Published On: Thu, Jul 23rd, 2015

Kochouseph Chittilappilly – The Man With The Midas Touch

Kochouseph Chittilappilly - The Man With The Midas Touch - Unique Times

Kochouseph Chittilappilly – The Man With The Midas Touch – Unique Times

Kochouseph Chittilappilly, the man who gave V-Guard its name and made the first voltage stabiliser for the company, is the founder Chairman of V-Guard Industries Limited, WonderLa and several other successful ventures. Kochouseph became the first depositor with kidney bank, promoted by the Kidney Federation of India (KFI). He is the author of well-known books like Practical wisdom 1, Practical wisdom 2, Ormakili vathil. Some of the awards he won are Rashtriya Samman by Government of India, Tourism man of the year 2000 by destination Kerala, Millennium business man of Kerala by business Deepika, Excellence awards by the World Malayalee Council etc.
About childhood.
I was born and raised in a complete village atmosphere. As my childhood was entwined with the magnificence and greenery of the outskirts, I always had the immense love for nature. I was a day scholar while I was studying and almost 15 years I indulged myself with nature. I have always tried to incorporate that in our offices here as well. However, in all our ventures we have tried our best to fit greenery into our workspaces.

I was one of the only 3 post-graduates in my village. Infact my ambition was to become a scientist. Fortunately or unfortunately I couldn’t become one. As a first job, I joined a very small company as a supervisor. I had to take care of almost everything to get the office running. When I look back, I reckon, if that company had run well, I might not have had this detour in life and reached where I am now. I had to leave the company then, when I saw my future getting stagnant there. It was just a mere Rs.850 I drew as salary back then.

That was the major turning point when I thought of resigning and starting something of my own. I just wanted to earn more than the salary I used to draw. It was a big leap of faith. I didn’t even have the initial investment. It was my father, my inspiration and my idol, who helped me with the required funds. Initially I had arranged half of what was required to start business and the rest was promised by my father. Later, the bank turned it down and my father himself ended up helping me for the whole fund raising. If he hadn’t had faith on me then, I doubt whether I would have reached this heights. It was indeed his belief and blessings that took me to this successful juncture today. There were amazing friends who helped me look out for a market, courier me some products, introduce to some vendors or find pricing etc. There were lot of people who have helped me thus in my growth.

About the growth and development of V-Guard.
It was slow and steady growth with V-Guard. It was just me in the beginning. Infact a one man army – whether it be purchasing, marketing, finance, HR or sales. Later, when things started prospering, I started hiring employees for different positions. It’s been 38 years now. I still regret the slow growth to be frank. I wished it was faster. Everything has its own advantages and disadvantages though. However, risk taking is a skilful ability. It’s a courageous choice I’d suggest youth to endeavour.

On how softskills is more significant in succeeding in life.
I was not that proficient in conversing with people and clients. At a point of time I recognized that my softs skills has to be refined and sharpened. I realised this lack in me and went on to learn English speaking skills, finance and accounting, presentation skills, sales etc. My basic commerce class started from 6.30 am. Thus, I consciously tried to improve my skills and knowledge on how to take the company to the next level of growth. Times have changed. University education and certification is just a decoration today. However, if you need to succeed as an entrepreneur, you need to learn from the grass root level, do trials and errors, implement, strategise and execute well.

Even though human beings remain the same, spending style has tremendously changed today. When I started selling V-Guard, very few families had refrigerators or TVs in Kerala. One of the blessings I had was the Gulf Boom in 80s and 90s. The requirement started slowly increasing. One a lighter note, Kerala governments electricity board has helped me much, The voltage blackout and fluctuations has helped us much in our sales.

Have you faced setbacks?
We had tried out some products like wall clocks which we had to stop producing later. We remember successful products and conveniently forget those which didn’t work. There was a time when we faced a crucial labour issue. That’s when we seriously thought of outsourcing production. Eventhough outsourcing is a commonly popular term today, we were innovating back then. We rolled it out for charitable institutions and it was a mutually beneficial affair. It was a successful decision we made. 70% of our production is outsourced now. Our specifications and quality is never compromised with.

How do you think technology has affected present industry and you as an individual?
I always had a passion towards technology. I always tried to be savvy with the current trends. I am active on social networking platforms, discussing and sharing my views on various political and social issues. However, for you as an entrepreneur, it is always to develop your managerial and delegation skills to the utmost, compared to your technological skills. You can hire a person who is skilled. However, when you are a CEO and entrepreneur, you can’t hire a person to lead it for you. You got to do it all. You are accountable for the success and failure of your venture, at the end of the day.

How did a very interesting diversification from stabilisers to water theme park happen?
It was almost after 20 years, we decided to diversify into VeegaLand. It was indeed a passion that generated in me, when I saw Disney land and other amusement parks around the world. There is a lot more serious technology involved behind the curtain. This sparked a fancy in me to start a small episode of one of these in Kerala. I did a thorough study later why and why not the similar ventures succeeded in India. Lot of people did discourage me on this. However, I bravely decided to move ahead with the plan. And now thankfully, it succeeded in an enormous fashion, than planned in the beginning. In the first year itself it reached break-even. It has grown four fold in size now.

How do you look at the new generation management of V-Guard?
It’s very recently, after Mithun and Arun joined, we spread to North India. We have a minimal percentage of exporting too. It was indeed a very encouraging change after the next generation took over the helm. All of the family is into entrepreneurship now. Sheela, my wife, spearheads V-Star and it’s growing exponentially well now, eventhough it had its own initial struggles. Arun started with WonderLa as his initial venture. Going public also has helped us being accountable and organised as a company.

Yes, I have learned from them as well. It was indeed mutual. They both did their post-graduation abroad. They definitely bring along with them better and refined skill sets. The best thing about them is that they are more independent than the older generation. They never wait for the managers or their secretary to get things done. They set out on their own, in a very confident manner, when it comes to moving ahead.

You are more expressive among the other popular leaders. How do you keep yourself alive?
I am not obligated to anyone nor have to be scared about anything. I pay taxes correctly and would like to voice my thoughts whenever needed. People ought to draw lines in their beliefs and ethics when it comes to reacting in public.

I am a person who is much comfortable in delegating too. There were old ventures I set out completely to my team, when I took over new ones. With my children I do the same, give advices and support and let them manage it on their own. In fact, right now I am directly managing only my construction venture – Veegaland Developers. I am more involved into other social activities now.

How he decided on organ donation?

I did a research on the possibilities of donating a kidney when a distant relative of mine had a similar problem. Doctors vouch that there is no harm if you donate one kidney if you are completely healthy. I have seen the helplessness of people when they find their kidneys failed. Even a relative or a close family member fears to come forward to help them. I thought to set an example by doing it myself, so that it can erase the fear inside people of donating organ. It can save another one’s life.

Advice for the youth.
I don’t believe in luck and destiny. It’s sheer hardwork, smart work and determination that takes you ahead in life. Again, only hardwork also won’t get you to your goal in this society. You need to be very calculative, strategic and persistent. A stringent quality consciousness will help you get more honest clients.

Unique Times

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Kochouseph Chittilappilly – The Man With The Midas Touch