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Background of Team

A humble beginning

Dr C H Krishnamurthi Rao, Founder Chairman of the Group, immediately after completion of the Mechanical Engineering Course, in 1963, was appointed as a Trainee by Shri Somasundaram, Proprietor of Everest Engineering Works, Coimbatore. Mr. Somasundaram, was a Blacksmith by birth, although not formally educated, a highly talented craftsman. He had a penchant for quality unmatched by others.

Dr Rao had a stint of four years with Everest. The varied experience during this period and in the projects he handled as a Site Engineer at MACL, Mettur, BHEL, Trichy, Mysore Acetate, stood him in good stead and gave the much needed experience and confidence that he could do things independently and wanted an independent portfolio with accountability and freedom to function. He suggested to Mr. Somasundaram that they could have a base in Madras. But, Mr. Somasundaram declined the suggestion. So, Dr Rao took the permission and blessings of Mr. Somasundaram and decided to be on his own.

Dr Rao attended the International Trade fair in Chennai which gave him a great opportunity to know first hand about the industrial development and the technological advancements that have taken place the world over. He could see a lot of equipment made of light weight non corrosive, non ferrous equipment in use and display. These made him to think about the need to go in for manufacture of various equipment out of non ferrous metals like copper and aluminium. The entire concentration was on perfecting the welding technique in ferrous and non-ferrous metals. Meanwhile, Chemfab became aware of the use of Titanium, a precious metal with a peculiar characteristic - half the weight of steel and double the strength of Aluminium and high anti-corrosive to various chemical applications.

First to get assistance under the Technical Entrepreneur Scheme

Dr Rao did not have the needed financial support to start his own Venture and hence approached the State Bank of India for financial assistance. But, there was none to stand guarantee to him then. But, Mr Gomathinayagam of State Bank of India, who appraised the application saw something in it and felt here was an entrepreneur who deserved the help. That was the time when State Bank of India was toying with the idea of Technical Entrepreneur Scheme, i.e. offering financial assistance to technical entrepreneurs without any margin money. Mr. Gomathinayagam processed the papers and offered a machinery loan of Rs. 1.00 lakh and a clean loan of Rs. 10,000. This formed the basis of Chemfab, the mother Company of the Chemfab Group.

Dr Rao met the then Director of Industries, Mr. Menezez, IAS and during that meeting, Dr Rao explained to him that not only was he interested in special alloys, but also interested in developing special welding processes like argon arc welding etc. Mr. Menezez was highly impressed on the credentials of Dr Rao and quickened the process of allotting a shed of 3000 sq.ft. in 1967, at Ambattur.

CHEMFAB 1967

Chemfab was started in 1967. The first order was from T.I. Cycles, a turn-around job on a Chimney. Including Dr Rao, there was only four people in the Company then. After the chimney work, T.I. Cycles was happy with the performance and their Materials Management Department recommended to their other group Companies to patronise Chemfab.

Coming in of a new saga in Indian Industry - Titanium welding

At T.I. Cycles, he got the introduction of Mr. Panchapakesan. when Dr Rao was explaining that his interest mainly lied in specialising in non-ferrous welding, Mr. Panchapakesan showed him some Titanium Anode Baskets.

That was the time when T.I. Cycles were importing hundreds of baskets from UK at about Rs.2,500 per basket (in late sixties). They had problem in these baskets like broken hooks, torn mesh etc and Mr. Panchapakesan wanted to know whether Dr Rao can undertake repairing of these. Till then Dr Rao had only read about Titanium during his college days, but that was the first time he physically saw the metal. But he boldly accepted this and offered to take a trial job. He tried various permutations and combinations on these pieces for deciding and perfecting the welding technology. One fine morning, he succeeded to a somewhat acceptable level of welding.

Then Mr. Rao imported some Titanium sheets and tried various combinations to optimise the welding procedure. Glove chambers were used. At that time, he went to Bhabha Atomic Research Centre to see their facilities including clean room. Then Dr C V Sundaram and Dr V Arunachalam of BARC, guided him on the welding technique of Titanium. By then, he got a chance to access various literatures on Titanium from different parts of the World. The welding of titanium was a tricky affair and was kept as a close-guarded secret by a very few international Companies who were manufacturing Titanium equipment. So, he toiled hard in his R & D and established a very good welding technique.


Titanium Anode Basket

Zirconium Anode Basket

Chemfab Grows

The spurt in the growth of Chemfab was quite good and it became a pet client to State Bank of India, because of the good internal accruals and faster growth rate.

Chemfab undertook design, fabrication and supply of copper/ aluminium busbars, flexibles, shorting switches for electrolysers of all kinds to chlor-alkali industry and special bi-metal contacts for busbar installations including hardwares like epoxy insulators, cadmium plated fasteners.

Chemfab catered to the needs of various chemical, electroplating and electrical industries, with the objective of energy saving by utilising new processes like hot pressure welding of copper flexibles and connectors, usage of explosion bonded materials with the ultimate aim of reducing the IR drop and improving energy transmission.

Hot pressure welding

Chemfab introduced and specialised in hot pressure welding technology for homogenous welding of copper flexibles and also set a record in developing and introducing the exotic metal welding of Titanium, Tantalum and Zirconium fabrication.

To keep up with the growth, Chemfab bought an Industrial plot at Ambattur Industrial Estate and built its own factory. State Bank of India came forward readily to finance Chemfab. Chemfab got themselves registered with BHEL to take up various work for them. At this point, Chemfab decided to stop working on structurals and to go into manufacture of sophisticated equipment.

Technology is the key to various worldly problems. This is the basic premise on which Chemfab Group operate. The birth and growth of Chemfab Group finds a place in the history of Indian Industrial revolution.

Chemfab Welders 1970

Chemfab then bought five acres of land at Vandalur on the southern side of Madras. A new Company Chemfab Welders Private Limited was formed to operate from the new premises. During that time, BHEL was looking for sub-contractors to undertake fabrication of various equipment using good welding techniques. BHEL patronised Chemfab Welders also. Chemfab Welders specialised in the manufacture of process equipment, pressure vessels, heat exchangers, sand filters, tanks, water seal clarifiers, structural components and other equipment and piping required by the refinery, chemical and petro-chemical industries and power plants.

This Division not only catered to the needs of electro-chemical industry, but also fullfilled the requirements of Atomic Power Stations. The Company had a wing for erection and site welding of piping and also manufactured Carbon steel, stainless steel and aluminium storage tanks and carbon steel/rubber/PC/FRP lined vessels. Chemfab Welders was later merged with Team.

Impediments in the Licence

Team wanted to enter into manufacture of Titanium Equipment. The application made by Team to the Government of India, was returned six times before the licence was issued. It had to be explained to the Development Officer the difference between Titanium Dioxide and Titanium metal and as a simile explained that Titanium is a metal like Stainless Steel. The Development officer got a fancy idea that Team was trying to import stainless steel and sell. Finally, Dr Rao met Mr. Pai, the then Honourable Minister for Industry, who advised Mr. Ghosh, the Directorate General of Technical Development to convene a meeting and take a decision. Then the licence was issued. This is how Team was born.

This was the very project that was Blessed by the Maharishi before Team entered into this venture and today it has earned a world-acclaim and became the jumping board for the many ventures to follow.

Team

Titanium Equipment and Anode Manufacturing Company Limited (Team), founded in 1975, commenced its operation from 7.7.77.

Commercialisation of lab scale model of CECRI

Conventionally caustic chlorine cells were using energy guzzling consumable graphite electrodes as anode. This was replaced by Titanium metal anodes. This was invented by Dr Beer and commercialised by the MNCs and they held it as their monopoly. This was available to Indian industry only at exorbitant terms and payment in precious foreign exchange.

Dr Rao, went around scouting for a suitable Titanium Metal Anode technology to indigenise and develop for the benefit of the country in general and Indian chlor-alkali industry in particular.

At that time, Titanium metal was new to India and even the metallurgy was not known. Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) had some knowledge on this. But then, it was not available for general industries. Fabrication of Titanium structure for anode was not a simple fabrication with good welding alone. These anodes are to work for decades in an electrolytic cell. These structures are current distributors. So, it required a complete understanding of engineering behaviour and critical manufacturing processes. This was a challenge and Dr Rao took it up in his own stride very courageously.

Chemfab was fabricating equipment for several applications on Nickel for an Industrialist, Mr. Devaraj of Coimbatore, who was implementing a technology developed at Central Electrochemical Research Institute, Karaikudi. This brought Dr Udupa, the then Director of CECRI to Chemfab. At that time, he saw a lot of Titanium baskets in the factory and was surprised. He was then at the verge of implementing a very vital technology, known as Titanium Substrate Insoluble Anodes for manufacture of caustic soda. This technology was held as a monopoly by Permelec Group and De Nora. While CECRI had developed the coating technique, they had problem with getting the Titanium Substrate manufactured and the requisite welding intricacies. It required an engineering skill, which Dr Rao and his Team had in abundance. This led to a cooperation between Chemfab and CECRI. As Dr Udupa pointed out :

"A little background as to how we pitched upon Dr Krishnamurthi Rao will be of interest. We had earlier attempted to get this structure fabricated through established firms, public sector units etc. The rate quoted was such that I was rather finding it difficult to accept the offer and go ahead. And here was a man, who had the desire to do something, with perhaps a little bit of vision said, he would fabricate it at such and such a cost. It was a kind of a sacrifice he was making. We accepted it and from then on started getting our tic and offered all help and guidance." That is how the Titanium Substrate Insoluble Anodes - TSIA project was taken up by Team. Dr Udupa also offered a project crew to work with Team on a contract for 3 years.

There were a lot of gaps in translating the laboratory technology into a commercial product, the engineering skill and commercial acumen of the entrepreneur harmoniously functioned with the scientific and technological skill of the scientists of CECRI and the continued help of Dr Udupa and technical competence of Team, helped successful commercialisation of Titanium Metal Anode Technology in India, resulting in huge saving in country's foreign exchange.



Titanium Metal Anodes in Operation in a Chlor-Alkali Plant

Indigenously sourced Titanium Metal Anode invention and its commercial success in the Chlor-alkali industry in India and beyond.

Shri Aditya Birlaji, then Chairman of Aditya Birla Group, Mumbai, complemented the concept of Titanium Metal Anode technology with creed and action. Team as the beneficiary of this disposition recollects the first meeting with Shri Aditya Birlaji in 1977. although multinationals were strongly entrenched in the Titanium metal anode business all over the World, Team ventured into the indigenous manufacture using Indian technology.

After Mr. Ashok Parekhji Executive President of Grasim Industries Ltd - Aditya Birla Group, at Nagda technically identified Team Anodes and Shri Bagrodiaji, the Group Executive President of Grasim cleared it, the latter had personally introduced Dr Rao to Shri Aditya Birlaji at his office.

Shri G D Birlaji happened to be there and Dr Rao had the rare opportunity of getting blessed by him personally and patted on his back and said "this technology is very important for the country, as this is going to save huge electricity. This is a Swadeshi technology and make it a success".

When Mr. Ashok Parekhji was convinced of the satisfactory result, we had a lot of appreciation from him. This is the foundation for our strong relationship with Shri Adiya Birla's industrial empire.

Titanium anodes provided the leading edge for the energy efficient and pollution free membrane cells for the manufacture of caustic soda. Today major portion of India's caustic soda production is using TSIA of Team - saving substantial units of electricity every year. The performance of Team Metal Anodes were lauded by Overseas OEMs and it was on par with international standards.

Complex assignment at Tarapur Atomic Power

Team has the unique distinction of undertaking a complex assignment of removing three clean up heat exchangers and installation of new ones, in Tarapur Atomic Power, within the shut down period of 60 days. The heat exchangers were located in a high radiation zone and none could be exposed for more than 5 minutes in a year and none could stay for more than 2 minutes at a stretch. This challenging task was accomplished in 55 days, much to the appreciation from Tarapur Atomic Power.

Titanium Heat Exchanger

Tata Chemicals - Mithapur, depended upon lake water for their soda ash plant to function. Nature had been unkind for consecutive years. TATAs required Heat exchangers all in Titanium, to augment the water supply. This was at a time when the manufacture Titanium heat exchangers was not known in India. Tatas relied on Indian capabilities albeit their soft option for import. Team was subjected to an exacting pre-qualification test. Team had an order for eleven numbers of Titanium heat exchangers. Team never failed TATAs. Team successfully manufactured country's first Titanium Shell and tube Heat Exchanger for TATA's in 1978, using its own indigenous technology. The job was accomplished well in advance. The bonus award from TATA is an insignia to Team.

Team has perfected the technology of using thin wall tubes with wall thickness as less as 0.5mm, thereby reducing the initial investment cost and increased heat transfer effects. The first ever Titanium Heat Exchanger was supplied to Tata Chemicals Ltd and subsequently to Sourashtra Chemicals, Gujarat, where they have to resort to sea-water cooling and only Titanium heat exchanger could meet this challenge.

Titanium heat exchangers find extensive use in application where cooling media is sea water and in corrosive environment.

Team manufactures host of other equipment and components out of Titanium, Tantalum, Zirconium, Nickel and Nickel alloys of micro and macro dimensions. Sophisticated process equipment, heat exchangerse, coolers, pressure vessels, lined and cladded vessels, blowers, Titanium process pumps, water-seal clarifiers, sulphate removal systems, zero discharge equipment and so on. Please see under "Products".

Export of Coating Technology

The quality of Titanium Anode Coating Technology developed by Team was so high that an Australian Company obtained the technology from Team and had been paying Royalty.

Gurudev Engineers Pvt Ltd

A full-fledged engineering consultancy organisation, Gurudev Engineers Pvt Ltd, came into being in 1973, with a Team of well experienced engineers of all disciplines - specialists in process plants and in particular the chlor-alkali industry to undertake basic and detailed engineering services.

Gurudev Engineers specially designed electrolyser components, electrolysers and special purpose equipment. The Company was also engaged in international trading and operated as the Indian agent and representative for electrolyser components and other engineering products.

In fact, the detailed engineering for the first ever Ion Exchange Membrane cell plant in India - Chemfab Alkalis Ltd, was performed by Gurudev Engineers Pvt Ltd, as also for Hukumchand Jute Industries Ltd, Amlai and Ashok Organics Ltd, in Ankleshwar.