The key objective of Champions of Tamil Nadu Industry, as stated by the author is to ‘serve as an inspiration for students and budding entrepreneurs’, which the book meets in full measure.

A unique collection of 27 success stories of businesses born and nurtured in Tamil Nadu; each story scripted by blood and sweat of extraordinary champions who were born to win. One among them is that of Hatsun Agro Product Ltd, raised, nursed and reared by RG Chandramogan — a first generation entrepreneur — into a ₹7,250-crore monolith that continues to grow. The book, which is a brain child of Chandramogan, turned out to be a monumental project for R Balaji, the author, who set out to meet the protagonists, and document their journey of triumph from flashback to the flash-forward.

Focussing exclusively on companies with a turnover of at least ₹1,000 crore, the first saga of success which features in the book is that of TV Sundaram Iyengar who germinated his business idea in the form of a bus transport company at Madurai, in 1911. Consistently growing over four generations, the group today is a ₹70,000-crore conglomerate with over 60,000 staff members employed in over 50 companies spanning manufacture of auto components, logistics, financial services, IT and real estate. Narrating the history of another behemoth from Tamil Nadu — the Murugappa group, author recounts the 122-year voyage of the ₹55,000-crore group, which has been into business for five generations, spanning 39 companies.

Range of ventures

A wide range of business ventures spanning engineering, manufacturing of auto components, automobiles, FMCG, cement, IT, food processing, dairy, poultry, edible oils, textiles, garments, paper and boards, water management footwear etc, feature in the book. Tracing the humble beginnings of many family-run enterprises which were founded in the colonial era, the book traces their path of success and transformation into mammoth corporations, weathering the tumultuous period of independence struggle, era of license raj and governmental controls, and successfully adapting to the demands of economic liberalisation.

Recorded in the book are numerous accounts of resolute and persistent entrepreneurs who overcame personal challenges — CK Ranganathan of CavinKare, Soundararajan of CRI Pumps, LRG Naidu of Elgi Group, KJ John of Johnson Lifts, Munusamy Nadar of Kaleesuwari Refinery, Vijay Mohan of Pricol, Nagarajan of Ramraj Cotton, Maeilnandhan of SKM group who have all stood testimony to the popular idiom — when the going gets tough, the tough gets going.

AD Padmasingh Isaac of Achi Masala, Rafeeque Ahmed of Farida Group, VR Muthu of VVV & Sons Edible Oils Ltd, RK Jhaver of Jhaver group, S Ramesh of Pothys group and CavinKare have all demonstrated the importance of brand building for achieving success through high quality of products and services, tactical advertising and branding strategies to successfully establish build brand loyalty.

Aachi Masala, Hatsun Agro, Sakthi Sugars, SKM group, Seshasayee Paper & Boards, and Suguna Foods built their business empires around agriculture, dairy and farm products, farm feeds, poultry and animal husbandry, thereby creating opportunities for the farming community and integrating them into innovative business models consequently serving a larger purpose besides profits.

TVS Motors, CUMI, TVS Supply Chain Solutions, India Cements, Rane Group and VA Tech Wabag have mastered the art of flexibly reorienting their growth strategies to withstand competition, through joint initiatives, forward and backward integration, global collaborations, strategic acquisitions and mergers, exploiting every opportunity that came their way, validating Helen Keller’s quote – “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

TVS Capital, the entirely rupee based private equity, taking money only from Indians, is a novel business idea in the financial services segment. Zoho Corporation adopted an unusual approach in establishing software development centres in Tier 2/3 towns and villages, taking the jobs to rural landscapes, rather than dragging the talent to overcrowded cities, in the name of opportunities. Zoho School of 

Learning is another social impact initiative that focusses on developing skilled talent pool, after school education, weaning them away from marks-oriented college education and degrees.

Fostering industry

Many anecdotes in the book indicate that Tamil Nadu always had a favourable business ecosystem and specifically highlights the role of Late R Venkataraman, who was the TN Minister for Industry in the 1950s, working in tandem with the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Late Kamaraj. Most first generation entrepreneurs covered in the book had humble beginnings, from small towns and villages, who made it big with sheer passion for entrepreneurship, spirit of innovation and hunger to succeed. Not only the success, but also the failures and challenges have been brought out.

Regardless of the nature of business, most companies which figure in the book are seen to be embracing technology in a big way, and harbour global ambitions. Companies have survived the pandemic by adopting relevant strategies such as WFH, downsizing, outsourcing, business consolidation, or simply utilising the time for skill upgradation, and streamlining of operations. As confessed by the author, there are many more champions of industry who couldn’t be featured in the book for various reasons, but deserve the highest appreciation for keeping the flag of Industry flying high in Tamil Nadu.

This “must read” book serves well to enthuse a number of budding entrepreneurs and students besides being an excellent source of authentic information for all readers.

The reviewer is Gp Capt Dr R Venkataraman (Retd), General Manager, Madras Management Association

About the book
Title: Champions of Tamil Nadu Industry
Author: R Balaji
Publisher: Independent publisher

Paperback available on Amazon.

E-book available on