I was born in Parappur, a few kilometers from Trichur town, a quiet, laid back village. The very name of the village suggests its nature- 'where birds abide'. A tranquil hamlet where days went by at an unhurried pace and modernity had yet to leave its finger print. It remains much the same even to this day.
My mother, who hailed from the seaside town of Njarrakkal, near Kochi came to live in Parappur after her marriage to my father. I was their first son, in a line of six children.
I attended the local parish school, where the entire school was housed in a large hall. Bamboo partitions provided the sense of demarcation between each class. We could hear the sobs of children who were being caned by their schoolmasters, the whimpers of weaklings giving in to the bullying of their hefty classmates and the chorus of learning. It was altogether a happy pandemonium.
In my childhood, the reaches of electricity had not yet extended to our village. Walking about the streets at night meant lighting a 'chootu'- a palm frond set ablaze, to lead the way. When one reached the destination, the chootu was stubbed out and lit again to make the return journey. The only public lighting or 'street light' was a common oil lamp called the 'panchayath villakku', lit at the village square every evening, at dusk by an old man. It barely gave any light but mostly played a catalytic role of marking the center of the village. This eventually became a 40 watt bulb, only three years after electricity came to Parappur.
Electrification of the village was an event. I was in the third standard. The excitement of the electric post being installed and 'lines' fixed were all a matter of great wonder to the simple villagers. I had experienced the marvels of electricity at my mother's house in Kochi (it being a modern town). My chest swelled with pride as I recounted all the information I had, suddenly sounding knowledgeable and important than my peers. In spite of my previous experience, the fact that electricity had come to your own home is a heady feeling that is indescribable. The posts were placed, electric lines were pulled up, in-house wiring was complete and, finally, late one evening, at dusk, around 7pm, the first bulb was lit. I will never forget that day, the joy, the freedom from the small oil lamp that flickered and innumerable candles. That evening was like a festival. Villagers came in throngs to see this wonder! It seemed like a miracle to them- light at the flick of a switch. I remember it was a 25 watt bulb!
Sometime later, my father bought a fan. It was another wonder to me. What is the mystery that makes this work? Curiosity got the better of me and I secretly took it apart to understand its inner workings. Our first fan was a table fan. At night it cooled my parent's room and in the day it held pride of place in the drawing room, for the guests. We had a fair number of areca nut trees, their yield was a source of good income. The arid summer months meant heavy watering of these trees. My father invested in a water pump for this purpose. Needless to say, that the pump was meted out the same treatment at my hands. I would not rest without going through its inner chambers and solving the mysteries within.
My father also owned a rice mill and a tile factory in partnership with his brothers and cousins. The hullet that dehusked the grain, the machinery in the tile factory were all a matter of intense curiosity to me. Appukuttan Nair and Porinchuetttan who looked after these machines were my heroes. I idolised them like the kids of today look up to Superman and Spiderman. I followed them everywhere, badgering them with endless questions. My love for these intriguing things and journey into their inner secrets had begun!
After an eventful and happy childhood in Parappur, I passed the 10th standard SSLC board examination. Leaving the security of my simple village and the warmth of my home, I enrolled in Christ College, Irinjalakuda for a formal education.
Read more of this story in my book 'Ormakilivathil' published by D. C. Books.
After completing an MSc in Physics I took up the post of a trainee supervisor in an electric and electronic manufacturing company in Trivandrum for a stipend of Rs 150/-. Gaining experience in their R & D department stood me in good stead. Though I dreamt of being a research assistant in BARC and ISRO, and despite many applications sent, I received no response. I spent three years at this company, gaining much knowledge and experience and had been promoted to Junior Engineer with a salary of Rs 850/- (which was a tidy sum at that time). Since the company was not doing well and with no job offers on the horizon, I decided to start out on my own with a small scale stabilizer unit. I had the confidence that I could compensate the Rs 850/- salary by selling 50 stabilizers a month.
With borrowed capital from my father, two unskilled workers and a lot of help from my friends, I began this unit in a one room tenement in Ernakulam. Culling the 'V' from 'Volt', and a kangaroo mascot to indicate 'protection', 'V Guard' was on its way.
In a short span of one year the staff strength grew to 20 and sales increased. We were competing with leading brands, finding niche markets in refrigerator sales and its dealers. The consumer boom of the 80's lead to a swell in business. A severe labour problem in 1984 saw V Guard outsourcing production to charitable units. It remains largely the same till this day.
Diversification of the product range to pumps, fans etc. was a natural progression. New managers, high levels of delegation and corporate governance have lead to the steady growth of the company and in the nineties we enjoyed high visibility in the market.
When the children were young, occasionally, I took my family on vacations abroad and visits to amusement parks for their sake were common. While on the train of thought of diversification, I toyed with the idea of an amusement park in Cochin. Veegaland materialized a few years later in the year 2000. A theme park on a much larger scale was envisioned five years later and WonderLa followed. Parks in other destinations are also on the anvil.
While I was steadily growing V-Guard, my wife who is very creative voiced an interest in launching a brand of ladies wear, since the children were away at college. She being an efficient and capable person, I did not discourage her and V-Star was born. With no contribution from my part, she has made her mark and I am now proud of her endeavour.
I now happily look on as my sons Arun and Mithun along with their wives, Priya and Joshna are actively involved in nurturing the business. I am now also the proud grandfather of Aarav and Anekha.