Orange Sorting Machines: success, grain by grain

Even as a student he was fond of making things. While pursuing a diploma, S Srinivasan made and sold doorbells and video games.

His journey as an entrepreneur took off when he started a company that would make machines to sort and remove defective foodgrains. The idea for this venture came from a small-scale industries exhibition he attended in Coimbatore more than a decade ago. This business is now worth almost Rs. 75 crore a year.

The Mainstay

During the exhibition, a few rice-mill owners asked him if he could develop machines to sort black rice from white rice. An engineering graduate, Srinivasan discussed the idea with his friend Zahir Hussain, who had worked in ISRO and TIFR. This led to a partnership and the development of the first product in 2002. The company, Orange Sorting Machines (India) Private Ltd, was born.

Imported sorting machines cost about Rs. 15 lakh, while he offered them for Rs. 6 lakh then. The rice sorter is the mainstay of his company’s business, accounting for 95 per cent of its production.

The Coimbatore-based company started off making machines to remove and discard coloured rice grains to ensure consistent high quality. The company, according to Srinivasan, is now being courted by private equity investors. It is looking to forge ties with overseas manufacturers through a technology transfer agreement. Srinivasan, Managing Director, said that in its previous avatar, his company provided service support to textile and engineering industries. Started in 1994, it was known then as Nanotek Electronic Engineers. It had 13 employees and the turnover was just a few lakhs of rupees. It also supplied products such as temperature controllers to rice mills.

Growing Turnover

Srinivasan, 45, said that in 2012-13, Orange Sorting Machines sold nearly 350 sorting machines. This fiscal, he expects to sell about 410 machines. The company’s turnover has increased from Rs. 17 crore in 2008-09 to Rs. 53 crore last year. This fiscal year he expects it to range between Rs. 70-100 crore. It has exported the machines to Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal. Exports to other countries are also on the radar