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Partner in Progress

ENDEARING ENTREPRENEUR: Nagaraj Krishnan Photo: R. Ashok  

A recent issue of Outlook magazine had a soulful “Made in Madurai' man in its cover story on “The Good Souls Inc”, featuring 25 Indians from all over the country.

That drove me to Nagaraj Krishnan, Joint Managing Director of Aparajitha Corporation Services (P) Ltd., the country's largest stand-alone labour law compliance services outfit. By the time I met him, he had had just returned from the G20 Summit in Nice, France. He was the first and only one from Madurai among 23 young entrepreneurs representing India at the summit.

The 38-year-old social entrepreneur has swiftly turned the fortunes of his company, taking its turnover from a few lakhs barely a decade ago to over Rs. 200 crore in 2011. “Like any other social entrepreneur, I too would like to be an instrument for change,” says this strategic thinker who considers himself ‘people-focused'. Among his high-profile clients are over 200 top companies from Tata, Birla, ITC and Reliance to TVS, Nokia and Bajaj.

Among his high-profile clients are over 200 top companies from Tata, Birla, ITC and Reliance to TVS, Nokia and Bajaj.

Bharath K.S., Chairman and Managing Director of Aparajitha, acknowledges, “Nagaraj has taken the company to where it is today. He is a perfect combination of dashing spirit, tireless drive and cautious optimism. Add to this his logical thinking, learnability and taking every step as a challenge.”

As business and social entrepreneurship come closer, it is knowledge-driven people like Nagaraj who push business opportunities to augment impact. Social founders like him are committed to marrying the compassion of service with the effectiveness and efficiency of business to achieve their objectives.

Nagaraj's core expertise is in labour laws, and his company helps Indian businesses and industries comply with the varied labour laws across States. “Contract labour is the most exploited segment,” he explains. “Many companies have the intention to comply but don't have a robust mechanism to monitor whether all benefits and entitlement are reaching them. I ensure they get what is due to them. With my training and exposure I put all work in place under right controls and management systems.”

When companies are not compliant, even out of ignorance or because of a small misinterpretation, they are exposed to financial and legal risks. Social entrepreneurship is all about solving social problems by taking initiatives to improve areas which are either missing or not working.

With human resource managers grappling with employee retention, remuneration and other measures to increase productivity, routine legal compliance activities are set aside as non-core functions, and outsourcing becomes a cheaper option. This is where Aparajitha steps in. The company provides end-to-end HR solutions.

Over the years that has meant stiff resistance from contractors and even threats. But companies that hire Nagaraj's services soon understand his intentions to improve their services and also curb corruption.

“We have been fortunate to have found champions of our cause in our

clients,” he says.

“As a resource-crunched start-up, this support is invaluable and instrumental in gaining the confidence of executives who understand our vision and committed resources. Otherwise, in growing economies like ours, entrepreneurs always lack support to their new business ideas.”

Such is Aparajitha's standing in the market now, that the need for publicity has never arisen. The company's marketing division runs with only four employees! “My clients list does the talking and has helped Aparajitha rise from a Tier III city like Madurai to perch itself prominently in the national corporate map,” Nagaraj says.

When Aparajitha started its operations with 14 workers in Madurai, it mainly handled captive HR training with the TVS group of companies. When TVS discontinued the training programmes, Nagaraj came up with a business model for a contract labour regularization service and submitted a two-page proposal to his CMD.

“He returned a booklet consisting of 200 questions and an additional 10 pages of notes. That is his level of precision and perfection. We played the question and answers back and forth for three months and by the time we found the answers for all, we were also convinced about the business proposal. I guaranteed a profit of Rs. 21 lakhs to begin with.”

From there on, Aparajitha never looked back. Nagaraj now manages 18 lakh employees, 500 factories, and 10,000 business establishments across the country. “We don't have any industrial limitation. We can work with banks to media houses, google and oracle to soap, biscuit or tea companies cutting across size and manufactured products. In other words, we are recession-proof because no company can refuse compliance to labour laws. They may cut down other programmes as part of austerity measures,” he smiles.

With 750 employees in 28 offices across the country, the firm today has carved a niche for itself by forging the first of its kind ethical imperatives in India's top companies.

Nagaraj is studying company laws of other countries similar to India and plans to launch operations in Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Indonesia soon. “There is a lot of on-the-job learning in entrepreneurship. You have to be a learning organization and change with the constantly evolving market. You make a lot of mistakes, but it's your ability to be ahead of the learning curve that will ultimately make you successful,” he says.

Nagaraj believes that “passionate people with the right attitude can be business savvy”. “We have grown by responding to every call, irrespective of the bill size,” he says. He lays down only one condition – the company should have an orientation toward HR compliance. “If they don't believe in corporate governance, as a policy we don't associate with them.”


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Printable version | Dec 3, 2021 10:08:54 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/money-and-careers/partner-in-progress/article2698261.ece

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