Conglomerate it certainly is with a product profile that is awesomely diverse. But at heart Dempo are a raw material business house that have shown how to harness nature and her resources responsibility, ethically, safely and effectively. An account by Rajiv Kulkarni

In the largest of conglomerates, there is a pattern, a common thread, that is the essence of the enterprise. With the empire that Vasantrao S. Dempo built, the motif is the earth. Earth in 2 senses – as element and as our world, largely covered by another element — water, but also consisting of air. While the Dempo Group is known for its mineral processing operations, it is also a globally recognized raw petroleum coke calciner. Plus, it has a presence in pig iron manufacture, which is a step removed from earth. In all these cases, the  substance comes from earth. When it comes to shipbuilding, in which the group has a strong interest, the Dempos have had maritime interests for generations, their “panagayas,” schooners, plying up and down the Konkan coast, even venturing overseas. Here, the key is water, and thereby ,earth. Not surprisingly, one finds the group harnessing wind energy as well, air playing a vital role in the scheme of things. Above all, earth is bound up with land owning and tending, which the Dempos in Goa have been inseparable from. It is easy to see that Dempo are at heart a raw materials player. What is equally noteworthy is that the relationship between earth and Dempo has been an enduring one, marked by mutual respect. The Dempo approach to “Vasundhara”, Mother Earth, borders on reverence in spiritual terms, and has been in practical terms, an ethical, caring one. On Her part, Mother Earth has recognised the responsible use of Her bounty made by Dempo. The results are there for all to see.

The flag bearer of the Group is V S Dempo & Co. Pvt. Ltd. Incorporated in 1941, this mining company is also a renowned export house, winning performance awards every year, bringing in precious foreign exchange. It was a multi division corporate from which non-core operations were spun off into profitable businesses. With its fully owned subsidiary, Dempo Mining Corporation Pvt. Ltd. (operating Goa’s largest mine at Bicholim) and Sindhudurg Mining Corporation Pvt. Ltd. In southwestern Maharashtra, it forms the mining core of the Group. Nineteen mining leases spread over Goa bear witness to mechanized open cast multipit mining, with drilling and blasting out years ago and high- capacity ripper dozers doing the job. The product mix includes iron ore fines, calibrated iron ore lumps and low phos magnetite concentrates. The companies have an integrated mining, processing, blending and transportation system, marked by a fleet of barges and two transhippers. Plans on the anvil are ventures into ore-rich states such as Jharkhand and Maharashtra. A strong R& D team has worked for the last 25 years, developing processes to convert rejects to saleable ore, reducing alumina content, converting low- grade magnetite ore to high, and establishing pilot plants. The mining operations are ISO certified in their commitment to quality and the environment.

While on iron, the Group includes Aparant Iron and Steel Pvt. Ltd., making foundry grade, SG grade and Basic Grade Pig Iron. Commissioned in 2001, the plant, based in South Goa, uses Tata Korf technology marked by simple construction and the use of blast furnace gas, for production and power generation, that, too, from its own 4 MW captive power plant. The Plant has the capacity to produce 1,60,000 TPA, having touched a record production of over 600 tonnes in a day. Catering to its water requirements is a dedicated 10 kilometre long pipeline from the Selaulim Reservoir. The Plant is close to the port, railway stations and the national highway, its products enjoying a premium in the market.

South Goa is the base for another Dempo concern, begun in 1976. Goa Carbon Ltd., listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange, is India’s second largest maker of calcined petroleum coke ( a pure form of carbon), used in aluminium smelting and steel making. The plants, besides Goa, are at Paradeep in Orissa and Bilaspur in Chhatisgarh, with a total installed capacity of 2,40,000 MTPA. National majors and global giants (Aluminium Pechiney, Dubai Aluminium, to name just two) are on its customer list. The facilities are I50 certified in their commitment to quality and the environment, with exacting quality control systems, and proven expertise in green coke blending. Proximity to ports has helped gain wider markets.

A mention of ports brings us to the shipbuilders, Dempo Shipbuilding & Engineering Pvt. Ltd., a regional major, and Dempo Shipyard Pvt. Ltd., its off shoot. Ship design and construction, vessel repairs above and under water, as well as ship conversion and modernisation are what these do, and their commitment to quality has kept them busy. The higher draft of the Zuari on which the latter Company has its Yard allows for larger vessel construction. The slipway, dry docks, and quay are state -of -the -art in terms of infrastructure. An equipped mechanical and machinery workshop, a custom bonded warehouse, a CAD center for design and a prefabrication workshop for FRP vessels round off the plus points.

On to another pair next, not 2 companies doing one thing but one company doing two. Dempo Industries Pvt. Ltd.’s newspaper- publishing arm brings out the first English newspaper of Goa, The Navhind Times, having started in 1963, and Navprabha,a Marathi paper launched in 1970. The former remains Goa’s most popular, credible, and respected English daily, with the largest readership, and over 51% of advertisement space. The editorial page of the Navprabha is reputed to be the finest in the region. Both feature writing by India’s top journalists, with contributions from the leading lights of Goa, covering news that is regional, national and global, and supplements that are food both for thought and the soul. The Energy Division, recently established, has installed 2 wind energy converters in Rajasthan, and one in Karnataka, harnessing wind energy to generate electricity, then sold to the respective states’ electricity distributing companies. The Group’s concern for eco-friendly practices is exemplified by this venture into clean energy.

The Group’s food processing venture, Hindustan Foods Ltd, was started in 1988. It makes high quality cereal based food products — baby foods, instant porridges, breakfast cereals and health drinks, each with health  rich ingredients. With brands such as Bonny Mix, Bonny Meal, Rozana and Morning Feast and making Farex by arrangement, the Company is ISO_9001 compliant and HACCP certified by BVQI. Its modern extruder combined with a hygiene station, equipped quality control laboratories and separate packing lines for tins and flexi packs delivers high quality food products, the Company’s association with global giants Glaxo, Heinz and Dumex bearing out the facts.

The Group’s venture into travel agency services has grown from its debut in 1960, to its size now as among the largest in Goa. Dempo Travels Pvt. Ltd. was among the first in India to be accredited by the IATA (International Air Transport Association). Services offered include domestic/international air bookings, assistance in passport, visa and immigration matters, travel insurance, worldwide hotel booking, car rentals, multi lingual guides, and tours, international and domestic, individual and group. The Agency, with a branch just established, and more planned, has been the winner of several awards from airlines, both domestic and international, for exceeding performance parameters. The mantra here is customer worship, kept alive over the years. Easy to see, then how Dempo have been rather good at keeping alive traditions of worship. A tradition that began centuries ago with worship of the earth. And continues this century with the same fervour.