A Very Special Journey : Dr. Kurian John Melamparambil
Dr. Kurian John Melamparambil is an exemplary business man and a unique philanthropist. His life journey is quite eventful and he is an inspiration and role model for every human being. As a young boy from a business family in the central Travancore region of Kerala, who loved to be with the family he imbibed the values that will set forward his life. He finished his graduation in economics from Mar Ivanios College, Trivandrum. He then went to the Indore School of Social Work for completing his Post Graduate Degree in Social Work. He joined the famous Malayalam Manorama Group, as the head of Personnel and Administration department in their Kochi Office.
The sudden demise of father, who was more like a friend and guiding figure, made him realize the value of life and an inherent requirement in the society for quality medical treatment. But only the rich can afford quality medical services. The pain of his father’s demise and the thought about the hundreds of people suffering because of illness, gave him the idea of starting an organization to help who are in need On 10th September 1986 . Dr. Kurian John Melamparambil formally started the Melamparambil Vaghese John Memorial Charities named after his father.
The main objective of the organization is to help and support poor and needy patients by providing medical treatment for their ailments. All patients who approached him were given treatment irrespective of caste, creed, religion or any kind of prejudice. He made it a point to ensure that whosoever approached was given treatment, and eventually made self dependent in their health to the maximum extent possible. The charity extends scholarships to deserving children of the patients, and also housing, clothing, and food to their dependents during the period of treatment if required. With the interest earned from the corpus fund, and contribution from his salary, he expanded his activities without any publicity or fanfare.
Committed to the purpose of helping the needy, activities of Melam Charities progressed and grew rapidly, Dr. Kurian John felt the constraints of his own resources and realized the need for urgent funds, he strongly felt that these funds should be generated through some venture of his own. This intense feeling coupled with meticulous planning, resulted in the establishment of a small- scale industry named M.V.J foods under the brand name MELAM ` range of food products in the year 1992, giving up his job at the Malayala Manorama. As the business progressed, the income of Dr. Kurian John increased, which was channelized directly to the fund which resulted in the increased activities of Melam Charities.
Dr. Kurian is a unique philanthropist who quit a lucrative job to venture into entrepreneurship for the purpose of generating funds for charity. Melam was established in 1992 to bring in more funds for charity activities Another important fact of Melam charities is that all the activities are done by self generated funds. This sets apart Melam charities from similar organizations active in social work.
Maybe the most important fact about Dr. Kurian is that of his personal involvement. All applicants for medical assistance are personally met and interviewed before any assistance.
The approach and methodology followed by Dr. Kurian John and Melam Charities is also unique and it involves the association of the Elected Peoples Representatives ` Members of the State Legislative Assembly (MLAs) and the Members of the Indian Parliament (MPs). The involvement of these functionaries has now become a movement by itself and is very much an integral function of the assistance disbursement. These functionaries are actively involved in the process if identification and selection of the recipients to whom the assistance is to be granted from within their respective constituencies.
The continuous efforts and perseverance of Dr. Kurian John Melamparambil has resulted in establishing a network of more than 925 renowned hospitals across the State for providing specialized treatment to the sponsored patients with a 30 day credit period for reimbursement from him. This widespread treatment facility enables the patients to get a specialized treatment for their ailments at the hospital of their convenience.
Dr. Kurian John Melamparambil besides being a humanitarian is an entrepreneur par excellence. He is the founder and chief promoter of `MELAM` group of companies and has been bestowed with numerous awards in recognition of his social work and excellence in the field of business. The Government of India honoured him with the covetous PADMASHRI Award for distinguished service in the field of social work in the year 2010. The Vice President of India honoured him with the National Award for Outstanding Enterpreneur for the year 1997 instituted by the Ministry of Commerce, Government of India. The successes of the commercial activities only go towards strengthening of his social commitments. Dr Kurian John Melamparambil talks with our associate editor, Bejoy George about his vision for the company and the charity activities.
The beginning of Melam?
Melam was started with an objective to raise more money for charity. I didn’t want to ask for donations from the public, and that remains one of the unique features of Melam. We plough back a significant amount of our profit for the activities of MVJ Charities. We didn’t have a very big launch, but we became India’s leading exporting brand in a few years. The inspiration behind Melam is Padmashree Late Ms. Thangam Philip, the world renowned food, catering and nutrition expert. The Late Ms. Philip`s recipes are printed on the back side of each and every masala packet . All Melam products pass a critical quality test at its modern mechanised plant.
What were all the challenges you faced when establishing a brand like Melam?
I was working with the Malayala Manorama group, when I decided to venture into business. One of the major challenges I had to face was the opposition of my friends and family on resigning my job. Those times getting a small job was also difficult. So think about a situation when you resigning from a quite lucrative job. Almost everybody except for my wife and father-in-law was against the idea. Another major challenge was that Melam didn’t give credit to its distributors and that was against the prevailing trend. So we had to invest more on advertising and a lot more of explanation had to be done to win the confidence of my distributors. These were the two major challenges.
Melam is well known for its CSR initiatives? What are the major area of operation of MVJ Charities
The prime objective of Melam group is charity for medical assistance; in fact I started the charity trust in the name of my father even before I started my food products business. The four major thrust areas of Melam Charities are Provide medical assistance (primary objective)
Scholarship to children of dependents Provide food, clothing and housing Conduct Medical camps
What is your concept of CSR?
It is commonly said that food, clothing and shelter are said to be the basic needs of a human being. My thought is a little different; I think that if one person has got health he can sustain his life and his dependents also. So providing access to good health services for the needy is the prime objective of a civilized society. the healthier the society, the higher will be the self dependency, lesser the social problems , the richer in peace, prosperity and civilization. In a nutshell we can say that “Corporate Social responsibility is humanitarianism, not charity, but Social, moral Obligation”
What is your marketing strategy?
There are certain factors which make your brand or product a success, first one is quality, secondly there should be value for money and lastly customer satisfaction. Melam products are top quality products at a good price point. We also invest in newer technologies to give the customer the finest products at competitive prices. When we have satisfied customers, there are acting as our brand ambassadors. From my point of view, that is the best marketing strategy every company should resort to. Yes we also work with an ad agency to bring out campaigns in print and visual media time to time depending on the market conditions.
India has been famous for its spices? What is the future of Indian Spices?
It was for the spices and other valuables that foreigners came to India, there is no need to explain that. But I certainly think that the future of Indian spice business is great, considering the fact the quality of Indian spices is superior to others. We have already developed an ecosystem to produce, develop and market spice and spice products.
What are your expansion plans?
Right now we are planning to launch bottled water under the Melam brand and also we are in the process of launching packages tea.
What do you think about Kerala as an investment destination?
Kerala is a great place to live and work, considering the fact the place is of amazing beauty, decent infrastructure, better education and health system. But I am sad to say that for doing business it is not so great. The prime reason is brain drain, the youngsters want to live and work in metro cities and foreign countries. It is very difficult to get and sustain a quality workforce here. The infrastructure and other facilities are coming up. Hope Kerala will become a great investment destination very soon.
What is your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs?
One advice I certainly want to give to the younger generations is that to stick to your values. Values will guide you through thick and thin. It is very easy to forego values and run after success and money, but time will catch up with you.
There is no option for hard work and honesty, work hard and be honest with your customers and stakeholder’s and success will surely follow you.
About your family?
My wife Sujatha, she is the executive director of Melam and she handles Quality Control. I have two daughters Divya and Dhanya. Divya is a Director of Melam Group and she handles Research and Development and my young daughter Dhanya is pursuing a career in Oracle Bangalore as a Solution Consultant.