| Simson A. Fernandez in office
Thiruvananthapuram, July 26: A little after 4.30 pm on the Friday after the London copycat strikes, Haridasan T. Nair got a call. An unknown voice on the other end was enquiring about the Delta 6250 plastic containers his company exported to the UK.
Thinking it was a business call, the unit manager (exports) of Family Plastics and Thermoware rattled off all the details. But he made it clear Family would not do business with anyone else in the UK save its sole distributor Kaiser International Ltd.
That was when deputy commissioner Steve Burton let on it was Scotland Yard calling.
The officer from the United Kingdom Bomb Data Centre, SO 13 Anti-Terrorist Branch, New Scotland Yard, told Nair the police required Family’s cooperation as the 21/7 copycats had used Delta 6250 containers to stuff bombs to set off blasts on the London Underground.
“We have an important line of inquiry in one of the investigations here in London. I need you to supply me with a list of your UK suppliers in relation to the product Delta 6250 container,” Burton said.
For a split second, Nair was flummoxed. Cooperation in a bombing probe' Family'
At once, he dumped the work at hand ' he was overseeing a consignment for export to Mauritius ' and dashed to consult managing director Simson A. Fernandez. Within minutes, Scotland Yard was given all the details it wanted.
“You may call it our humble contribution towards global efforts in anti-terror operations,” Fernandez said today.
“But little did we guess our transparent food-grade plastic containers, costing about Rs 40 a piece locally and used by thousands of households in half a dozen foreign countries besides a huge local market, would turn into lethal repositories at the hands of terrorists.”
Insisting Family had “nothing to hide”, the MD readily took this correspondent around the Monvila village factory, located on a cliff overlooking the Arabian Sea some 20 km north of Thiruvananthapuram.
He talked about over 350 types of moulded plastic products which were on display, explaining they were made of virgin high-density polyethylene and polypropylene supplied by the Reliance group.
The 40-odd factory hands looked pleased Family had made the headlines, for whatever reason. Binu, a hand at the dye-casting unit, chuckled: “Hopefully this will bring us more business.”
But factory general manager G.K. Nair was cautious. Insisting on an I-card check before opening his mouth, he pleaded: “Please do not cast us in a negative light. We’re among the five of the 50-odd industrial units doing decent business.”
The unit, established in 1998 at an investment of Rs 183 lakh, has an asset base of Rs 3.2 crore. The turnover in the last fiscal was Rs 12 crore.
The factory is located, ironically, in an industrial graveyard where most other units have either shut shop or are just pulling along. Nor has it seen even a day’s strike, a stark contrast to the frequent shutdowns in Kerala.
“That’s how we take care of our staff,” Nair said.
Asked about profits and expansion plans, Fernandez pointed to a consignment waiting to be shipped to Kaiser. “Our profits are modest and we believe in a long-haul operation that will bring in consistent profits.”
In 1998, when company chairman Daniel Fernandez --- he owns a string of units under the name Daniel and Sons in Mumbai --- decided to set up the unit, friends and relatives had warned him not to commit hara-kiri by picking a place infamous for labour unrest.