Continuing his appreciation for talented, skilled and innovative persons from the nation and more particularly from Tamil Nadu, in his monthly ‘Mann ki baat’ episode, Prime Minister Modi has mentioned Madurai based little known farmer turned craftsman and innovator Murugesan.
Murugesan, a farmer by profession, is a school dropout. He studied only up to the eighth standard. Following his father’s footstep, he took up farming and learnt the nuances from his father. Their family has been raising paddy and banana on their two and a half acre land. Murugesan who hails from Melakkal near Madurai said, “in 2009, a thought occurred to me. Why don’t we make a product out of the waste banana fibre? It could be recycled and made value-added products to get good income. First I concentrated on making rope from the fibre. But none recognized its potential but discouraged me. Some mocked me. I did not pay attention to their discouraging and ridiculing comments. In six months’ time, I single-handedly developed a ‘handle rope making machine’ and got it patented in 2012. I took the inspiration from coir-rope making machine. With my invention, I was able to make 3,000 meters of banana fibre rope at one go. I converted cattle-shed into a production unit with six workers in 2011. Now I have units in Melakkak, Keelamathur, Keelamattaiyan, Kodimangalam and Panniyan villages employing over 80 workforces. Besides 200 housewives from neighbouring villages make fibre handicraft products from their homes and sent it to them. Some come here to work after finishing their household chores to eke out a living by earning.
Continuing the story of his successful efforts, Murugesan said, “I found fibre can’t be marketed as a product which needed to be value-added. So I thought of making bags, baskets, mats, bottles, floor mats, lampshades, floor mates”. The farmer turned entrepreneur said, “my wife Malarkodi supported my efforts despite discouraging words from friends and relatives. We both decided to continue irrespective of its success including financial viability. Our product turned out to be perfect. So people started showing interest in them. At the start, we sold small numbers only at trade fairs and agri-expos till I marketed it at the international level. I had shipped 500 pieces of my products abroad with help of a mercantile export firm”.
Murugesan, who is a member of the Directorate of Agribusiness Development coming to Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore, recalled that he was overwhelmed with the initial response. “I was able to fix rate for my products that luxury farmers did not have. I have now developed three more banana fibre rope making machines. Power rope making machine is priced at Rs.60,000, power winding rope making machine Rs,75,000 and semi-automatic rope making machine Rs.1,50,000. So far I have given training to over 1,500 people in several states including Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Bihar, Gujarat in handling the machinery and weaving the handicraft items. Now I am planning to impart these skills to women in the African continent. Now I am making for types of machinery to make rope from plantation waste. They are patented”.
Now his efforts have been recognized. Prime Minister Modi said, “ Murugesan’s innovation will not just solve the waste disposal problem but also open up new avenues of income for farmers. He has converted artistic products from waste. This Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises owner needs to be recognized. His innovation has proved any one can make marks in the agricultural sector. He is a role model for those who have already achieved or trying to make a mark.
Murugesan was thrilled by saying that PM’s wishes which he felt is the greatest recognition. “It has inspired and motivated me to strive hard to train farmers across the nation by providing them with a means of livelihood. When Narendra Modi was the CM of Gujarat in 2013, he honoured me by identifying as the best farmer. Now ten years later he again mentioned my name and praised my innovations. I am planning to produce more innovative products,” Murugesan said.