A visionary leader

M Ramesh | Updated on March 09, 2018

Manikam Ramaswami 1953-2017

Manikam Ramaswami, CMD of Loyal Textile Mills, stood for high ethos and values

Manikam Ramaswami, Chairman and Managing Director of Loyal Textiles, who passed away on Monday, aged 64, was a remarkable person in several ways.

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I have had innumerable opportunities to interact with Ramaswami and each interaction was at the same time both rewarding and trying. It was rewarding because of the man’s perspicacity in a variety of subjects which a journalist could tap into; trying because it was always like drinking out of a high-pressure hose pipe.

A humble man

Ramaswami could talk on a huge range of subjects and switch between them so seamlessly that if you were not alert you’d be thrown off-track. He would talk about how the cement lobby was preventing low-cost cement from entering India and reel out a tonne of statistics before you could pull your notebook out.

Be it his own textile industry, or power or Indian economy or foreign exchange, he was quite at home. Data and statistics would been spewing out of him like a fountain.

Ramaswami was the living example of the notion that extreme humility and outspokenness could exist cheek by jowl in the same person. For a person who drove Loyal Textiles from a small scale unit to a modern textiles and garment house of a turnover of over ₹1,000 crore, he was remarkably mild-mannered and down-to-earth.

A few years ago, when Chief Minister Jayalalithaa was trying to bring in an obligation on the state’s industry to get 6 per cent of their electricity from solar, either self-generated or purchased from solar energy companies, most of the State’s industry protested against the “imposition”. But Ramaswami said that if the Government wanted, in its vision, to usher in solar, he would do it, and not wait for the obligation to become legal. And he went ahead and commissioned a solar plant.

However, when it came to articulating issues there was no pulling of punches. This writer has seen him make his colleagues in industry associations squirm by calling an electricity board “apathetic”.

His colleagues in the Confederation of Indian Industry remember “Ramu” as a visionary. Ravichandran Purushothaman, President of the Danish company, Danfoss India, observes that Ramaswami was ahead of multinational companies in many things, such as sustainability and environment. Loyal Textiles was one of the earlier adopters of wind power and had installed facilities such as ‘zero liquid discharge’ much before the concept became mainstream. “He stood for high ethos and values,” says Purushothaman.

NK Ranganath, Managing Director and CEO at Grundfos India, who has known Ramaswami for many years, recalls Ramaswami’s keenness in keeping workers’ interests. “We learnt a lot from him,” he says.

Ramaswami was also a regular contributor to Business Line; the hallmark of his articles was their astonishing candidness.

Published on October 03, 2017

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