Shyam Sunder Sharma, CEO of Ganesh Ecosphere, spoke to Taslima Khan on how he has nurtured Ganesh Ecosphere from scratch, to grow it into the country's largest recycler of PET plastic waste.
Tell us something about your background?
I had been working with the Birlas in their textile mills for 25 years. I was 22 when I joined them at an entry-level position - training manager at their Manjushree Textiles in Ahmedabad. That was in 1964. But I got promoted to 'Spinning Manager' soon and growth kept coming my way. Finally for the last three years of my tenure, from 1986-89, I was president at one of their mills - Vardhan Syntax at Mumbai.
Do you have a business background? How was decision to set up your own venture received by the family?
My younger brother was already in yarn trading business in Kanpur. He used to supply yarn to power looms in cities in Uttar Pradesh - Meerut, Varanasi, Tanda and Kanpur. That helped because I got to know my market already. That's was the main reason why I decided to set up the first plant at Kanpur itself for yarn processing. I had enough savings to put in Rs. 60 lakh of my own into this manufacturing unit.
How did the idea of recycling pet bottles come about?
For our yarn processing unit, we were already picking up waste from polyester plants and converting it into yarn. Recycling of PET bottles came much later in 1994, when I wanted to do something new. No company in India was doing this, though I was aware that it was happening in countries like Germany.
What were the early challenges you faced?
The kind of waste we were getting was very difficult to sort out. We were getting more of PBC plastic waste than PET bottle waste and both were very difficult to separate. Then we started washing and heating up the lot at 150-160 degree temperature. PBC waste used to turn yellow and that made it easier to separate.
Even today collection and handling of waste remains the biggest challenge. Secondly, we then begun reaching out to traders to convince them that recycled plastic fibre was a good substitute for cotton fillings in pillows, quilts etc. It took almost four years for the market to get aware and start accepting the utility of polyester fibre. We developed a quality of this fibre which could be colored in different shades so that it could be used along with wool.
Now this fibre is being supplied to all major spinning mills in the country and is finding use in garments, mattresses and various other applications.
How was it like beating Reliance in 2010?
Our existence was threatened when Reliance started making green fibre out of pet bottle waste. That was in 2000. A few small unorganized units which were in similar business started closing down because Reliance having put in 200 crore in investment in their plant had much superior quality. The product was also priced cheaper as Reliance had scale. While we were selling at Rs 80 a kg, Reliance was selling at Rs 70 a kg. Workers were not getting salaries for months at stretch.
Our only combat strategy was to expand the applications of the product beyond what it was being used for. We said it could be used for non-woven or technical textiles, in parts of garments. We also had to improve quality. That worked and by 2003-04 operations started stabilizing.
Finally, 2010 was a year of reckoning for us when we beat Reliance in terms of manufacturing capacity. Now with 57600 tonnes of capacity, we are far ahead of Reliance, i.e. 42,000 tonnes. Today we are the largest recycler of pet waste in the country.
Which has been the turnaround year for the company?
The turnaround year was 2007-08 when company's sales jumped to Rs 105.41 crore from Rs 62.67 crore (during 2006-07) - a jump of 68%. Towards the end of FY2006-07, Rudrapur unit had started operations and we realized the full potential during FY 2007-08.
How was 2011 for you?
It was the best year in the history of the company. During FY 2011, the 18000 TPA production line got commercialized at Rudrapur and we became the largest company of the country in our space. Our turnover jumped to Rs 291 crore from Rs 199 crore during FY 2009-10 with profits recording a 100 per cent increase from Rs 9.0 crore to Rs. 18.02 crore.
What lies ahead for the future of the company?
We will be increasing our pet bottle recycling capacity to 1 lakh TPA. The larger plan is to move up the value chain by creating facilities in yarn spinning and non-woven or technical textiles.