Why a little-known Chennai group got $4.14 billion from deep-impact fund TFCC

TE RajasimhanMadhavan N | | Updated on: Dec 05, 2021

Company claims to have the tech to treat most complex waste and turn it into energy

When a little-known Chennai-based Ramcharan Co raised $4.14 billion from a US-based deep-impact fund TFCC for a 46 per cent stake, thus valuing it at $9 billion, many were left wondering.

Koushik Palicha, Director of Ramacharan, says the scepticism is understandable. After all, for some 50 years, the group has been in non-tech businesses — mostly into chemical distribution and logistics. And, the owners do not have a technical background.

A personal tragedy in the family set Palicha off in search of a solution to a pain point (toxic pollution that is carcinogenic). It was 2015-16 and the group began looking for ways to treat waste comprehensively without leaving any residue. With some technical help in the process and six years of hits and misses, the company met with success.

Burning bio-waste

The process segregates wood, metal and plastic in waste, and then burns the bio-waste to convert it into energy. The carbon dust generated is captured and used to make building blocks. Nothing is let into the air. The company has also developed the technology to store the energy generated for use later.

Complex waste treatment

The technology can best be used to dispose waste that is accumulated in landfills, says Palicha. The process, he claims, can handle complex waste such as used lithium-ion batteries and even nuclear waste. “As far as I know, no one else has this technology,” he adds. The process has already been tested on the ground.

Though he is in the process of applying for a patent, Palicha is open to sharing it with others. “We want our technology to be of use for the country where handling waste is a huge problem,” he says. In fact, a multinational company last year offered to buy the technology for $300 million. “I refused. I was not comfortable handing over the technology to a company that had Chinese parentage,” he claims.

The $4.14-billion investment will go towards setting up manufacturing facilities and a scaled-up lab to finetune the technology. “The funds will come over two years and we will reach the targetted revenue of $40 billion in seven years,” says Palicha. Noting the scepticism, as after all, the bootstrapped Ramcharan group today has a revenue of just ₹300 crore with a hundred employees, he says: “I assure you, we will deliver. Such is the potential.”

Published on December 05, 2021

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