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By TPCI | September 26, 2019

Started with a team of just seven dedicated individuals, today HRS PSL is family of 140+ employees and has seen a journey of being a Rs 1 billion company over a short span of 15 years. Headquartered in London, UK, HRS Group has a prominent presence in India with a modern production facility on the outskirts of Pune (Koregaon Bhima). Today, HRS is a proud owner of around 40,000 sq ft area as their factory where they do product processing in terms of fabrication, assembly testing and dispatch.

Expanding their horizons, they have created a niche in the chemical processing, agro chemicals, petrochemical, steel, cement, oil and fats, pharma, nutraceuticals, food and beverage industries in India and abroad. HRS today provides a range of heat exchangers, components, modules and complete processing systems that help food processors to optimize production and make the most of raw materials, while reducing energy consumption, waste and emissions.

Talking about the growth story of HRS and the further plans of expansion, Mr. V. Gokul Das, MD, HRS Process Systems Ltd., also provides rich insights into the industry and Indusfood-Tech. Here are some excerpts from the interview:

Indusfood-Tech: Tell us about the company’s formation and growth story? How have you evolved as a business in India and abroad?
Mr. V. Gokul Das: We had incorporated our company in April, 2003. That was a period when many foreign companies were looking for direct investments in India as the country had a good growth story. So, HRS wanted to get into different segments specifically heat exchangers and heat exchangers-based systems. Since then, we have seen a business growth from Rs. 50 million initially to Rs. 1 billion (we crossed Rs 100 Cr business in a short span of 15 years). We started off with a small team of 7-8 people and today we are a big family of 140+ employees at HRS.

HRS provides a range of heat exchangers, components, modules and complete processing systems that help the food processors to optimize production, make the most of raw materials, while reducing energy consumption, waste and emissions.

Heat exchangers mainly find their applications in chemical process or processing industry. We came up with an innovative technology for heat transfer, which is a corrugated tube technology and our product was branded as “ECOFLUX”. This technology enabled us with certain advantages over the prevalent traditional shell and tube heat exchangers. HRS Ecoflux Corrugated Tube Heat Exchanger was compact in size, cost competitive, advantageous with lesser fouling, incurred low-maintenance cost and gave better performance and efficiency.

In 2003 we started with various chemical processing applications for different companies in different areas viz., chemical, pharma, agro-chemical, petro-chemicals and fertilizers, steel and power etc. In fact, all kinds of processing industries need heat exchangers and there we come up with our high quality solutions.

From 2007, we entered into the food processing segment with heat exchanger-based systems for preheating and pasteurization of fruit pulp and beverages. We were able to make inroads into this demanding hygienic sector and in later years developed aseptic processing systems like Mono-bloc Aseptic Steriliser cum Filler, Evaporations systems and Sterilizers and UHT lines for beverage and daily products processing. All this and much more for the food processing industry.

The key remains technology, knowledge and the integration of all these equipment to give a process-line, which will deliver a quality product for the customer. This is what sums up HRS.

Indusfood-Tech: What are the key product categories you cater to? And what are the major end use sectors where you are witnessing good demand for your equipment?
Mr. V. Gokul Das: Food is a big sector, bakery products, cereals, pulses, vegetables, fruits, beverages, dairy, sauces, etc. all come under its umbrella. So, when we started in this segment with thermal processing we divided the entire  food/fruit market into two major segments; one being the fruit pulp which includes, mango, guava, tomato and a limited amount of pineapple (chunks of pineapples or pineapple dices) and vegetables; the other being the beverage industry. Besides these, papaya, watermelon and pomegranate juices can be processed in our plants and systems.

Oranges and apples are, interestingly, the sectors, which are not very much focused in India for processing, but we feel that they have a good demand and prudent growth in coming years.

The other key area in the food segment for us is dairy - milk and milk products processing. The biggest advantage is that most of the milk is being processed as pasteurized milk (of various kinds) and packed in pouches for consumption. In the last six-seven years the consumption of UHT processing and value-added products of milk such as cheese, yoghurt, dahi (curd), etc., as a segment has grown. Furthermore, interestingly, we also gave small line to a company for ginger and garlic processing for a consistent paste.

Moreover, our equipments and solutions have proved to be so reliable that top notch beverage players have started sourcing fruit pulp directly from the manufacturers who use our equipments and heat exchangers in their processing units. This is how HRS has become a brand of excellence, quality and trust.

Also, we came up with unique equipment which worked on high-nickel alloy and guaranteed quality for the products of brands like sports drinks or isotonic beverages, which were high in salt content (compared to regular beverages). Resultantly, today we have a major market share in the beverage processing business with the beverages being processed in heat exchanger-based systems designed by us.

Indusfood-Tech: What are the latest trends in evolution of packaging materials and technology? How are you adapting to them as a company?
Mr. V. Gokul Das: We see beverage industry as a very potential market globally. As people are moving from carbonated to fruit-based drinks and are getting more health conscious, this segment has marked an explosive growth.

The biggest advantage of the beverage business is that we have only processed lines. We can integrate our processed lines for any packaging (filling) machines. Our equipments get aligned with any and every filling system ranging from glass bottles to PET bottles to aseptic brik packets. We have the know-how to integrate all the lines with any kind of packaging (fillers) machine. This very fact gives the manufacturers a huge freedom to process food in a big way. Besides, all our equipments and systems can deliver products processed to any domestic and international standard.

Furthermore, the new categories that are catching momentum are nutraceuticals and prepared food. It is mainly the heat treatment and food processing in these segments that we are looking at; mainly the fortified drinks/beverage to sterilize and pack. Also people are relentlessly looking for fruit-based beverages with some chunks/dices of fruits processed with it. We have systems and equipments in our portfolio whereby we can process such products.

Indusfood-Tech: How strong has been the role of the R&D for your business to be a success? Any major R&D/innovations that you might wish to share with us?
Mr. V. Gokul Das: We have designed and supplied systems for ORS (Oral Rehydration Systems) drinks, which are used for packaging of ORS products. This is a segment in focus by beverage majors and other players have also dived into the segment.

Globally, the group has a common R&D centre in Murcia, Spain, where research is carried out in product and application development. The group has two fabrication and manufacturing facilities; one on India and the other in Spain, with headquarters in London, UK.

Indusfood-Tech: How do you plan to expand your business in the next five years?
Mr. V. Gokul Das: We have expanded our horizons over the years and are working consistently on various aspects of processing. Two years back we got a mega food park order, which is under commissioning. Today HRS is in the league of few companies globally, which provide small processing plants to the colossal mega food park. The plant we designed would process vegetables as well as fruits and that too in a big way. They process typically all types of food and fruits, viz. mango, tomato, guava, berries, amla, etc. So, talking about our plants, it is a multi-fruit and multi-vegetable processing line and design that we have engineered for the park. So, this should give us a big breakthrough into the market in a different way.

Interestingly, we are also looking at prepared food (ready-to-eat food) as a potential market. We expect a good demand and business from a unique product that we have designed, which is the HRS ParaDice. This innovative system is designed with our Ecoflux corrugated tube heat exchanger and our unique HRS piston pump, with controls and automation to have a quality product. One application for which we have designed the system and commissioned is for cooking rice! This unit is supplied in Gujarat and working well.

HRS ParaDice is unique as it cooks and processes rice products or any products in general with particulates, without breaking them. These products may vary from rajma, chole or dal to many more. Currently, as most of these are worked in batches, the capacity is less, but yes this is a prudent area for future growth plans for us. Owing to the number of mid-day meals that are gaining momentum today and increasing number of corporate hubs such as in Pune, Gurugram, Bangalore, Hyderabad, etc., which put-forth a big number of bulk food requirement, we are trying to engineer our products so these manufacturers may process in much better and a bigger manner and pack the products in bulk hygienically.

We have also come up with a unique transfer pump, the HRS Piston Pump, wherein food products are transferred from one vessel to the other, say from a storage vessel to a packaging vessel, without breaking the product. This is for products like pulp with dices, cooked products, etc.

Another major area wherein we think we can fetch good potential from is extraction of essence from food wastes. Say, lots of carrots and tomatoes are spoilt and thereby just wasted. So, there is a process whereby we can extract the essence from the same. We are working on and researching on it at our R&D center in Spain.

Dairy is another area wherein we see good growth. Earlier we could only think of processed milk when talking of dairy. Whereas, now-a-days, a lot of UHT milk is also gaining demand and market attraction. So, today, milk-based products with higher value-add (cheese, yoghurt, flavoured milk, probiotics, etc.) is what people are looking for. However, our core would remain thermal processing without losing the natural aroma, flavor and taste of the food product.

Today, we find 60-65% of our business from the heat exchangers segment and the rest 40-50% is from the food system. Both the segments are growing at a CAGR of about 18%. However, we are looking for new business and new applications areas as well which will maintain steady growth and balance of 50:50 for each business.

Indusfood-Tech: How is the food processing equipment industry expected to grow in the future? What will be the drivers of the growth?
Mr. V. Gokul Das: There is huge growth in the food processing equipment industry envisaged along the way, due to of huge demand for processed food resulting from higher disposable income, nuclear family, urbanization, changing life styles, health consciousness, etc.

Due to growing health and hygiene concern, there will always be a requirement of new equipment so as to enhance the food quality and also productivity at better cost. Also, ready-to-eat food is also becoming more and more popular for customers across the globe. We definitely see a good amount of growth in the segment not only for fruit and beverage, but for all kinds of food material produced.

Indusfood-Tech: What has been the progress of your business on the export front and which are the main markets you have successfully penetrated? What are your future strategies to tap your potential target markets?
Mr. V. Gokul Das: Our direct markets are in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Asia, which are pretty stabilized but are small. We have done some product selling in Africa and West Asia.  Most of these have been franchises of key beverage players in the country and some local companies. Our target remains Asia, South East Asia, West Asia and Africa as we see some countries having good infrastructure in food processing and want to develop too. We have enquiries from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Dubai, Oman, Bahrain, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Uganda, etc.

We are looking towards the markets of Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, from our group company in Malaysia, which is supported from India, for export of food processing systems or our systems for process industry. For each territory, we need to have service backup apart from supply, this we create before getting into any market. Moreover, we have a global presence and we look forward to penetrate the market strategically.

Indusfood-Tech: How do you see Indusfood-tech as a platform for the growth of the industry?
Mr. V. Gokul Das: We perceive Indusfood-Tech as a very important aspect to the business growth. This would not only fetch buyers’ attraction for our products and equipment but also would help industry players to exchange knowledge about new technologies. For us, Indusfood-Tech is a very important platform wherein we would connect with our existing customers and also explore new opportunities in the domestic and global market.

Another major happening that would eventually accelerate our growth is the “recommendations” which the F&B moguls generally exchange at such platforms. This convinces a lot many people that we are a reliable company and that too on the go! Thus, it plays a major role in finding and generating new possible ways of business. Therefore, platforms like Indusfood-Tech are a win-win for all!

To watch Mr V Gokul Das express his views on Indusfood-Tech and his expectations from the event, click (https://youtu.be/4ZSksqtJ8vo)