Cut Fast founder tells his tale of reaching the stars

U Mohan Rao

Chennai: The story of U Mohan Rao is nothing short of extraordinary. A well-known industrialist who helmed Cut Fast Abrasives, having founded it with a few like-minded others, came from humble origins.

However, Mohan Rao has always shied away from the limelight, for that is his way of life. He accomplished something and moved on. His son Prithvi, however, realised that his father’s story would be of use for their progeny and decided to write a book about his old man himself.

“My son Prithvi was just talking (with me) and said why don’t you talk about yourself and I will write a book? I thought, yes, why not!,” said the nonagenarian speaking to News Today¬†at his residence.

The reason was not to boast about himself to the world but rather it had serious meaning behind it. “I miss a lot about my own grandfather. Nobody told me (about him) because my own father passed away when I was 11 years old. When he came from South Canara, Karnataka, where he was born, his father too had died early. So, I thought it would be great for my grandchildren to get to know about their predecessor,” said Mohan Rao.

His father, as far as he remembers, never spoke about his birthplace. “It must have been painful for him to recollect it,” he said.

The book, aptly titled Forged From Grit, has paragraphs piled one after another about the man Mohan Rao became having braved many things during the early stages of his life.

Nevertheless, Mohan Rao in his adulthood found that his birth place was near Nandikur village in Karnataka, driven by his urge to trace his roots.

An eternal optimist, Mohan Rao enjoyed his schooldays and his calculative brilliance was first witnessed when he got into college.

“Since we were not very well off, my brother took care of us and I thought it fit to study on scholarship. One of the criteria (to be eligible to get the scholarship) was to study the Bible. I cleared the exams and was first,” said Mohan Rao. It was this exact trait that would later take him to great heights.

After finishing his studies, getting a job was difficult for him. He went to Canada for internship and later joined Tata Chemicals in Pithampur, Gujarat.

Eventually, he joined Carborundum when it was started in 1955 in India in the quality control department and trained in the UK, France and Italy. It was during his brief stint in Germany that his brilliance came to light once again.
Having procured a belt grinding arm, which was not used much in India back then, he brought the arm back home. Eventually, he built a machine and embarked on his maiden journey as an industrialist.

Then Cut Fast happened. Mohan Rao said, “In 1966, six of us put Rs 60,000 and started Cut Fast Abrasives. State Bank was really very good and were pioneers in small-scale industry funding. But, unfortunately, the manual did not consider abrasive manufacturing as small-scale. So, I had to convince them and, in fact, I wrote a synopsis and got the loan sanctioned.”

“By 1968 March, we had everything ready and only the boiler had not arrived. With my partner Subbaraman being a disciple of Kanchi Periyavar, he got word from the sage that if we start the firm and sell the product before 31 May 1968, we will be successful. So we did. Sand paper was the first product we manufactured. We cut them into pieces by hand and sold it for Rs 45 that day, and we never looked back after that,” he recollected.

The book also speaks about the first problem that the firm encountered in the form of a strike and how it overcame it using legal methods and increasing efficiency with limited workforce that remained loyal.

During his time, Mohan Rao also used scientific study to increase wages for workers. While he was busy doing that, he also lured in an expert named Morris Ellis, who would give him the trade secret that would change Cut Fast forever. The firm started supplying to many European countries as well.

Prithvi, who was all the while listening to the conversation Mohan Rao had with News Today, also had a stint at the firm his father helmed. But it was not smooth sailing for him. He had to be a part of the sales team and slowly moved his way up.

But as with any tale, the end came for Mohan Rao to part ways with his much loved firm. Prithvi summed it up for him saying, “We all felt very sad. There was a lot of attachment to it. It was like a baby. We understood that everything is for our good and moved ahead.”

When it shut in the late ’90s, Cut Fast had branched out to produce polymers and adhesives which Prithvi led, as Mohan Rao deemed him fit to take over.

The family that today focuses on charity in a nonchalant way was indeed forged from the grit of a person who believed that no risk was too risky.

Prithvi, the author of the book, summed up his father, Mohan Rao, in short verses. “Three things that stand out for him is his attitude, positiveness and integrity. His priority was customer relationship and not money. I started learning under him and I realised here was a person who was talking business in a different perspective. The goal or the purpose of a business is to make money, but his way of making money was different. His principles made a profound impact and led to my imbibing necessary qualities,” said Prithvi.


Praveen Kumar S