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Technology spices up Eastern's success

April 18, 2007 17:05 IST

Curry powder king Eastern group's winning mantra is: 'Think globally, act locally.'

Even when procuring chilli, coriander, turmeric, rice and several raw materials from various parts of the country, it is their heavy investment in cold storage and imported laboratory testing facilities that has enabled the company to become a market leader.

A whole-new world opened as Johny P J, deputy manger (technical) and Ginesh Chackochan guided this correspondent to various state-of-the-art testing and production facilities of Eastern.

Among the recent acquisition to the laboratory is a Rs 1-crore automated microbiological testing unit, first of its kind to be installed in a curry powder plant.

The equipments were imported from Biomereaux, France, where M E Meeran had personally gone. A seven-member team from the company had stayed at Adimaly recently to train the staff.

Two years ago, an Australian equipment TecraUnique Plus was installed to determine pathogens such as salmonella, lysteria, camphylobacter in a span of six to 24 hours as against the usual estimation time of four to seven days, Johny said.

Another major laboratory acquisition is a steam sterilisation equipment for Rs 3.5 crore (Rs 35 million), another first in India, according to Meeran.

It has already been shipped from Germany and this would help Eastern group to wipe out contamination from its products.

The instrumentation laboratory has various instruments such as HPLC, GC and UV spectrophotometer for analysing toxins, synthetic colours, pesticide residue, colour value curcumin content and piperine content respectively, Johny said.

The lab complex has microbial, chemical, instrumentation and product development division.

The production facility is spotlessly clean, workers wear masks, head cover and foot cover to ensure cleanliness.

Ginesh explained various processes involved in the production of rice powder. Multi-step temperature controlled processes take away the moisture and enhance the shelf life of rice powder to six months, he said. Packing of chilli, powders, masala are all machine driven and untouched by hand.

Eastern's greatest resource is its cold storage facility at Theni housed in a five-storyed building. It has capacity to store one lakh bags of chilli, coriander and another facility is coming up in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh.

"This helps us to procure and store the maximum during season so that we are not affected by the price volatilities," Meeran said.

Masala powder, filter coffee, rice powder, pickles, chilli powder are produced and packed in Adimaly while coriander, turmeric powder and chilli powder come from Theni. Some raw material in powder form comes from Theni for making masala powder in Adimaly.

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Srekumar Raghavan/Commodity Online