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Going “Alive” with Starching Clothes

by Clean India Journal Editor
0 comment

Accents speak louder than words. Joseph Cherian spoke passionately about starch and his beloved company, Surya Research & Industries, based out of Kottayam, Kerala. Articulating slowly, he did not miss driving home a single point on the wonders of starch and its properties, the history of his company and its future expansion plans. The commitment to customer satisfaction is conspicuous and the zeal to innovate and bring out a new product every month has been passed on to the next generation. Fittingly, their brand name is ‘alive’.

What prompted you to get into this business?

When we started in 2000, we took only one product into the market. Customers enquired about other products, so we got into different areas one by one, like laundry, housekeeping, construction, hospitals etc.

Earlier, starching clothes with maize or corn flour was a tedious task. Conventional starching system was prevalent particularly in Kerala, where most people including ladies and politicians wore starched clothing. We invented a liquid stiffener, a pioneering product in India, in 2001. It was easily soluble in water and left no patches on dark-coloured clothes and was very easy to use. It was also anti-bacterial. There was no competitor then. Our first competitor came 15 years later.

We came out with five more products. Some popular ones include natural starch with polishing effect for silk sarees and khadi whitener starch for whites worn by local politicians. Others were instant starch, water-soluble powder starch and spray starch. Products like Detergent, detergent booster, bleaches, alkalinity neutralizers, whitener for white clothes, colour-guard for clothes, stain removers for gentle and severe stains like ink, rust and blood and many more products cater to 100% requirement of the laundry care segment. We have our products being used in about 1600 laundries in Kerala.

We operate in two distinct areas: institutional and retail. Our products are packaged in weights of 100 kg, 50kg, 25kg, 20kg, 10kg and 5kg for institutional needs of laundries, hospitals, hotels, resorts, hostels and training centers. The retail sector including FMCG requires smaller sized packets weighing between 50gms to 1 kg. Products weighing between 1kg to 20kgs are with distributors all over south India including Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. They distribute our products to supermarkets, wholesalers and shops directly.

Which company gives you tech support?

We are getting support from the biotechnology and microbiology departments of CUSAT and MG University and we do research with the help of students across Kerala. The Kerala government also supports us.

What is your specific distribution model?

For the retail segment we have distributors across taluks. We have divided our products into different segments. For example, we have four different brands. Each brand will be distributed to four different distributors and for every taluk we have a distributor. We sell directly to the distributor and not to any laundries or any institutions.

What are specific plans for this year and are you bringing any new innovations to your products?

Our agenda is to bring out at least a product every month. Our expansion plan is to expand outside Kerala and outside India. We do product labelling for online shopping on Amazon, Lulu, Nesto, Flipkart, Jio Mart and Meesho, amongst others.

What are your major clients’ specific target segments?

We would like to target institutions like the laundry segment especially for the liquid stiffener, our pioneer product, as it generates 50% of our business.

We are suppliers for Lake Palace and Kumarakom Lake Resort in Kerala. We supply to Hyderabad too. Our big clients are mainly distributors. Our turnover would be 10+ crores from the starching business

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