Thursday, May 4, 2017

C.R.Narayana Rao (CRN)- Engineering to Architecture



It seems when North Madras was reeling under a severe flood in the  early 40s causing extensive damage to the properties in the area, the compound wall of one site was standing firm. When S.Ananatharamakrishnan the legendary founder of the Amalgamations group decided to find out the name of the engineer who built it, he discovered CRN whom he promptly appointed as the designer of his next factory. That was the beginning of an engineer, establishing a firm of architecture and construction in 1945 , which was to build a big reputation in the years to come.

Today `CRN` is a well known  name in the world of Architectural designs and Construction management. Headquartered in Chennai this 72year old firm has been serving clients not only within the country but also across the globe. The list of their clients include the `who`s who` of the industry.

The credit for laying the foundation for this  very successful venture must surely go to the visionary founder of the company C.R.Narayana Rao.  Born in a middle class family  in Coimbatore,  CRN  graduated from College of Engineering, Guindy   as a Civil Engineer in 1935. His first job was with the PWD. Later he joined a British  firm Jackson & Barker where he built his reputation as an   Engineer with keen eyes for  architectural detailing. 

Starting with just 20 employees,  today the company has a staff of over 400 qualified professionals from diverse fields  related to the construction industry- architects, structural engineers, mechanical engineers etc.  In addition to the Chennai office it has branches in Bangalore & Hyderabad.

What is the secret of the phenomenal  success of Narayana Rao, who was just an `Engineer`, the term by which  he was popular in his company, who could build a firm of such repute? It was his ` Social & People skills` say his family members. In a field dominated by his peers in the industry who believed in aggression in dealing with their work force and their working style, Narayan Rao was well known for his self effacing humility. This did not stop this `Engineer` from demanding the highest technical competence from his staff,  never to suffer a poorly drafted drawings or substandard  execution of  projects. 

The first three decades of the firm`s existence coincided with the industrialization of India. With its expertise in industrial architecture the company was associated with prestigious companies of the time like Dunlop, Amalgamations Group, TI group, Ashok Leyland, Ennore Foundries and the Rane Group. Specialising in Prefabricated roofs, the company considers the unique roofing structure it designed  for Ennore Foundries as one of its pioneering efforts. In the early 70s the company added the TVS group, Madras Fertilizers , MRF and a few educational institutions thus expanding its design and project expertise.

 It was around this time that the company decided to extend to the  Middle East. CRN`s overseas branch, acquiring a new name ` C.R.Narayan Rao ( Consultants) Private Limited `, to satisfy the local legal requirements, successfully executed several commercial, industrial and housing projects in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khamiah. This first ever overseas operation by any Indian Architecture firm was dismantled  after 10 years to cope with exploding opportunities in India resulting in  the company adding to its portfolio,  prestigious corporate offices, Hospitals, Shopping malls and educational institutions. Since  the demise of Narayana Rao in 1982 the two highly qualified sons of Narayana  Rao- Dr. C.N.Srinivasan ( a Phd in Engineering ) and C.N. Raghavendran  not only ensured that the legacy of their father was preserved but adapting to the changing needs of the time have taken the company to greater  heights.

They started acquiring business from the Government, both local and Central. They also made their presence felt in the Sports facilities sector having designed  six sports stadiums  of international standards not only in India but also abroad. The Cricket Stadium they built in Guyana, in West Indies  is as much a testimony for their expertise in the field as the Nehru Stadium in Chennai and the Foot Ball Stadium in Cochin. 

The nineties also witnessed the opening of the economy  and explosion of information technology.CRN was the firm privileged  to build the first `Tidel park` in the country in Chennai. Both Srinivasan and Ragavendran  are champions of Green buildings resulting in their building huge complexes for almost all leading IT companies like TCS, Infosys, Wipro in many parts of the country-   all projects acquired by them against stiff  competition from International Architectural firms.

When the prospect of the big automobile companies entering India became imminent the Company made a blind pitch for the business from `Ford` in USA.  Not only did they win the pitch, the successful implementation of the Ford factory project in Chennai led to the company being invited by other leading multinational automobile firms like Hyunadi, BMW, Toyota, General Motors and Renault  to build their factories. 

Nineties also saw the entry of the third generation of the family in  the business. It looks like the six members belonging to the third generation of the family are working in total harmony under the benevolent leadership  of the Septuagenarian sons of the founder. I understand the fourth generation is already knocking on the doors.

 The Founder Mr.Narayana Rao was a highly religious person.  As a Madhwa Brahmin he was   actively involved with Madhwa Mutts and had won recognition for the services he rendered to the Community.  His sons,  however, believed in concentrating on Industry bodies like BSI, CII, Green Building Congress etc.  The third generation  is active in working with civic authorities on issues of urban interest.

Among the Awards that the company has won is  the `Intelligent building of the year2005` award given by `Intelligent Community Forum` - a  U.S.based research  organization for their project `Ebene Cyber Tower` at Mauritius which was inaugurated by Dr.Manmohan Singh, the then Prime Minister of the country. Nehru Stadium  which was the first column free stadium built in the city,  got the prestigious Indian Institute of Architects Award for `Excellence in design`  for Public building category for Raghavendran in 1995.  The Cochin stadium got him recognized  as the `Architect of the Year` on an all India basis in 1996.  Raghavendran was also conferred the `Padma Shri` award by the President of India in January ,2011.

A company with excellent credentials and a good succession plan like `CRN` is sure to witness its Platinum and Centenary celebrations in the years to come!

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