The 1968 ‘Made in Mangalore’ model still has the cool factor
A distinctly forgettable fridge sits in the chamber of Sumith S. Rao, Chief Executive of Olympus Refrigeration Inc. — a company that designs cooling systems and distributes refrigerators of various brands. The fridge, with an unfamiliar badge, wears a much-used but “imported” look.
But it has no foreign origin. Mr. Rao says the fridge’s claim to the corner office is that it’s an heirloom, designed and made in Mangalore.
K.S. Rao, Sumith’s father, then 37 years old, designed and manufactured in 1968 for use in homes. “It was made completely in Yeyyadi,” Mr. Rao said.
Rao Senior made two prototypes — 280 litres and 165 litres — but he could never commercialise them. The 280-litre fridge is still in use — in Mr. Rao’s office.
He, however, says it should not be judged by the looks. It has a handle with a comfortable grip, ergonomically designed, after studying the grips of users. The bulb inside doesn’t project out, is part of the wall. The freezer is made of stainless steel, so it is washable, rust-free, and has a spring lock. The trays have stainless steel edges unlike fridges then, which had trays made of plastic-coated metal. It has a medicine box with a transparent plastic sliding door. The egg tray is modular and could be taken out to cater to the sensibilities of vegetarians, he says.
The glass to cover the vegetable chiller is made of toughened glass. At the back of the fridge, the condenser is covered. “In the 45 years I have had it with me, the only change I have done is to paint it. No other change,” Mr. Rao says.
Plan goes phut
He says his father christened the fridge ‘Olympus’, after Mount Olympus in Greece. Its logo was Phi, the Greek alphabet, which denotes heat in physics. His father wanted to form a joint venture with the Karnataka government. The then Chief Minister S. Nijalingappa had told him he would support him in the venture. But soon after the government fell “and with that fell my father’s dream”, he says.
Mr. Rao says his father made the fridges with a loan of Rs. 2O lakh he took in 1968 from State Bank of Mysore, Mangalore. He repaid the amount in 1987. He had done his diploma in electrical engineering in a polytechnic college in Guindy, Chennai, and had specialised in refrigeration in London University, U.K.
The second ‘Made in Mangalore’ prototype was disposed of in 2003 after his mother used it for 35 years.