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Vol. XXXI No. 16, December 1-15, 2021

The flame behind SuperFlame

by Ravi Damodaran

April 14th, 2021 marked 50 years since the founding of SuperFlame, an LPG agency in the heart of Nungambakkam, Chennai. For nearly 40 years, a handsome woman clad in a white sari helmed this gas company. Her name was Indira Damodaran and she was the very first woman to become an LPG distributor in this city. While she may have obtained the distributorship because her husband was the Deputy General Manager of Indian Oil Corporation when he died, the way Super Flame grew and succeeded as a business was due to her hard work and perseverance. A five year stay in London made her a stickler for punctuality. Her favourite quote on the importance of time was about H.M. Queen Elizabeth proceeding for a function without the Duke of Edinburgh, because he was a few minutes behind when the cavalcade left Buckingham Palace.

Her husband, Maneeramkandeth Damodaran, a Chemical Engineer and India’s first Gas Engineer, worked in Refineries of Shell and Indian Oil Corporation. He passed away at 46, and Indira Damodaran was just 37. She had to shoulder the responsibility of the family. The reason she was in Chennai was because her only child, a son, had just enrolled in college a week before his father’s demise. His last words were, “… go and join the gentlemen of MCC”.

Apparently both Loyola College, Nungambakkam and Madras Christian College, Tambaram, had sent admission notices. Fate did not cut the ties with Loyola, for it became one of the commercial customers of Super Flame.

From door-to-door sales and a handful of customers, she built the business and bagged several big name customers – Apollo Hospital, Women’s Christian College, and the Taj Coromandel, to name a few.

Right up to the age of 80, she showed up every single day at 8:30 sharp and was there when the office closed at 6:30 in the evening. No wonder many thought she was more attached to her agency than anything else. They were not far wrong, because she moved around with a cylinder in her car; not LPG, but life saving oxygen, for she was suffering from multiple ailments of the heart. Jokingly she would refer to her heart enlargement as “I have a large heart”, which indeed she had.

Mrs. Damodaran didn’t just run a business, she also touched the hearts of all the customers she interacted with. To this day, nearly 12 years after her passing, people still fondly remember the lady in white behind the desk who welcomed everyone with a warm smile and genuine affection.

Her employees too would do anything for her, and when she died in February 2009, they offered to work without salary for one month until the legal transfer of ownership was processed for running the banking operations. Survived by her son, daughter in law, granddaughter and grandson, a book in her memory was recently published, authored by her granddaughter Damayanti.

Comments

  1. Geetha Mahendran of Shivshankar Agencies says:

    Superb biography. Very encouraging to read as a woman. Proud of the legacy.

  2. Damayanti says:

    Leaving a link to the book on Amazon for those who want to read more about my grandma.
    https://www.amazon.in/Thank-You-Dadima-Damayanti-Chandrsekhar/dp/8195258603

  3. Yamuna N S says:

    I was a customer of Superflame until I moved out of its area of operation. And how I missed the super service and indira’s warm friendship.

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