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Seshasayee Paper & Boards (SPB) pioneered the production of a wide range of papers and boards in Tamil Nadu. It required great foresight and enterprise to conceive and set up a paper mill 53 years ago when the interest on the part of budding entrepreneurs was confined to traditional industries of textiles and sugars.

With their own modest resources, accessing funds from the progressive state government for equity, the promoters of Seshasayee Paper and Boards set up a modern paper mill. With his yen for research, development and innovation techniques, S Viswanathan (SV) steered the company through tough times; all through, refining the processes and expanding capacity with the help of a bunch of dedicated team. Significantly, his SPB Projects and Consultancy team has been offering project planning and technology support to dozens of paper mills spread across the country. The most shining of these is the Tamil Nadu Newsprint and Papers Ltd (TNPL), the brainchild of SV, set up in the government sector. (At the end of March 2013, TNPL had built up reserves and surplus of Rs 966.10 crore on a share capital of Rs 69.38 crore; it earned a net profit of Rs 91.48 crore for the year).


Innovative integration

I visited the SPB mills located at Pallipalayam on the banks of the Cauvery after several years. The plush greenery and the thick forest cover in a town with a dense population struck me. Chairman, N Gopalaratnam and his team pay great attention to the conservation and improvement of the environment. I noticed electrostatic precipitators filtering dust particles from the boilers and anaerobic lagoon created for treating high BOD liquid effluents and secondary treatment for total mill effluents. The treated effluent is utilised to the last of drop for irrigating sugarcane fields nearby. These measures had brought about twin advantages: the effective use of the effluents discharged by the mill duly treated and providing irrigation to around 1500 acres. The sugarcane raised, feeds Ponni Sugars & Chemicals, part of the Seshasayee group; the sugarcane bagasse meets a significant share of the pulp needs of the paper mills. A brilliant integration!

K Shanmugam, GM (Environment), pointed to the company providing quality clonal seedlings of eucalyptus and casuarina seedlings at subsidised rates to farmers and to assisting them with technical guidance to raise tree farms. Through tissue culture the clones are multiplied thousand fold. This veteran with over four decades of service also referred to plans to double acreage irrigated by treated effluents through drip irrigation.

A prized acquisition

A couple of years ago, SPB acquired Subburaj Papers at Tirunelveli at a cost of around Rs 300 crore. The mill, equipped with Canadian machinery has capacity to produce 300 tonnes of paper per day. This mill is also endowed with large land area of around 300 acres and is near the Tuticorin Port. This factor, combined with SPB’s status as a star exporter, should be a big advantage for taking up large-scale expansion. In a short time this sick mill has been turned around integrating its operations with SPB and availing the vast technical and management expertise of SPB. With production of 50,012 tonnes this mill even earned a cash profit.

In the year ended March 2013, total production of the company in its two mills amounted to 169,438 tonnes. Total revenue amounted to Rs 838.66 crore. With the expansion of capacity at Erode completed recently and with the new acquisition, provision for depreciation and finance costs amounted to around Rs 94 crore. Still, net profit was a sizeable Rs 20.51 crore on a share of capital of Rs 11.25 crore.

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