The flour mill was the first venture of the Krishna Group, started in 1928 by businessman and educationalist Meda Kasturi Ranga Setty
The ‘Maker of Modern Bangalore’, K. Seshadri Iyer, has more than a State guest house, statues, roads and libraries keeping his name alive. Seshadripuram, one of the earliest city extension, developed in 1892, boasts commercial establishments and industries born from an entrepreneurial spirit that could make the builders of old Bangalore proud.
One such pioneer of industrialisation in the city is Krishna Flour Mills, occupying an old building on Platform Road.
The loud pounding of the machinery, stacks of gunny bags, and workers with dust-covered faces loading and unloading a lorry greet visitors. The floor too is covered in fine, white dust; the workers leave behind a trail as they busily go about their work, almost symbolic of the mark the company and its founder has left.
Meda Kasturi Ranga Setty, a philanthropist and businessman, conceptualised the Krishna Group in 1928. The first venture of the group, a flour mill, was started with a small capital base.
The business was set up in, as Janaki Nair describes in her book The Promise of a Metropolis, a period of “investment in mills and other factories by Indian and British industrialists”.
M.K. Dattaraj, managing director, commenting on the landmark existence of the mill, said: “My father started Krishna Flour Mills in a small way in old Tharagupet, behind city market. From there, his business grew.”
He told of how his father’s business survived the pre-Independence time, serving the requirements of the British cantonment area after taking a lease on the Elgin mill near Shoolay Circle. Then, he said, members of the Muslim community dominated the sector, but they then were among those who moved to Pakistan. “My father made a business and a name, constructed this mill in 1955, and it has grown since then,” he added.
The mill now produces 150 tonnes of wheat flour a day.
“We also manufacture maida, sooji and aata. Some of the bran goes for cattle feed,” explained Dattaraj.
There were challenges along the way, of course, as there were limited options with technology in those days. State-of-the-art milling technology was imported from Buhler Brothers, Switzerland.
Today, the technology used by Krishna Flour Mills is completely hygienic. “It has a manufacturing system untouched by hand,” said Naidu, personal manager, Krishna Flour Mills.
It also has an on-site laboratory for quality control and research. Bakers and chemists conduct extensive tests every day to maintain and improve product quality.
“Every hour we test the samples. We have efficient pneumatic systems in place to control the dust collected in the process to prevent health hazards,” Dattaraj added. Workers too are expected to maintain strict hygiene standards.
Keeping up with change
From a time when their main customers were the British in the cantonment, to having their products sold at the nearby Mantri mall, the Krishna Group’s business has kept up with the changing times.
“Malls are definitely going to be the trend in the days to come. People like to buy branded products. We want to be major players in that, with Krishna sooji and Krishna atta, and we are already designing the packets and working on distribution networks.”
A finger in many pies
Meda Kasturiranga Setty was also the co-founder of the Rashtreeya Sikshana Samithi Trust (RSST), which provides education through the R.V. group of institutions. Many members of the family continue to be associated with the trust.
Shiva Kumar Swamy S., manager, commercial, says: “Under the umbrella of Krishna Group, there were a lot of other companies too, such as Mysore Feeds Ltd., Mysore Snack Boards, and Mysore Chemicals.”
The group has also made its way into animal and poultry feed manufacturing, yeast manufacturing, vegetable oils, plastics and bakery products. Also in the retail industry, it has also been a business associate of Titan Industries for the past 18 years.
However, the iconic mill may not occupy this address in Sheshadripuram for much longer. There are plans to vacate the premises and construct a new mill on the outskirts.