Meet Mr. Ramasamy, The man, who broke the silence of uncertain and untested venture

Roots-Mr. Ramasamy

Imagine a world without sounds. Lightning and Thunderstorms would look like a camera’s flash, we wouldn’t get to hear the beautiful cacophony of birds, the sounds of waves crashing against the rocks would seem powerless. In simple the world would lose half of its charm if not for its sounds.  Similarly, man-made creations will also seem powerless without their sound. For example, Theatres without the sound effects, motorbikes without the revving and mobile phones without ringtones, Alarm without an alarm sound! Out of all the sounds, the most important is the sound of alarm. The human race would have gone extinct without an alarm sound. Starting from the sonar in the submarines to trains and ships, the signalling mechanism is the most integral component. 


        The horn in our vehicles might seem just like another annexure but it is the life-saving component in our automobiles.  Let’s break it down to simple human emotions. Whenever we encounter a threat we immediately jerk and make noise or scream for help.  And if we need to get a stubborn person or animals to move out of the way we make a sound. This is the same mechanism used in our vehicles. The horn is just a way of the vehicle alarming an approach. Some might say that headlights can be used instead of horns to signal an approach. But during the day time around the blind curves horns are the only source of alarm. 


        One such company responsible for saving us around blind curves and clearing paths of many drivers is the Roots Industries. The private venture is the source for Indian vehicles. It is also the largest horn manufacturing company in India. It was founded by Mr K. Ramaswamy in the year 1970.  I, Karthi Easwaramoorthy, happened to have a casual conversation with him in one fine evening for more than an hour. Believe me, you get goosebumps knowing his personal and professional life. Here you go….Read his personal and professional life below.

He was born to Krishnasamy Gounder and Marrammal. He’s from an agricultural background. He did his primary schooling in Municipal school Coimbatore, where he learned carpentry and learned basic mechanics. He finished his secondary education at Mani high school, Coimbatore. With the advantage of bifurcated courses Mr. Ramasamy studied basic engineering in high school, where he gained a practical knowledge on mechanical, electrical and civil engineering. He studied for two years in CIT sandwich polytechnic college. Later, he finished automobile engineering from Lincoln technical school, America.  Let’s see how Mr K. Ramaswamy helped India clear the path.


 Our beloved special guest was born and brought up in an agricultural family from Coimbatore. As our talk progressed Mr. Ramaswamy introduced himself and immediately after that he started to explain how inspiring his father was. It was indeed inspiring for us too upon hearing the remarkable contributions of his father towards automobile technology and social activities. He happily said that  “ even though my Ayya(father in Tamizh) was from an agricultural background he was a pioneer in many things” .  He also adds that  Mr. Krishnaswamy Gounder was the first person to start silk production in Coimbatore when it was only available in Mysore at that time period. He was also the first person to invent a charcoal gas plant for trucks and buses during the world war in the 1940s.  Note that his father was a Tamizh pandit and no Engineer or scientist. 

The topic got more and more interesting as he progressed with the achievements of his father.  His father sent a letter to S.L Kirloskar writing that he has an idea to fabricate charcoal gas plants to run trucks and buses. It would be helpful if they could help him manufacture the gas plant. He then drove off to Kirloskar with a petrol driven truck, stayed there for 3 months, built the gas plant and drove back with the gas plant without any hindrance making it a successful project. He then again ventured into setting up the first fully mechanised Sago plant. He also added a sweet note saying that his Father was a polymath shifting from one skill to another. He was his inspiration and the source of his knowledge about machines and agriculture.


          Unlike today in olden days people had to wait for 3 to 4 years after booking a car to get it delivered. Since his father was a social and agricultural activist he had a lot of travelling to do. So as soon as he received the car he would fit BOSCH Horns from Germany. Curious about this Mr. Ramaswamy asked his father why he changed to a foreign product to an Indian vehicle. His father said that Indian products wear out soon while the German product lasts longer. Keeping this in mind Mr.Ramaswamy thought to himself that one day he will manufacture Horns of same German quality and performance. 

Pretty cool ambition for a 13 year old at that time. The spark of an aggrieved teen is what gave rise to Roots Industries the largest horn producer in India. 


              The dream of a 13 yr old turned into a strong passion towards automobiles making him secure a degree in Automobile Engineering from Lincoln Technical Institute USA. He then returned back to India and set up a company to manufacture horns with seed capital from his father. He carried out various experiments and trials to come up with a horn that performs as good as the German product but most of them didn’t add up to his expectations. However, he ended up inventing a Radiator cooling system that has long term performance, doesn’t require frequent maintenance and was more durable than the regular ones. Since the people didn’t understand it’s working he decided to first start with products that were easily demonstrable to users.

          He created a servo brake system and launched it in the market which was a huge success. The establishment slowly started to take shape after it’s first success. 

While the R&D for the electric horns was going on, his attention shifted towards the development of air horns for buses and trucks that had a complex and clumsy horn system. Mr. Ramaswamy replaced them with an electrically operated  air horn which was a notable success. 


     “ success is not the key to happiness, happiness is the key to success If you love what you are doing you will be successful” 

   How more inspiring could a person get?  Was our thoughts throughout the session. Each and every word felt like a magical phrase that opens the doors to wisdom.  The most heartwarming quote he said was     

 “ I was never interested in the money. I always wanted to raise our standards and manufacture an Indian made product as good as the imported ones”. 

         The success was indeed a well deserved one. After the triumph of his invention he still couldn’t let go of his admiration towards BOSCH. So he sent out numerous letters to them requesting a tie up. After multiple consecutive attempts he still didn’t get a response. One day he got a reply from them saying that the proposal has been taken to the board for discussion. But they ended up denying the proposal for a tie up.  He realised that the company had to enter the global marketplace in order to establish itself in full swing and grab attention of global brands. In the year 1992 Roots exhibited their product in Automechanika Frankfurt Germany to check its position in global markets. They got an overwhelming response for its good performance. At the final day of the exhibit BOSCH collected the samples, tested their products and agreed to work with them. Finally in 1994 they set up a technical collaboration with BOSCH and started manufacturing 3 of their models in India. Now glad to share that, Almost 90%  of BOSCH global requirements are met by Roots. Out of this almost 75% of the horns are designed and developed by Roots. This was indeed a huge accomplishment for the venture. Roots then started to expand into exporting horn to many prestigious automobile companies like BMW, Harley-Davidson, Ducati, Daimler, Fuso, Nissan, Navistar and many more. 

HR in The Roots group 

The Roots group company was the first to introduce HR in Coimbatore. When asked about the secret behind the successful HR in the company, he said “The roots group started small, with only 3 people, it was a close circle. I deeply knew about their personal lives and I understood the reason why work was important to them. As a devotee of Swami Satchidananda  serving others in the best possible way without expecting anything in return was my moto. Making the best product in the industry was my aim not to make the most money, so making the people around me comfortable and happy was important to me. Slowly there was a sense of belongingness among the employees and HR became a crucial aspect in the company.”   


 The doorway to the global markets are now opened and the empire has expanded to international markets. The next move Mr.Ramaswamy wanted to make was enter the cleaning industry. Now he did not only think of manufacturing cleaning products but also made sure he practised what he preached.  A clean workplace is mandatory for an industry that is excelling in the global level. Without having a clean and organised workplace the sense of excellence loses a part of it’s recipe. So Roots joined hands with a German company HAKO and manufactured cleaning machines.  Considering the low wages prevailing at that time, company could not penetrate Indian market. Only way to stay alive until Indian market develops is to export the machines. Due to contractual obligation company cannot export the product manufactured under licence from HAKO out side India. Hence, he came to the conclusion that only the products they designed on their own had possibilities of export. Finally a floor cleaning machine called WIZZARD a mini-scrubber dryer was designed, developed  and manufactured by Roots.  The product received a sceptical response from the board as the company was under loss and it needed additional investment. In addition to that Roots Multiclean Limited (RMCL) would also face a terrible downfall if they didn’t come up with an export quality product. Despite all the risks the final product was completed and exhibited in the Amsterdam International show which received positive response and the product was a huge success.  Today RMCL is the largest manufacturer of that type of cleaning machine in the world. 


            “ innovation is seeing what everyone has seen but changing it into something no one has thought “

        Mr. Ramaswamy stresses on the fact that innovation is always the key to a stable and successful company. Without research or development of the ideas, we wouldn’t be experiencing the zenith of the technological era today. Thanks to Roots for its continuous quest for innovation and development. Today India is trusted for the manufacture of many automobile products and cleaning machineries, the credits goes to Chairman Mr.Ramaswamy. One such incident that proves as an example that we are excelling in global markets is the deal with the Swedish company, manufacturing medical products. The Swedish company was importing products from multiple sources and 6 different countries. Roots offered to export their requirements from a single source without having to deal with multiple vendors. 

               Another German scientific company sent their drawings to Roots and imported the components for quite some time. One day the company sent two engineers with the drawings of the components they needed. Not only that but they also had a pleasant surprise saying that Roots is the only company that is capable of developing their components as per their expectations. Upon enquiring they exclaimed that the German company has been trying for months to manufacture the same product but was unsuccessful. They were in awe to see Roots proving the components with high precision. Mr.Ramaswamy also adds that providing freedom to the engineers to innovate and research is always the basic building block to any successful industry. 


The founding principle of Roots as Mr.Ramaswamy quotes is 

strive to improve what we have already done and not be satisfied with what has been done”

Customers are always first. Losing money is better than losing customers. Without customers we would not be able to build up empires of industries.

He also believes that every person must think and act like the owners to understand the values needed to build the foundation and take the ventures to the next levels. It was indeed the most heartwarming session we have had with tons of knowledge and inspiration shared from the most humble soul. We wish you with all our heart to reach great heights and bring more pride to our country. 

Continue to read about more personalities here