A visionary who took small steps on a ‘clean’ journey three decades back, today strides the roads of success with Schevaran Laboratories growing at 80% annually and reaching out to millions across the country. Standing tall in the midst of Mysore, the well-equipped Schevaran facility is “exactly what I had imagined when I started. But journey is not over”, says Managing Director Sam Cherian, who has accomplished in building the business single-handedly over the years.
Clean India Journal expounds the journey of 30 years captured during the day-long tour along with the Schevaran family at Mysore.
At a time when professional cleaning in India was at its nascent stage, Schevaran’s venture into manufacturing cleaning chemicals was a sheer insight, planned roadmap and a strong vision to accomplish a set goal. A perfectionist and well-structured and highly passionate Sam Cherian believes that “If you are straightforward in your vision and ethical in your behaviour, even if there are setbacks on the way, you will always survive. I have experienced it.”
“I feel so proud today when nobody in India considered cleaning as apriority , I initiated this business. I was dissuaded from Friends and family but I stood my ground. In 1994 following the economic setback, and the adverse business, that lasted for several years, I had to pay off double my investment to the market. I did, eventually repay every penny. Now when I look back, to what I went through, it does give me great sense of Satisfaction.”
“My family stood by me which boosted my confidence. My bankers had highest level of confidence in me then and even now.”
While Sam concentrated on the business, the only support he wanted then was to manage home. “I single-handedly managed the children. It was definitely not easy. There were moments when I wanted Sam to turn around but he went ahead. I must admit his determination, undeterred focus and faith,” said Miriam Cherian, who with two successfully grown up children today, is also actively involved in the business.
“My son Alex is a Brand Manager at ITC at the age of 31 and my daughter Anna is a Practising Architect. All the credit goes to Miriam,” added Sam.
There are employees working here for the last 25 years. “I had a good team who listened to me, had confidence in me, trusted me and travelled with me. Family, financial institutions and employees are the reasons for sustenance.”
The Advance technology in cleaning from Established international companies to bring into India was declined by the Foreign Investment Board, as ‘Cleaning was not a priority’. “However, the first secretary at the Ministry approved my proposal when I persuaded him to visit the stinking toilet in their department. In the year 1988 Sri K R NARAYANAN then Minister for Science and Technology and later on the President of INDIA laying the Foundation stone, became a national news.”
Technical support from Rochester Midland corporation-US and the support from the scientific team from CFTRI and DFRL was of a great help in stabilising the formulations and to Indianise before the commencement of the commercial production. Schevaran collaborated with the Rochester Midland corporation US and became the first to get approval from the Ministry of Science and Technology Government of India, to manufacture cleaning chemical formulations with foreign collaboration.
The challenges began soon after the initial fiveyear ‘honeymoon’ period. Following the advent of international brands into India in the early 90s competition increased as against the Indian manufactured products. “We also entered into the retail market then which too faced tough competition. Schevaran was facing a `6 million losses.”
At a young age of 37, this definitely was a big blow “but my vision was clear and I moved ahead. The years from 1994 to 2000 was a trying period. The dark phase came to an end when we started working with clients like WIPRO, IPMSL and Infosys. These were the companies that encouraged our products. However, the revenue and expenses never matched. Progressively thinking in expanding the market and clients, we left behind hotels and began catering to other market segments.”
– N. A. Srinivas Thanthri
General Manager, Finance
By 2010, the product range increased, and Schevaran targeted industries – Hospitals and Facility Managements companies. Having licensed to produce from Rochester Midland, Schevaran commenced production of Green seal certified product under G 37 standards for the first time in India and made available who are environmentally conscious.
“Today, we manufacture over 150 product and it caters to General Housekeeping Products, Hospital and Pharma hygiene maintenance, Food industry hygiene maintenance, Water treatments.
“Our products are different from others because we have formulated in India for the Indian dirt and you would not find such stains in US or Europe.
Inhouse formulation makes a huge difference in the quality and feasibility is much better with R&D backup.”
In fact, explains Sam, investment and revenue are not directly related. Success is largely due to the foundation, formulations, processes and procurement. “I know what I want. A customer should know what he or she wants. People should know what they are buying and not just ask for a product without know what they require.”
– Miriam Cherian
People think cleaning is very simple. But cleaning goes with technology to give specific solution for which we require more and more different types of products. We can rightly claim to be experts in the science of cleaning in India.
“When we identify a need or an opportunity we do the R&D and produce it. The backup support helps to produce new products. The science backup is so strong that can always meet the market requirement. That’s how the product family increases.”