From a Facilitator to a Wealth Creator Samuel is a Chest of Ideas
Philip Samuel is the owner of Bangalore-based Indfrag, which was he started in 1989 to extract the essence of natural flowers to be used as ingredients in fine perfumery. When it became no longer highly profitable to make flower ingredients, he shifted to plant extracts for Health and Nutrition. The company boomed after that and once again diversified into plant extracts for Cosmetics. Samuel split the company into 2 parts in 2016 and sold the major part for a great valuation, rewarding all the shareholders by 126 times, compared to the Sensex Index multiplying 9.6 times.
Quitting his full-time professional business in 2017, the 70-year old Samuel still gets enthusiastic when it is about discussing new ideas, innovating, and facilitating entrepreneurs to produce. From collecting used toiletries from star hotels, recycling and distributing to the underprivileged, championing agriculture, investing in young entrepreneurs in waste management, and taking up tasks for the upliftment of the society and its people, the energy and dedication of this 70-year old is worth to be followed. Samuel is a rare Machine Maker produced by our country, and his story will surely be an inspiration to many—a mentor who is not ready to stop till he succeeds.
Having engaged in a successful career as a consultant and an entrepreneur, Samuel now wants to give back to society. For a considerably long period, Samuel’s passion has been to identify unique venture ideas. He has a multitude of venture ideas in his storage of which several are relevant in the current world. He wants to give these ideas free of cost to young people who are on the lookout for venture ideas. For this, he has developed a website, idearampage. His heartfelt desire is to benefit young people by sharing his experience. He aims to spread the message that incidences in our life teach us lessons. In any situation, we always have an alternative. So, if a specific idea fails, it is wrong to lose heart. After reaching the zenith of successful entrepreneurship, Samuel began engaging in various CSR activities. His company is one of the first Indian companies to donate to American charities.
Samuel began his work with a small capital and claims that he is not a corporate man with textbook strategies. He runs his company on impulse and instinct for which his managers often think of his actions and decisions as rather strange! But, when he sold his company, the shareholders who regularly got 100% dividend almost every year from 1996 onwards. When the company was sold, they got a 126 times to return. Consultants informed Samuel that compared with a 9.6 appreciation in Sensex from 1996 to date, he ranks among the top 10 wealth creators.
Samuel was born in 1947 in Tamil Nadu and was the last of the eight children of his parents. His parents named him after Prince Phillip who married Queen Elizabeth in the same year. His father was in Government service in the Revenue department as a Deputy Collector, who eventually rose to the rank of Director of Industries in Commerce. After completing his preliminary education in a Small Montessori School, Chennai, his high school education was in Madras Christian College High School. Thereafter, he enrolled in Vivekananda College. He joined the B.E. (Mechanical) course at College of Engineering, Guindy. He remembers that he was not an exceptional student and scored only just enough to pass in the engineering examination.
His father guided him to be an unpaid apprentice in a Government tool room for six months, where he learned from observation. After graduation, he was a Maintenance Engineering trainee in Kunal Engineering, a small-scale textile spindle manufacturer in Ambattur. This company was part of a large group called the Kothari group, which had a German collaboration. After eight months, in 1970, he was appointed as a Sales Engineer in Carborundum Universal but was consequently shifted to projects. This company had a new project in Palghat, Kerala related to Electrocast Refractories. The company sent him to the US to transfer the technology. At the age of 27, he successfully designed and built the plant at Palghat, which was very well appreciated. He became very interested to continue work as a Project Manager and set up new manufacturing units. The management at Carborundum appreciated his work and expressed their desire to uplift him to the top rung of the company for which they wanted him to take a path designed by them and posted him as a Training Manager in another Group company. Samuel felt that he would not be a good teacher/ trainer, and in 1978, he decided to explore more into his career voyage.
His next assignment, which was one of the breakpoints in his career, was in Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation (TIDCO). The purpose of this public sector company was to promote large-scale manufacturing units in the state. Here, the work was to identify innovative projects, identify and finalize foreign collaborations for technology. The next stage was to obtain all kinds of approvals from the Government of India, under the then prevalent License Raj. At the appropriate stage of the project, Private Sector was invited to participate and take over the management. Those days, recruiting professionals into TIDCO from the private sector was not common, but Samuel’s recruitment was through a dynamic IAS Officer, Shri. K. P. Geetakrishnan, IAS, the then Managing Director of TIDCO, who later became the Union Finance Secretary in Delhi and further proceeded to the World Bank. Samuel had hard-core engineering know-how about setting up a project inclusive of drawing, building, architecting, machinery selection, erection, and commissioning, etc., in Carborundum. In TIDCO, his work was more about promotion, which was concerning facilitative management. The aim was to have joint venture projects. TIDCO wanted to promote and bring the project to one level but never implement it or buy land for it. It would invite the private sector to take over the project. The public issue share was of 49%, TIDCO share was of 26%, and the private investor’s share was 25%. TIDCO conceived the idea of Titan for which Samuel was one of the Development Officers. They later sold it to the Tatas. Other TIDCO-promoted units were SPIC, TANFAC, Vanavil Dyes, Dyna Vision, etc.
Coming out of the regular Government style of working in 1980, he became a Project Manager in Mettur Beardsell, a famous Textile manufacturer owned by a group in England. While working on some new projects, he came in contact with Murali, a Marketing guy with an MBA degree. Murali expressed his desire to be on his own and requested Samuel to assist him to create a manufacturing venture for which he was ready with the finance. Samuel agreed and selected a Precision Optics project. He got collaboration from JML Optics, a small company in Rochester, USA, who was persuaded by Samuel not only to share the technology but also take a Financial stake with 40% shareholding. This company is General Optics Asia Ltd., located in Pondicherry. After this first successful venture, Samuel felt that he can become a Consultant and launched a company called Trans Projects Eastern Pvt. Ltd, beginning his entrepreneurship. He began to come up with unique ideas and do all preliminary research such as raw materials, manufacturing processes, technology, and marketing, etc. You need to understand that the research was done when Google or Internet search was not even a dream in people’s minds.
He ensured that his ideas were not commonplace and also had high profits with foreign collaborations. To sell the project ideas, he used to draft 10 one sentence project ideas on a sheet of paper and charged prospective clients INR 1 lakh to buy this sheet. The customers were allowed to select 3 ideas. Then, he would charge them INR 25 lakhs for the research of about 10 pages of these 3 ideas. He would provide them with all data on these ideas and introduce them to foreign collaborators. For research, he took painstaking efforts of visiting consulates and reading books, etc. Through these, he could prove the viability and feasibility of a manufacturing project. To cope up with the expenses, it was mandatory that the project cost was minimum INR 3 crores. His clients were big corporates who were looking to diversify, NRIs who were looking to settle back in India, and wealthy youngsters who would like to venture into business. From 1982 to 1987, Samuel was able to execute more than seven projects. One was vacuum coating of Copier drums with American collaboration, Coating HSS cutting tools with Titanium Nitride to increase their life, with a Liechtenstein collaboration. Another one was for Solar flat plate collectors that had double the efficiency of usual Tube and Plate Collectors, which could be used to run Air conditioners in offices, with Australian technology. Another one was color anodizing of Aluminum without using dyes, which was used in the previous Madras airport expansion. Clients were companies like JK Synthetics, Murugappa Group, Sona Steering etc.
In 1987, destiny took Samuel from consulting to manufacturing. One of his attributes was never to tell NO and find ways to execute tasks. A subsidiary of Unilever, a manufacturing unit in South France extracting fresh flowers, was in search of somebody who could make Indian flower extracts. The extraction of fresh flowers was for fine perfumery. The project cost was of INR 45 lakhs. Unfortunately, Samuel had to inform the Unilever representative from Ashford named Andrew Attfield about the unavailability of an entrepreneur to take up this project, due to his low Capital cost. To this, Andrew replied that they trusted Samuel, wanted him to take up the project, and was ready to assist him in all ways possible. In this way, in 1987, Samuel moved on from consultancy to manufacturing. Unilever provided him with free technology with the complete buyback guarantee. The first year was rewarding, but at its end, Unilever sold the unit to Sanofi. Now, the French advised Samuel to sue Unilever. Instead, Samuel, with the support of Andrew, drafted a letter to Unilever to help him out. Accordingly, Unilever gave a good review about Samuel to distributors in the South of France and New Jersey, US. Yet, Indfrag had to struggle to keep afloat, having lost Unilever’s connection.
In 1992, Samuel’s friend informed him about a company called Natural Remedies, which was selling raw herbs to veterinaries and wanted an extract so that the dosage can be small. This proved to be a lucrative business for Samuel who soon paid off the loans and resolved all financial issues. In 1993, Samuel was given an order by an American company for an extract of Garcinia, which is used for weight management which proved to be a money spinner. He got the raw materials initially from Shimoga (Karnataka) and then from Sri Lanka at a cheaper rate and finally moved to Indonesia. His company was the No. 1 company in the world for the manufacture of garcinia. Today, Garcinia is one of the most popular weight loss ingredients. Having got out of Floral extracts and into Nutrition, the business grew rapidly. Cosmetic ingredients were started in 2006 which also added to the growth of the company. From 2014, the company’s sales jumped from 50 Crores to 100 Crores and then to 150 Crores. This attracted M&A Consultants who helped Samuel to sell part of his company in January 2017. The Cosmetic side was retained and is now managed ably by his son.
Even after taking off from regular business, innovations and ideas inspire him, and he is always there to support people, companies, and industries with his experience, expertise, and resources. He is pained by the way the current generation is looking forward to not taking hardships to attain success. The easy route is in no way helping the budding entrepreneur, people, business, or society. He is on a mission to create an equilibrium where people innovate and embrace ideas.