Following in his father’s tracks


Ganesan at his workshop in Ipoh, Perak. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather all worked in some capacity for the country’s railway provider. — Photos: Bernama

RUNNING a company that provides niche services comes with its own set of challenges.

However, S. Ganesan is determined to succeed in the business he took over from his late father, Datuk S. Suppiah.

Ganesan, 49, is chief executive officer of Railfreight Engineering and Logistics Sdn Bhd, which specialises in the maintenance and repair of railway carriages and locomotives among other services.

As early as 8am each morning, Ganesan can be seen at his depot in Ipoh, Perak, working alongside engineers and technicians, carrying out repairs and maintenance work on train carriages that are 16.8m long and weigh up to 60 tonnes each.

Ganesan comes from a family that has a strong connection with the railways.

His great-grandfather, originally from Jaffna in Sri Lanka, worked with Malayan Railway as a track maintenance employee, while his grandfather served as head of ticketing.

Ganesan’s father worked with KTM Bhd (KTMB) as a forklift operator before starting his own firm.

When Ganesan took over the reins of Railfreight in 2018, he had zero knowledge of the business.

“I learned little by little from my father and the workers here,” he told Bernama.

Ganesan, who is an information technology graduate, said the field his company specialised in was quite niche.

He added: “There aren’t many customers, but the customers we do have are large companies.”

Ganesan admitted that he initially tried to “escape from the railway field” by working as a technical analyst at a telecommunications company in Shah Alam, Selangor.

Ganesan at his workshop in Ipoh, Perak. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather all worked in some capacity for the country’s railway provider. — Photos: BernamaGanesan at his workshop in Ipoh, Perak. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather all worked in some capacity for the country’s railway provider. — Photos: Bernama

But, being the only son, he eventually decided to help his father run the company.

Elaborating on the services offered by his company, Ipoh-born Ganesan said they provided repair services for railway carriages with accident damage.

“We also offer overhaul services, which include replacing components of carriages and locomotives as well as sandblasting and painting the carriage bodies.

“We have our own rail track for testing after the overhaul process, so customers need not transport the carriages and locomotives back to their locations for this purpose,” said the father of three.

The 1.5km-long track connects the depot to the Ipoh railway station, facilitating the transport of repaired or overhauled carriages and locomotives.

Among the company’s clients are KTMB, sugar manufacturers, cement producers and other commodity companies.

“These companies use trains to transport their products from one location to another across the peninsula.

“By using rail transport, they can move up to 60 carriages simultaneously,” said Ganesan.

He said the locomotive system was not much different from those of other vehicles except for braking, which uses air pressure since it operates on tracks.

“There are two types of locomotive engines: diesel-hydraulic and the more advanced diesel-electric or fully electric system,” he said.

“The diesel-hydraulic engine is quite similar to cars, with an engine and gearbox, and is easy to understand for those who have studied mechanics.”

Ganesan, who is assisted by three engineers and 12 technical assistants at his depot, said those interested in this field could study at universities that offered related programmes or work with logistics companies like KTMB.

Looking ahead, Ganesan is hoping his children will continue the family legacy by taking over the company in future.

“My eldest son, who is now 12, has shown some interest, but I also understand that the current generation cannot be forced.

“They have their own way of thinking,” he added.

He said his company was also taking steps to bring more advanced technologies into the logistics field by producing, in collaboration with an international company, locomotives that could move on both road and track.

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