Thursday, May 24, 2007

How Keki Gharda stunned the MNC giants

I could read a 500-page book in a day, it is a peculiar form of rapid reading that I have evolved myself. I would glance through the page almost line by line and if it is a description of a house or a room, or the protagonist, I would skip through. In around eight hours I could tell you reasonably well the contents of a 500-page book.

In 1965, he started his company in a small rented shed with a drum as a table and a carboy for a chair. Over the next four decades Gharda Chemicals has repeatedly flummoxed multinationals like Sandoz, Bayer and Hoechst by making their products at a fraction of the cost through technological virtuosity.

In the process it has recorded many firsts in dyestuffs, pesticides, veterinary drugs and polymers which have fetched dozens of awards from the government and industry. In 2004 Gharda became not only the first Indian but also the first Asian to win the prestigious Chemical Pioneer Award from the American Institute of Chemists for his extraordinary achievements in the chemical industry.

He is now setting up his dream project, a top-notch technical college a few hours drive from Mumbai. Excerpts from an interview with MoneyLIFE editors Sucheta Dalal and Debashis Basu that was punctuated by many jokes, wisecracks and funny anecdotes from a young man of 77.

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