Indore’s Man of Steel

30 Sep 1988

Though in the first year, he incurred a loss of Rs. 2.62 lakhs, but he managed to break even the very next year. In 1971, the fourth year under the new management, STI showed a modest profit of Rs. 2.01 lakhs. From a production of only 454 tonnes and turnover of only Ten lakhs in 1967, the plant produced around 4000 tonnes in 1974 with a very respectable turnover of 144 lakhs. The company had come of age.

”By 1975 we had built a reasonably good surplus and capital funds and were also getting a lot of optimistic queries and orders. To fulfil all those, we realised that our plant and machinery had become obsolete. The Government was insisting on industrial development in backward areas. So we scrapped the plant at Indore and set up an entirely new plant with updated technology at Dewas, 35 kms from Indore. Not a single chair or table was carried from Indore to Dewas. All that went was the name and the men behind it.”

What made Ramesh Baheti, with an academic background in Commerce, click in an engineering industry? ”It was all a matter of common sense. As a technical man can look after the commercial side, so can a commercial man handle the technicalities with ease. If he is ready to apply himself. It is the sincerity, dedication and integrity of purpose that are the essential ingredients. And above all; the grace of God always makes the difference between an also ran and the winner.”

The human being has to be treated as a colleague and not as subordinate in order for him or her not to feel like a commodity.

An incident which Dr Baheti remembers quite distinctly is his first encounter with drinking in Calcutta in 1972. While on a business trip, he felt that if he shared a drink with the official sitting across, it could help his business interests. So he had his first sip. ”But now my intake is very infrequent, and only for the sake of others”. Is this an argument not rather flimsy and baseless? ”Yes, it is. Social drinking is not any criteria for your career graph to grow. There are many other important requisites.”
The third time, one can mark the turning point syndrome in Dr Baheti’s life is 1982. The turnover of Steel Tubes of India had reached around Rs15 Crores and a need for an overseas plant was felt to strengthen the base of the company. Singapore, with its free port facility and very conducive business environment seemed ideal. To set up a plant abroad, two prime requisites were capital and adequate supply of raw materials. With Dr. Baheti’s charismatic personality and his able persuasion, Steel Tubes of India created a virtual record of sorts by tying up with two Japanese giants as partners for Steel Tubes of Singapore Pte Ltd. With Dr Baheti as Managing Director. ”Kobe Steel with a turn over of around six Billion Dollars and Tokyo Boeki Ltd., with an annual turnover of around two Billion Dollars thought it prudent to join hands with Steel Tubes, a dwarf having a turnover of around 20 million dollars to set up the plant at Singapore.” What was probably most remarkable was the fact that the technology and know-how was all supplied by Steel Tubes of India Pvt Ltd, even after a coalition with the Japanese, who are recognised as world leaders in steel.

Taking a quip, Dr Baheti remarked, ”In terms of licensing policy, redtapism and working conditions, if Singapore is named as Ram Rajya, then Inida would not be wrongly called as Ravana Rajya.” Evidently so. His plants at Singapore produce more than 100 percent of the installed capacity whereas those at Dewas always fall short due to power failure, erratic raw material supply and all that.

In the same year (1982), the plant at Dewas was at the threshold of a major expansion. In Indore to sustain the same, Steel Tubes of India, the largest producer of precision steel tubes in the country became public with a share issue which was received very warmly in the market.

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