MSTC’s solution is bonanza for TTD

Pratim Ranjan Bose Kolkata | Updated on December 22, 2011 Published on December 21, 2011

Staff of TTD’s Kalyanakatta (tonsuring centre) seen cleaning and drying human hair offered by devotees.

Having started its journey trading in metal scrap, the public sector MSTC Ltd has now hit upon a ‘hairy' solution to its diversification initiatives, courtesy the Venkateswara Temple at Tirupati, managed by the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD).

In October this year, the public sector trading house known for facilitating electronic auction of a range of commodities and products – primarily coal, manganese, scrap and others – has extended its services to the temple authorities to profitably dispose of a huge stock of 471 tonnes of hair, offered by lakhs of devotees.

A vow of tonsure is a symbolic Hindu gesture performed by the devotees in almost all temples.

However, in Tirupati where 500 or more hairdressers operate in three batches round the clock to tonsure no less than 10,000 pilgrims a day, the practice assumes a different magnitude.

“The raw hair once cleaned and categorised by local buyers finds a huge market abroad, mostly for manufacture of wigs,” MSTC Chairman Mr S. K. Tripathi told Business Line.

So far, TTD has been selling hair through the traditional auction. However, considering the huge business interest there were allegations of cartelisation by buyers, leading to lower revenues for the temple.

Internet auction

“The Internet based e-auction has completely changed the rules of the game. The last sale was effected at a phenomenal Rs 133 crore (at approximately Rs 2,824 a kg), 27 per cent higher than the reserve price of Rs 105 crore,” Mr Tripathi said. The company is already in agreement with TTD to sell the future stocks through this mode.

Though the foreign users did not participate in the last auction, MSTC is hopeful that they would soon take direct interest, expectedly making it more competitive.

Meanwhile, the company has also approached the Charitable Endowments Administration Departments overseeing temples in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, some of them the biggest as well as the richest in the country, to introduce the same mechanism all across. “The total volume of such hair trade is expected to be Rs 700 crore a year,” the MSTC chief says.

Gold and silver trade

Hair is just the tip of a bigger trading opportunity available with Tirupati, which receives huge donations of gold and silver and procures provisions such as grapes, fruit and dry fruit worth Rs 300-400 crore a year.

Having already entered into an understanding with TTD, the company is now gearing up to sell silver as well as procure grapes through electronic mode in the “very near” future. “While e-auction will ensure best returns on precious metals sales, reverse auction-based e-procurement will ensure the cheapest buy,” Mr Tripathi said. [email protected]

Published on December 21, 2011
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