MP Ramachandran, CEO – Jyothy Laboratories: The Immaculate White-Bright Empire & The Matchless Man Behind Ujala Fabric Whitener
Let’s meet an incredible man who made gigantic dreams come true from nothingness; the man who made immaculate whites of life from the stained struggles of the past. Let’s meet the man who made 2000 cores from his life earning of just Rs.5000. The man who called this light of life or this ray of hope as ‘Ujala’.
Moothedath Panjan Ramachandran, the graceful beacon behind Jyothy Laboratories Limited, has brought an enormous establishment to this magnitude fighting a lot of experiments and trials. A conversation with this humble stalwart opened up enlightening messages for us. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that everyone from Unique Times team in the room was dumbstruck with stories of inspiration. Let us share this path-breaking saga with you, our readers.
The start and the journey
Mr. MP Ramachandran had a stint with various arenas of lives before he joined an SME, who were manufacturers of bulk drugs in Mumbai and continued working for them for 12 years. The company decided to wind up due to internal reasons, and thus he dared to launch a new product, instead of looking for a new job. This life-changing story of Ujala started way back in 1983, when Mr. MP Ramachandran stepped into the world of entrepreneurship and wanted to help the world with a better product versus the staining so called ‘neelam-Blue’ of those times. Ujala indeed became a very novel concept and a unique brand launched into the market then, especially a product which gave much delight and satisfaction to the household users contrary to the counterpart they used to use at homes before. Blue was used extensively then among the households, even though there were a lot of disadvantages. Mr. MP Ramachandran found that and decided to conceptualize and research on a differently born product called Ujala. It took more than a year and half to do the research and be satisfied with the non-sticky, full-soluble incomparable product. He himself used to wear white dresses and knew as a user what exactly he is looking for in the product he is making. There was no thought needed to name the company after his daughter. The brand was named Ujala. It represented the spotless brightness and whiteness that it gives the users.
Initial growth and expansion
The bottle design was also done by him, and even the basic marketing ideas derived strength from his previous life experiences. The test market was in Mumbai, where he distributed around 1500 bottles free of cost to survey and gather feedback. He then received a lot of encouragement from everyone for this very innovative product. There were field staffs, who went around to sell this door to door. Mr. MP Ramachandran remembers how he lead the team regularly, guiding them what to do, and teaching the sales team how to talk, make the route map, formulate the reports and how to retrieve results from customers. He suggests, in between, that selling is an art -a sales man should never get angry and should always be pleasant to the customers. A small factory was set at Kandanassery, in his home village, at Thrissur, Kerala. He very well knew that the biggest marketing strategy will be the word-of-mouth one. Hence, he focused on developing and manufacturing a product that will be well-received with satisfactory hearts, than anything else. In ‘86, a van was bought for supply and slowly started advertisements in weekly and newspapers. He remembers drawing those ads himself. Today, Ujala has a separate large wing for branding and advertisements. Demand was more than he anticipated; once the advertisements were noticed, more people started using Ujala, and was satisfied with the product. It all started with 5 sales ladies who started selling this from home to home. Later, Ujala was accepted in shops and then expanded commercially. Rest of the story is history.
About the product
Thrissur only had the manufacturing unit; all materials and making of bottles was done in Mumbai; all the chemical formulations was devised and done at Mumbai. It only had to be diluted as per the prescribed formulae at the factory in Kerala. Hence, the formulae and secret of the product remained intact without leaking out. Ujala was not competing with ‘Blue’ in the category at all. He created an entirely different class for the category; Ujala was for the super-whiteness of clothes. The product became a fresh new product and brand.
One challenge was spread of exact counterfeits of Ujala in the earlier days in the Northern Kerala. There were less vehicles and hence was struggling with mobility with only one vehicle, which was supplying to Malappuram district. From Kozhikode to Kannur, counterfeits were spreading and making money, with the help of added advertisements from Jyothy, even though they failed to come anywhere near the exact product in liquid. When it was Rs.3.25 paisa then as MRP, these counterfeits were sold for Rs.6, which proves the acceptance and surplus satisfaction of the product among the masses. Later, the economy Police Wing raided them in truckloads and was curbed down and slowly eliminated. He remembers Malayala Manorama carried that news on the front page. The brand garnered more attention when the radio advertisements started. Today, with more brands from the house, new technology is helping the expansion of marketing and brand building. The product is being exported to all gulf countries, Asian and western countries. Jyothy has a factory in Bangladesh.
Current, new products and development
Henkel India Limited was acquired by Jyothy Laboratories Limited in 2011. With products like Pril, Margo, Mr. White and Henko, the market is growing. Margo, a Calcutta chemicals product, with 100% neem, will be hitting a century the coming year. The soap still remains untouched, real and unadulterated, just the way it was made a century ago. Jyothy Laboratories has come up with Exo, T-Shine, Maya agarbathies, Maxo, Neem toothpaste, Fa perfumes etc. The fresh innovative technique Lintelligent has come up with amazing techniques, which minimalize the lint extracted due to the mechanical agitation of the washing machine.
Jyothy Laboratories doesn’t want to be ‘one among many’, always looks at those opportunities and areas where they can serve people better, in the existing categories. The company focuses on the least penetrated category, however which has a big scope for higher penetration into the market. Mr. MP Ramachandran is very unbending on contributing those products those are non-hazardous. He asks; “If the acid that you use in the toilet can damage the surface, wouldn’t it damage your body; wouldn’t inhaling it cause you uneasiness by corroding your nostrils and harm your eyes?” Jyothy Laboratories, after having in depth research on how they can help their consumers from this critical damage, invented T-shine with organic chemicals or anti-bacterial scrubber. All of their products are life-saving. The company goes on creating wonderful products that won’t damage their clients’ existence.
Philanthropy and more
The company, when they put up their facilities and factories in villages, they make sure ample employments opportunities are created, the locals are trained, their family is supported adequately, medical aid is given and the children are educated.
What a leader should be & advice to the start-up and upcoming entrepreneurs
According to Mr. MP Ramachandran, “a leader should be a genuine human being, as he is dealing with other human beings, nothing else around us have emotions and life. Anything a genuine businessman is doing is indeed a service for the society. One which is not a ‘service’ cannot survive.” He advises the youth that they should take advantage of the current world which has immense business opportunities and vast ideas. He adds; “you should crave for learning and knowledge every single day. Be very diligent in dealing with your money. In business, know that the money that comes to you by sales is not yours to spend –take only a portion from the profit, and accumulate and invest the rest. Have mighty, unlimited desire and indefinite determination to succeed, never give up, and never be greedy. Being a citizen of the nation, you need to contribute positively back to the society as well. There is absolutely no retirement for entrepreneurship –that is the biggest advantage of all.”
Mr. MP Ramachandran and his dear wife have two daughters: Jyothy and Deepti. Both daughters along with their family members are supporting their father to grow the company in order to reach the next level.