced any problems, either with the LDF or UDF governments. “As for the Centre, they have rendered timely help,” says Jacob. Five years after he embarked on the spice oleoresins business, the central government began a cash assistance programme to help the industry.

Each company received a payment of 10 per cent of the turnover. “I used the money to invest in research and development,” says Jacob. “As a result, we were able to reach international standards in terms of quality and output.”

In 1973, Jacob had a tie-up with J. Manheimer Inc, an American company. “They provided crucial technical know-how to us and agreed to sell our products in the United States,” says Jacob. Thanks to the many orders given by Manheimer, the sales boomed and there was no looking back.

Asked for tips to run a successful business, Jacob says, “You must be sincere and dedicated to the company. It is important to have proper working systems in place. And you should keep an eye on what is happening. Hands-on management is the best way. If we work hard, our employees will also work hard. Lastly, and most important, one must be honest in all financial dealings, be it with the bank or with clients.”

(The New Indian Express, Kochi)





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