TIRUVALLA : Antiquated buildings peppered with rust and dust give you the creeps as you walk into the premises of this public sector undertaking. It may appear as yet another neglected white elephant, sucking dry the state exchequer.
But make no mistake, the Travancore Sugars and Chemicals Ltd (TSCL) in Pulikeezhu is a goose laying golden eggs. It is one of the few units in the state brewing success, literally. The seven-decade-old enterprise on the banks of the Pampa River churns out a profit of Rs 1 lakh a day by producing just one item - the Jawan Deluxe XXX Rum.
The sugar factory-turned-distillery raked in a profit of Rs 4.57 crore in the year 2016-17 with a turnover of Rs 59.34 crore from the sale of 15.53 lakh cases of the brew. Apart from its 50-odd staff, the unit also employs 75 women belonging to the Kudumbashree units of Kadapra, Peringara and Niranam panchayats under Pulikeezhu Block Panchayat. When many other PSUs turned out to be loss-making ventures, how did TSCL manage to mint money?
“We are the market leaders because we keep the standards of quality high ,” TSCL general manager and MD Alex P Abraham told Express. “We can match any of the market leaders in quality. The best extra neutral alcohol and spirit are used here.
Both ENA and the rum undergo tests at the government lab,” he said.
Working on an 8 am to 5 pm schedule, the company produces 6,000 cases of liquor daily, amounting to nearly 60,000 litres of rum a year. A one-litre bottle of rum -costing Rs 42.20 in the factory - is sold for Rs 400 (inclusive of all taxes) at retail outlets. Jawan reached the common man in 2008.
Earlier, the supply was limited to the military. The company started producing rum and a few other alcoholic beverages during the British rule. Later, the commercial production of arrack from the byproduct of sugar was also begun. “Though we had the monopoly in the beginning, trouble started as the government lifted control over buying spirit from outside the state ,” deputy manager P M John said. “Then the production itself stopped as the government banned arrack in 1996. In a way, it turned to be a boon for us.”
The company had to face many obstacles when it was under Industries and Taxes and Excise departments. The labyrinth of red tape hindered its progress. Ego clashes between various political parties and fights within different ‘groups’ of the same outfit had an adverse effect on TSCL.
Even the earnest attempts by veteran Congress leader Oommen Chandy, who was a union leader here from the late 70s, proved futile. However, the steps taken by the LDF Government in 2006 and the initiatives by the then Industries Minister Elamaram Kareem and Excise Minister P K Gurudasan ushered in a new era.
TSCL underwent major changes on its journey to progress. The government shifted it to the departments of Taxes and Excise and clubbed its post of MD and director board with that of the Kerala State Beverages Corporation (KSBC), ushering in a new chapter. Once spread across 90 acres, the campus has been reduced to 50 acres as a portion of the land was set apart for some other government facilities.
Even then, the factory and the warehouses occupy only 10 per cent of the plot. A large channel connected to the Pampa river remains a mute witness to the factory’s hey days when hundreds of boats carrying sugarcane used to criss-cross it . It can mint millions if the capacity of the unit is hiked to one lakh cases per annum, said Alex. “However, it depends on government policy as the product is liquor,” he said.