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After a decade with Cannon Hygiene (India) Pvt. Ltd, Prashant Sule, Managing Director retires. In an exclusive interview with Clean India Journal, he shares his journey gathering vast experience in the cleaning industry.

You have had a long stint with the cleaning industry. What is the biggest contribution / achievement you have made?

Having moved from the Hospitality industry and after a brief stint (four years) with the IT industry, I began my association with the cleaning industry in the year 2001. My journey started with Pioneer Hospitality, Cleantec Hospitality Services Pvt. Ltd, Unisol Facility Management (RKHS Group), Forbes Abans – now Forbes Facility Management, BVG India and finally PCI Environmental Services Pvt. Ltd (PCIES)

While working in all these companies, I saw a lot of innovations in the cleaning industry and major changes happening where cleaning tools and cleaning machines were deployed to assist the human resources to achieve superior quality of cleaning and enhanced productivity. Some of the large projects handled were the Balco aluminium plant at Korba and the Vedanta Aluminium plants at Jharsiguda and Lanjigarh. These huge facilities could never have been maintained without the large sweeping machines and vacuuming equipment.

PCIES – was a joint venture then between Cannon Hygiene and PCI, the largest pest management company in India. While PCIES was born on the 4th April 2001 as PCI Cannon Hygiene Pvt Ltd, which later changed to PCIES in 2006, I joined the organization on the 1st September 2007. It was launched with the idea of bringing in the technology of collecting the sanitary waste from work places in the most hygienic way (a totally new concept to this country), but by 2006 it branched into the cleaning industry and thus the company changed from PCI Cannon Hygiene to PCI Environmental services Pvt. Ltd.

With my vast experience in management of sales and operations of the cleaning related industry, I was invited by the then Executive Director of PCI Ltd. Mr. Sunil Surkund to join as the Chief Executive Officer of PCIES. I guess my biggest contribution towards this industry has been influencing senior leaders of various companies to view washroom hygiene in a whole new way.

You have been instrumental in spreading the awareness about washroom hygiene…

Having just been launched four years ago, PCIES was finding its roots in the Indian market and the Indian industry was not yet accepting the concept of collection of “Sanitary Waste”. The company could be considered as being at a very nascent stage and it was a tough task for me as to how PCIES could be brought to a sustainable stage. With just five employees in the organisation and massive losses accumulated from the time of start-up, I decided to take up the challenge and surged ahead.

The subject of the menstruation cycle has always been considered a taboo in the Indian concept and thus approaching the HR Managers, Administrative Managers and Procurement Managers (who were generally men) was a daunting task. Even more surprising was when the team reported that the female managers too displayed a reluctance to discuss the subject.

The big break came from the giants of the IT industry like TCS and Infosys who understood the basic need of the female employees in their organisation and the extent of hygiene and safety that could be provided to them through this product.

Initially there were budget issues since and expense for these services were never thought of and thus never provided for, but soon they overcame this and the services started taking off.

Once these large establishments’ names came up as our clients, the business soared and we saw the impact on the balance sheet in the very first year that I took over.

In your view, which are the segments that have actually benefited with washroom solutions?

As time went by, other products apart from the female sanitary services were introduced in the Indian market and the companies, who cared for the Environmental Safety and Hygiene for their employees started deploying the services in their workplaces. Quality soaps, touch free soaps, hand towel dispensers and other sanitary products are now in use in workplaces.

In the European market, it is mandatory to provide these products in the workplace as an adopted policy by the EHS department and is enforced by legislation. Thus most of the multinational companies who have their roots in European countries insist on their Indian counterparts following the same policy in their locations across the world. This has benefited those employed in large multinational companies, especially the IT sector, which employs a large work force.

Cannon Hygiene India, has introduced these products in the Indian market.

Cannon Hygiene International, which is today more than sixty years old, has its head office in Dublin, Ireland. They have operations in 50 countries worldwide. In the year 2011, they revived the practice of inviting all the operatives across the globe for a Global Conference in Dublin. And in the very first conference after its revival, as the Managing Director for India, I had the privilege and the honour of receiving the Global Excellence Award for achieving highest business growth in all desired areas of business which was awarded to Cannon India.

This feat was repeated in the following year and I was thrilled to bring back the Global Excellence award back to India in the year 2012.

Consistently, till the conference of 2016, Cannon Hygiene India has won about eight awards under various categories like the highest revenue growth, highest margin growth, best work place atmosphere among employees as in Fun at Work Video and others. Cannon Hygiene India has grown from 2007 to 2016 at a CAGR of a whopping 42%. What a moment of pride as I hang up my boots after a decade of serving as a Managing Director of Cannon Hygiene India!

What is the need of the hour for meeting hygiene standards across industries?

Awareness is the key word here. India does not have the awareness of the needs for hygiene and the availability of hygiene products. Currently, with the “Swach Bharat Abhiyan”, some awareness has been created and many small and large companies have started understanding the importance of cleanliness and hygiene. However, with stiff competition in the market, companies and manufacturers avoid spending for these hygiene and cleanliness activities. It is imperative for the government to bring in legislation for set standards of hygiene and hygiene products to be used in all work places.

Every workplace management needs to understand the importance of providing these hygiene solutions in their workforce. They need to understand the benefits to themselves since by deploying hygiene practices, they are not only providing a sense of security to their employees but also ensuring minimum absenteeism due to sickness.

Awareness among employees can be created for ensuring hygiene among themselves by putting up educative posters for washroom etiquettes and also providing them with the necessary means.

Legislation with regards to female hygiene is most essential. The kind of illness and spread of bacteria and virus due to incorrect handling of this sanitary waste is immense.

How do you see the cleaning industry in New India, which is driven by Smart Solutions?

The Government has made a start no doubt. However, this is still just the tip of the iceberg. We are yet to go a long, long way. Unless there are compulsions and penalties, strictly imposed, I do not see the dream of the “Swach Bharat Abhiyan” becoming a reality. On a more positive note, with the advent of sensing technology, we have an excellent opportunity to change the way this entire industry functions. I look forward to the innovations that the younger generation will bring. They will truly be the game changers.

As a parting note, I would like to add that there is a need for many more such organisations to come and set these hygiene initiatives in India. India is a huge country and opportunities are immense.

Large organisations employing a large work force should also appoint Hygiene Consultants or Hygiene Officers in order to set hygiene standards within the organisation and to ensure quality and effective hygiene products being made available.

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