GOKULAM GOPALAN : THE SOCIALLY COMMITTED BUSINESSMAN
Being a socially committed person is extra-ordinary – especially if you are into business. Not all people have the true courage to dedicate their life for their society. Specifically speaking, the present generation has come down to the level of selfishness. Needless to say, given the aforesaid facts, if there is someone who does not qualify the said assumptions, he deserves to be treated as a noble soul. Fortunately, a search for one such divine soul has culminated with a positive note. In this edition, a business legend, who has shown the world the importance of leading a socially committed life, is covered. That exceptional human is none other than A M Gopalan (popularly known as Gokulam Gopalan), the owner of Gokulam Group of Companies.
There is a saying that ‘there is a small footprint behind every big’. Like what the saying implies, the beginning of this business leader’s career was also humble. Born in a small village near Vadakara in Kerala, Mr. Gopalan was a very sincere student. He secured his graduation in Mathematics from the Kerala University. His interest for acting attracted him to the dream city of Chennai. His initial days in Chennai was extremely challenging. An accidental meeting with a doctor worked as a game changer. That opened a door of opportunities before him. He, with the help of the doctor – who found his educational accomplishments impressive, secured a challenging job opportunity as medical representative.
It is important for a businessman to identify his first spark. It is from that striking realisation he discovers his true potential as a businessman. To Mr. Gopalan, that spark happened when he joined his first job. His job required him to wear a kind of professional attire. At that point of time, because of his not-so-good financial position, he was not able to afford that. He is not a man who simply stares at hurdles helplessly. He found the solution to his problem in a brilliant financial plan. He started a mini chit fund involving not more than ten people with a monthly instalment of Rs. 60 each. Notably, it not only served his purpose but also formed a firm base for his chit business.
Now, his chit fund and finance company, Gokulam Chit Funds and Finance Private Limited, is around half a century old. This five-decade-old company, started in Chennai, has as many as 460 branches across the country. Gokulam Group, which is a very promising business Group, is not limited to this business. It has interests in hospitality, healthcare, education, logistics, food manufacturing, cinema and media entertainment, retail and even realty. It employs not less than 11,000 people. Its annual turnover is over Rs. 7,000 crore.
Gokulam Park (Chennai), Gokulam Park (Coimbatore), Gokulam Park Sabari (OMR, Chennai), Gokulam Park Hotel & Convention Centre (Kochi), Sree Gokulam Nalanda Resorts (Nileswaram), Sree Gokulam Vanamala (Guruvayur), Sree Gokulam Residency (Thrissur), Hotel Gokulam Fort (Thalassery), and MSR Hotel and Spa (Bengaluru) are the backbone of the hospitality arm of the Group.
Mr. Gopalan has trust in the potential of the state’s tourism sector. It is clear form his enthusiasm to increase his investment in the hospitality sector. The Group operates a chain of luxury boats in Alappuzha – the Venice of the East.
This legendary businessman is the one who values education more than anything else in this world. As he knowns very well that an investment in education is an investment in future, his investment in education is huge. He runs several educational institutions – not only in Kerala but also across the world, particularly in the Middle East. Dovecote Green Primary School (Dubai) is one of the Group’s biggest contribution. Sree Gokulam Public School is now a very familiar, as well as respected, name in the state. The Group has more than seven schools and three arts colleges in the state. The educational institutions run by the Group stand out from the rest for the dedicated, as well as humanitarian, way in which they operate. It is silently bringing a revolutionary change in the education sector of the state.
Sree Gokulam Medical College and Research Foundation is an asset to the medical education sector of the state. The college, which the Group runs, offers world class medical education, and is one of the most promising medical colleges in the state. It is also popular for its social service initiatives. In the medial college, there is a separate block for rehabilitating senior citizens. The block primarily serves poor.
One of the fastest growing multi-speciality hospitals in this part of the world, GG Hospital (Trivandrum), is owned by the Gokulam Group.
Since his childhood, Mr. Gopalan is a film enthusiast. He loves acting. He has received huge appreciation for his acting in Clint. His deep interest in acting explains his huge investment in the film and entertainment sector. He is a well-known producer. Some of the films that carries his production company’s name includes Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja and Kayamkulam Kochunni. Notably, Mr. Gopalan was the producer of the first film directed by Tamil Superstar Vijay’s father, Chandrasekhar; it was back in 1976 – a year after he formally registered his chit fund business.
It is proud to note here that Mr. Gopalan, who has left no stone unturned and thoroughly explored every business opportunity that has come before him, is the Chairman and the major state holder of a rapidly growing Malayalam television channel, Flowers TV, and a trustworthy Malayalam news channel, 24. Both these channels have transformed the sectors almost entirely, and are now market leaders.
The contribution of this business leader is not limited to the aforesaid areas. It is far beyond this. It covers almost everything – from hospitality and entertainment to retail and real estate.
His contribution to business is not the only reason he is revered widely. He is not less than an extremely sincere philanthropist. He is one of the few persons who believe in the philosophy that ‘don’t let your left hand known what your right is doing’. For that reason, he bothers less to publicise his philanthropic initiatives.
This hero is a true inspiration. Let’s go through his words.
You are one of the most successful business persons Kerala has ever seen. When was the first time you realised that there was a talented business person in you?
I am a person who thinks differently, and who understands the value of time. During my schooldays, my aim was to enter a sector where I can make optimum utilisation of my time. The sector of business stands out from the rest, as this sector is only suitable for those who consider time as something which is precious. Now, I feel proud that I am at the right platform.
It is said that the South Indian city of Chennai was the one which moulted the hardworking businessman in you. How much truth is there in this statement?
Surely, the South Indian city of Chennai has a huge role in my success as a businessman. This city, unlike the rest, welcomes all – even outsiders – wholeheartedly. Here, the caste, religion or political ideology of a worker does not matter; only thing that matters here is his hard work and dedication. The city has gifted several successful persons.
One of your initial ventures, Sree Gokulam Chit and Finance Company Private Limited, is now a fifty-year-old. What was that reason that prompted you to start this business? How do you see this five-decade-long journey?
When I decided I should become a businessman, I did not have any confusion on what business I should start. Chit business is not alien to me. This was very popular in Vadakara, the place where I born and spent my childhood, and several locations in and around that region. My father also had this business. During my childhood days, I also helped my father run his small chit business. That experience supported me immensely, when I started my own chit business. Now, when I look back, as the business stands with more than five-decade-long experience, I feel proud. The main requisite of a successful chit business is trustworthiness. The lack of the ethics of chit fund has contributed to the collapse of several popular chit companies.
You have contributed heavily to the education sector of the state. When did you realise that your support should be offered to this sector? Why do you feel that education is one of those sectors which deserve serious attention?
I am a follower of Sree Narayana Guru. His main message is that education is wealth. If a man does not have education, his life is of no use. Now, education is a lucrative business. Higher education is now a luxury – limited to wealthy people. The present trend has left many talented minds out of the circle of higher education. With our educational initiatives, what I aim is to make higher education affordable.
Once you were a very successful medical representative. Now, you run a prestigious medical college. How do you see this?
I consider social service as something which is divine. For that reason, I see medical education as something which is valuable. It does not mean that other areas of education are less valuable. My point is that as the world is struggling under the clutches of threats like Covid-19 the area of medical education is gaining more and more relevance day by day. Many poor people are undergoing treatment in our medical college in Trivandrum at free of cost. The activities of the hospital – especially those intended to wipe the tears of needy – grand me immense self-satisfaction.
It seems that you have a huge interest in the hospitality and tourism sector. You run several prestigious hotels across the country – especially in Kerala. Can this sector transform the fate of the state for the best?
Our hotel chain operates mainly in three states: Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Nonetheless, the majority of the hotels are in Kerala. It is sad to mention that the state of the tourism sector of the country is not impressive, compared to other countries. Likewise, the state of the said sector of Kerala is not satisfactory compared to other states in the country. Anyway, the state government has launched several programs to promote the tourism sector. It is a gratifying that I have gotten a golden opportunity to be a part of this initiative.
Now, it is not a secret that you are an exceptional actor. Your performance in Clint is a good example. At present, you are an indispensable presence in the South Indian film industry. Apart from being an actor, you are a very successful producer, as well as a distributer. What brought you to this industry? Is that your passion for acting?
I always have passion for acting. My journey in the industry started forty year back, when I produced a Telugu film. It is my extreme passion towards the field of acting that compels me to arrange my schedule in a way which assures adequate space for the nourishment of my acting skill. More good films should be created. We will always support the efforts to create good films.
Basically, you are a Malabarian – a person who hails from the northern region of Kerala. It is said that a Malabarian means a football lover. Was it your love towards this sports that encouraged you to develop a professional football club, Gokulam Kerala Football club? Do you think that the Indian sports sector, if supported rightly, can stun the world with their performance?
If we look at the history of Indian football, we can see several talented football players from Malabar, the region located in the northern region of Kerala. Now, we have no many acclaimed players from the region in the team. Moreover, even we don’t have many great players from the state in the national team. As a Malabarian, I feel sad about it. This scenario must change. The Malabar region should regain the lost prominence in the football sector. It is the reason that has brought us to this sector. We hope for the best. It is unfortunate to say that compared to other countries the support and encouragement the country offers to their football players are inadequate.
At this juncture, you are a very successful business person. There are many who see you as a role model. What do you want to say to them? What is the secret behind your success?
I am a person who has deep love and respect for Mahatma Gandhi. The father of the nation was the one who believed in action. I also believe in action. There is no shortcut for victory. Behind every victory, there is a story of hard work. Victory is not something that can be achieved easily. Trustworthiness is the only secret behind my success.
You deserve a special appreciation for the commitment you show to the society in which you live. Please tell us how much important is to become a socially committed individual for a businessman.
Man is a social animal. He cannot detach himself from the society in which he belongs. What it implies is simple: each person is responsible to his society. I realise the said facts and act in accordance with those. Simple!