Achievements and success become routine if dreams are backed by an intense desire to reach them said Late Shri U.R. Chinnusamy, the founder Chairman (1931 -2009) of the URC group of companies. He is the father of Mr URC. Devarajan of 1984 (Civil and Structural Engineering) who is presently the Managing Director of URC Construction (P) Ltd, the flagship company of the URC group of companies and one of the largest infrastructure companies in South India. Their head office is in Erode. The secret behind the success of great people according to Swami Vivekananda is "To take up one idea. Make that one idea your life -- think of it, dream of it, and live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave other ideas alone." URC has taken up the idea of building infrastructure way back in 1956 that is about 6 decades back and have been pioneers in the infrastructure industry. Today the company has progressed to making a turnover of more than Rs 500 Crores with more than 10,000 people directly/indirectly working in different sites under their wings to make it possible.
Late Shri U.R. Chinnusamy, a self educated man from an agricultural family and an ardent Gandhian started as a small civil contractor in 1956 after gaining experience under the supervision of his elder brother for 8 years since 1948, started his own company called URC Construction. As an early entrant when on his own he undertook construction of dams, reservoirs, irrigation systems, water storage tanks and supervising the execution. His initial works include constructing part of Malampuzha dam near Palakkad, part of construction of Porthimund dam, Kundah dam, Upper Aliyar dam which were all around Ooty. Challenging site conditions, harsh climatic conditions and demanding dam wall constructions within time frames were all the impediments faced by URC and this acted as stepping stones on which the company's initial works got started and foundations set to become a big player in the infrastructure business. By this time in 1958 URC was confident that the building industry had a great future. Right man at the right place at the right time doing the right things and doing the right things right.... inevitably ends in success. In 1960 through HUDCO Ltd URC got to construct hundreds of row houses at Selvapuram in Coimbatore and this was followed by construction of a large centre for rehabilitating beggars in Namakkal. More projects were given to URC since they were able to implement quality constructions and were also able to enforce timely completion; the list of clientele grew by the year. Housing Construction in Salem, Namakkal, Tirupur and Erode took place and about 800 houses were constructed by them. In 1972 URC got a large contract from a sugar factory in Tirupattur and on completion of that project got to do sugar factories in Perambalur and in Madurai. In 1975 they constructed Government Institution buildings, Arts and Science colleges, Transport Corporations. The experiences got by constructing dams, reservoirs, irrigation channels, sugar factories, large building projects got them the necessary expertise and also enabled to run their organization holding on to Values, Principles and ethics with Self confidence, fearlessness, integrity, diligence and sense of purpose took the company to great heights.
As you sow, so you reap is a proverb which means that the actions performed by a person would repay sooner or later. What goes around comes around. Healthy seeds will produce healthy plants and a healthy crop. If a person is sowing seeds of Growth, fairness in sharing, holding on to Values, happiness in doing what one is doing, being an altruistic person, feet on ground but looking up to doing great things then that is what he would get in return. The timing was perfect as it always is and in 1984 URC's company inducted the services of his sons Mr URC. Kanagasabapathy and Mr URC. Devarajan and son in law Mr S. Palanisamy who took URC Construction (P) Ltd to what it is today. Like father, like son, like mother like daughter. Sons tend to do what the father did before them and daughters tend to do what the mother did before.. This success story about Mr Devarajan is more than just money/turnover the number of projects executed, list of clientele but more about integration of the family as one indivisible unit. That I think is being successful as a family. The relationships they all have maintained within the family and with themselves were the key in establishing very good relationship with others all around, be it their clients or employees. The world sees you on the same image as you see yourself. Good temperance, fair mindedness, tolerance, truthfulness, honesty, respect, humility, politeness, kindness, generosity and compassion, being ethical were all the ingredients of foundation and Growth to URC over 57 years since the company got started. To inherit something is a blessing, taking forward the legacy without compromising is commitment and growing it multifold is Success.. (these words were told by Mr Meera Reddy 84 Civil (MD of SKCL, a large Property development company in Chennai) about his class-mate Devarajan. A turnover of Rs 1 Crore in 1984 to more than Rs 500 crores today without compromising on values, hats off to Mr Devarajan and his family. The company has hundreds of people who have been working with them for many years they all respect Mr Devarajan since Mr Devarajan respects all of them and when respect and Trust are established the wish of Devarajan becomes the command for people working in their company!! You will get whatever you want in life if you would help many people get what they want in their lives and Devarajan applies the law of the Secret - the eternal law of attraction.
Years before, Devarajan the second son of URC did his LKG and UKG from a Christian Mission school at Mettupalayam. 1'st to 5'th at a village school in Kudumiyampalayam about 20 kms from Erode and 6'th to 11'th at Ramakrishna Vidyalaya near Coimbatore. Devarajan was a bright student and was always stood among the top 2 in the class, his favorite subjects being Maths, Science and English. In addition to that he was exposed to Engineering drawing and Smithy. After passing out of School in 1977 Devarajan joined Polytechnic (PSG Coimbatore) course for 1 year. On completion in 1978 with 87% he was not able to take a decision with respect to the education he should pursue and the family decided that Devarajan would take a break and look after farming in their village which was 20 km from Erode. Devarajan would take a bus to his village every day and look after the farm, milk cows and buffaloes, manage the people, manage money, on coming home play with his sister and during weekends learn cooking from his mother who was an expert cook. He also learnt to make baskets, make fresh flower garlands. Time flew as it always does when someone is happy and 1 year later in 1979 Devarajan joined Engineering at Annamalai University. He stayed at # 4 New Block in the first year and his room mates were Bosco, Abdul Gafoor and Sumit Chaudhary with whom he maintains contact even today. Away from home where there was so much discipline Devarajan with so much freedom indulged in sensory stimulation including smoking and drinking but not for long as he realized very soon that he was going deviating from the values set by their family. He studied well and got arrears only once when he went to see a movie ”Panneer Pushpangal" before "Bridge engineering exam !!" He went to the All India educational tour for 17 days and that time was used to deepen relationship with classmates and got exposure to visit factories and meet people in Industries. In 1984 he completed Engineering in Civil and Structures and joined his father's business along with his brother and brother in law. His father then had his cousin and Devarajan's would-be father in law as partners in business. (Devarajan had already made up his mind as to whom he would marry - daughter of his father's business partner!!) Devarajan was to report to his would-be father in law in 1984 and eventually got married to her in 1986!!
Devarajan's first project was as a supervisor developing their own shopping complex of 18,000 sft in Erode. He was given a brand new bicycle which he had to take to the work spot, had to carry his tiffin box and was to have lunch with all the workers. That was the time when he was able to feel as to what goes on in the workers minds. He was able to relate with them quite well as was expected by his father and also learned the art of construction hands on!! The second project was constructing Kongu Engineering College which is located 20 kms from Erode and that was followed by construction of Dr Maragathavalli Apartments and CD Buildings at Erode. The experiences got tremendous amount of confidence and in 1987 Devarajan did the construction of Dharani sugars at Vasudevanallur near Tirunelveli and completed the work in a record 13 months time. The work included setting up of an integrated power project of 6 MW capacity, using baggase the fibrous material left over after the juice is extracted from sugarcane, then burnt to produce electricity which was used to run all the mill operations. The surplus power was given to the Electricity board. The plant also had 180 houses that were constructed by URC and Co.
The number of projects done by URC between 1987 till now would be more than 400 the names of all would go beyond the extent of this Newsletter!! For the sake of understanding broadly the kind of works they have undertaken for such elite clients considering logistics has been mentioned and this list itself is quite exhaustive... a few of them are mentioned for understanding the extent of work done by them. Between 1987 and 1995 -- for Tamil Nadu Housing Board at Erode, Sri Karpagambal Mills Rajapalayam, Janakiram Mills Andipatti, Ramco Textiles, Bannari Sugars Nangangud, IOC Sankari, Dindigul Shiva Distilleries, IBP Company Nagai, ESI PWD, Sona Rajendra Spinning Mills, TAN India, Trichy Shiva Automobiles (P) Ltd, Shiva Engineering Products and Shiva Textiles, Madura Coats, SBI Erode, Thiagarajar Polytehnic, Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board and many more.. Experiencing the execution of such large projects Devarajan learnt a lot about managing human resources, material resourcing and more importantly attaining excellence at work.
His fundamentals have been with very strong family bonding, values taught by the parents who lived by them and his hostel life between 6'th and 11'th at Sri Ramakrishna Vidhyalaya, Coimbatore which taught him to be responsible, courageous, fearless, learning, serving the poor and the needy, being good and doing things to perfection, have gratitude and above all to have humility all this moulded him in to what Devarajan is today. Devarajan continues to be associated with Sri Ramakrishna Mutt and meets Swami Somananda Maharaj one of the oldest monks in The Ramakrishna Mutt very often. Devarajan says that Swami Somananda Maharaj has taught him to brave and to always be confident. Every problem has a solution and by remaining patient and not getting ruffled any challenge or problem could be solved. One has to just remain unemotional for a little bit extra time says Devarajan. A small amount of determined silence could work wonders. Business is to make money is something we all know of. Devarajan was told by his father not to see everyone in such a business angle but to see what we could do for them. The success of URC can be attributed to great harmony within the family. How you do business is largely dependent on how happy your family is. What you do after office hours determines how well you do within office hours. It is not that differences of opinions were not there but whenever there were differences of opinion the mother, the sister and both sisters-in -law who were very close to one other would talk and sort out the differences between the brothers and brother-in-law. . When I asked Devarajan if his mother was staying with them he said that they are living with their mother in Erode!! One of his proudest moments was when he had lunch with about 250 scavengers at Erode and Swami Gauthamananda a very senior monk of The Ramakrishna Mutt who was present that day was extremely happy blessed Devarajan.
Between 1995 and 2012 some of the projects URCC have done were for IOC Feroke, Rajapalayam Mills Ltd Kalyana Mandapam, Thiru Arooran Sugars Ltd, Sr Renugadevi temple in Chennai, Taj Garden Retreat Covelong Beach, Mohan Breweries and Distilleries Ltd, Chennai, ABT Showroom Chennai, CMC Vellore, Brakes India Ltd, IOC Chennai, BHEL Karaikal, IIT Madras, Indian Institute of Mathematical Sciences Chennai, Judge Quarters Chennai, Church of South India Commercial Complex at Bangalore, American College Satellite campus at Madurai, Shell India Chennai, Arvind Eye Hospital in Madurai and Tirunelveli, Flyover Bridge in Bangalore, Rajalakshmi Engineering College, Phase II, HAL Engine and Aerospace, IGCAR, ISRO Bangalore, IIM Bangalore, Department of Space ISTRAC, Bangalore, SSN College Chennai, TVS School, WIPRO Mysore, FCI Chennai, Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Mangalore, Pondicherry Fish Market and ITC Ltd. URCC is now doing the MRTS Railway Station for MRTS that is opposite Chennai Airport. Besides this many projects are concurrently happening.
Devarajan told that URC has carved a niche for itself by sticking to its brand motto which is "Building Values." URC delivers custom-designed turnkey projects to government agencies, large corporations and private entities. Services include architectural design, structural engineering, construction supervision, quality control, landscaping, survey and electrification. The company is driven by technology and its focus is on modernization. Hence in its projects it employs state-of-the-art equipment. URC Construction has a credential of being one of the few construction companies in the country which employs Slip Form Technology in large scale.
URC has a software & IT company called URC Infotec (P) Ltd. URC Infotec has developed a strong Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). This is used by Hyderabad based Nagarjuna Construction Company among many others. They are trying to clinch deals with several companies in Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.
URC believes it as important to value the dignity of labour as clients and constantly invests in the people who work for them. Devarajan says that they have a team of good engineers, who have played a major role in the development of the company. The company has an in-house on-job training scheme for which the company spends around Rs 1.8 Crores annually. The company maintains close association with National Institute of Construction Management and Research (NICMAR) Pune and has a "URC Gurukulam" a skill development school for construction workers in Erode and also at Pondicherry. The company also plans to set up a second "Gurukul" in Chhattisgarh (Bihar) and is planning to float a skill training institute especially for blue collar workers at an estimate of Rs 4 Crores.
URC believes that environmental concerns are of prime importance and hence uses technology that minimizes environmental damage. We try to use less water and try to work in a way that reduces wastages says Devarajan. The company is constructing a green building for its upcoming educational institution in its ongoing project with Saint Gobain.
As a part of its Corporate Social Responsibility initiative, URC has set up a trust established in 1985 and participated in setting up Kongu Institutions in the region and initiated its own institution "URC Palaniammal Matric Higher Secondary School poised with excellent infrastructure and providing equal opportunity for all communal categories in the holistic development of the future generation. Along with uniting the other builders and philanthropists in the region URC has established the Erode Builders Educational Trust which will work in establishing an engineering college spread over 300 acres. URC also donates a sizeable amount to charities. A considerable portion is offered as scholarships to deserving, to disadvantaged students, young talent in sports, medical support to the underprivileged and in some rural infrastructure projects.
The ongoing global financial turmoil has thrown up some challenges for the sector. Cash flows are constrained interest rates have gone up, and there is labour shortage, input costs have gone up. These are some of the challenges faced by their company, Devarajan says. However he is not daunted. He said that the company is very cautious about the selection of clients and is focusing on improving efficiency and reducing costs, yet being competitive and competent without cutting corners. Devarajan wants to double the turnover in the next couple of years. He said that the company has strategies and have laid out a blue print of the development, have documented the strategies and was confident of following those guidelines in order to achieve the goal. URC wants to strengthen its presence and has plans for expanding overseas. It already has presence in Sri Lanka and has plans of expanding their operations in Qatar and South Africa.
Devarajan has a son and a daughter. His wife is a home maker, son Kabilan an engineer has done his MBA from the US and is looking after URC’s Chennai operations. His daughter who has done her Business Administration course from Singapore has started a company in Erode 5P Venture India Ltd. The 5P Venture is an initiative to protect, preserve, and promote textile heritage skills of villages for the prosperity of their posterity. The core idea of this initiative is to help such heritage skills, stand on their own economic legs by turning them into high value niche brands.
At the end of the interview I thanked Devarajan for his time and wished him the best in his endeavor to achieving more success in business and a happy fulfilling life.