Making a clean sweep

After 14 years of toil, Manohar Krishna is poised to unclog the closed Indian attitude with his mechanised drain cleaning system.

Narayan Krishnamurthy        Print Edition: April 2, 2009

When Manohar Krishna saw his job go down the drain, he didn't realise that his future-and fortune- lay in drains. It was 1991, and Essenjay Marketing, the Pune-based company that he had worked for 11 years, shut down because its supplier of cleaning machines folded. The job loss shook Krishna-he had just had a baby, his wife had given up her job to look after the newborn child and his landlord wanted him to vacate the apartment immediately-but it also stung an unexpected response from him.

Manohar Krishna, 49
Manohar Krishna, 49
B.Com, Loyola College, Chennai; MBA, IIM Bangalore
Kam-Avida (manufacture of sewage cleaning equipment)
Year of inception
Rs 40 crore
Number of employees
Salary before starting
Rs 8,000 per month
"Many may say that we integrated backwards with presence across the value chain, but it was done to survive and we kept learning from our mistakes."

Along with his colleague Pankaj Malhotra, Krishna decided to set up his own marketing firm. The two men pooled in their savings and established Kam Marketing. We had an address to collect mails and nothing more as most of our time was spent in the field, getting orders and pitching for them, says Krishna, an alumnus of IIM Bangalore.

After a few weeks of thinking to sell various products, they finally found the one thing that they felt comfortable with: manually operated drain cleaners, which were being manufactured by TTG Industries, the Chennai-based diverse equipment manufacturing company. "When I accepted the contract (agency for Pune), I had no idea what the market potential was," says Krishna. What he realised, like many of us do, was that cities and towns across the country have innumerable choked drains that are not only unhygienic but also a problem for the authorities. "That meant an opportunity," he adds.

Their comfort level with TTG showed as the duo generated good revenues for the company in the first year itself, clocking a respectable Rs 12 lakh. Suitably impressed, TTG appointed Kam Marketing as its agent in Mumbai and Gujarat.

Though the two were doing well in their venture, they were uncomfortable about meeting the fate that they had with Essenjay. Their fears were realised when TTG found that the scale of the drain cleaning equipment manufacturing division was minuscule and decided to close operation. They were on the verge of being stranded again. But "we couldn't make the Essenjay mistake", says Krishna.

So, despite having no experience in manufacturing such equipment, "we decided to give it a shot because it would free us from depending on the manufacturers' whims", he says. In 1995, Kam Marketing was reborn as Kam-Avida Enviro Engineers, which was set to manufacture automated drain cleaners. To take care of the technical knowhow which was required to establish such a unit, two more partners joined them-Avinash and Porus Dadachandji, who were engineers in the merchant navy.

Listening to Krishna reminisce, his ability to trounce adversity seems to be innate, but the path he took was tough to traverse and needed extreme grit and determination. Having started with a single manual machine, Krishna has come far. His Rs 40-crore company now has a slew of automated drain cleaning systems used across the country. The company's client list boasts top hospitals, hotel chains, restaurants and corporations, even municipalities and airports.

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