Nothing Is Impossible with the MAN OF POSSIBILITY ; N K Muhammed By Dolly Neena
When we talk about successful entrepreneurs, we usually get motivated by people who started from garages and made it big in life. However, today we are going to get inspired by one magnificent life – someone who was born in an affluent family, but who has an astoundingly diverse twists and turns of life, someone who always found a way or made one! His story will definitely make you stand up in wonder. Let’s listen to this jaw-dropping, as well as engaging, narrative of Mr. N K Muhammed. He is the Chairman and Managing Director of Vythiri Village Resort, SpiceBowl Hotels Pvt. Ltd., SpiceCoast Hotels Pvt.Ltd, Chairman & Managing Trustee of Oriental Group of Hotel Management Institutions, Stage Pragathi Charitable Trust, Oriental Educational Charitable Trust, Chairman to Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Ramanattukara, Golden Village, Wonder Wayanad, Wellness Wayanad, Managing Trustee to N K Muhammed Senior Engineer Foundation, and President of Malabar Tourist Boat’s Operators Welfare Association.
The fundamental roots
Nambiponnilathu Kunjammu Muhammed was born in an affluent Muslim family at Mathilakam near Kodungallur. Those times it was common for a Muslim to marry more than once, and his father Nambiponnilathu Kunjammu married Khadija, after he had his fourth child in his first wife Beevathu. N K Muhammed was born on 15th July 1944 as Khadija’s eldest son amongst her 5 children. Besides Agriculture, his father was engaged in the wholesale of coir, tobacco and spices and seasonings. He also owned acres of lands, houseboats, sewn boats and other vessels.
The foundation phase of life – his childhood
Kodungallur is a historically significant town in Kerala, one of the earliest trading ports in the world, which was a strategic entry point for the naval fleets. Mr. N K Muhammed fondly remembers that during his childhood, they always relied on boats or floats as a means of transportation. All commodities were ferried through the waterway. The first Christian church and the first mosque in India was built in Kodungallur. It is also prominently famous for the Bhagavathi temple. Mr. N K Muhammed proudly adopted his land’s secularism into his
blood. He fondly remembers that may be he was the only Muslim boy who would have been frequenting so much to the temple festival grounds and sacred groves around his vicinity. Kodungallur was a land of festivals. He thrived and indulged in the multi colors that festivals threw around – music, ‘kathaprasangams’, drama, starry lights, elephants, the vibrant crowd, the carnival mood, the oracles and ritualistic chants. The temple grounds loudly articulated the camaraderie and secularism, and the strong cultural heritage of his native place.
Muslim art forms like Moulood (social gathering) and Arabanamuttu were a visual treat for his eyes which he thoroughly enjoyed while he was a child. Arabanamuttu is very popular art form among Muslims. Arabana muttu is performed by striking the Arabana (a hand held, one sided flat tambourine or drum-like musical instrument of Arabia), with the hand. The instrument is made of wood and animal skin. Frenzied devotees used to drip blood from their foreheads amidst the frantic drumbeats. As his Baappa was a prominent figure in the society, all Islamic events were done under his supervision, Muhammed took much pride in it. VettumKuthumRatheeb (KuthuRatheeb) was one such ritual which took place in an open field after the harvest festival in Makaramasam. This involves piercing the body, immunity to snake and fire and riding of wild animals. Piercing affects the tongue, the ear and the stomach. Knives and steel tools were used. The followers of the ritual believe that even though injuries are inflicted on the bodies of the performers by weapons, these do not cause pain or damage to the body. They believe that since the ritual is performed by devotees who have received permission from their Lord, it will not cause injuries. Muhammed remembers the decorated platform built under the shed, in the middle of the field. Religious scholars and Usthads attended and chanted verses of the Quran, while people gathered up in large numbers with family. His father was the main sponsor of the event. The performers shout ‘Ya Allah Huhaib’ while piercing their own body parts, which was horrifying for kids and people who watched it for the first time. Small Muhammed, with a bold heart, learned early life lessons from it, that the performer risked the act because of his devotion and passion – and with strong determination you can make any daring dream come true. All these episodes were framing and preparing his mind for the tumultuous life ahead.
Those days coconuts were also given as wages for coconut tree climbers. It used to be two anna for a coconut then. And Muhammed’s father had enormous extents of land and coconut farms. So when he passed tenth grade in 1961 with flying colors, his father rewarded him by allowing him to take 10 coconuts a month. The mischievous small Muhammed in fact took double the number of coconuts though, which he sold for pocket money. The interesting fact is that small Muhammed who furiously hated going to school till 6th grade had a sudden change of heart when he fell in love with a girl named Sreedevi in his school and all the rest of the valiant efforts on studying was only to impress her! On another reminiscence, those days they were completely dependent on boats to travel – he used to swim onto the other side of the river, not only because of his love for swimming, but also that he can pocket the boat fare his Baappa gave him.
He used to frequent the scared groves in solitude, they used to be notorious for poisonous snakes and eerie spirits. However, he used to love being there all alone, with the soft breeze caressing his hair, listening to the rustling sound of leaves and wind whistling through the bamboos, lying on the sands staring at the mesmerizing moonlit night – he was enchanted by the spell-binding scenic beauty of his native place, and which was one of the reasons he named his resort, “Kadavu” (which translates to ‘Ferry’)
Dreams, delays, success & sorrow
After his tenth grade, he joined Christ College, Irinjalakkuda, for Pre-University course which was a year-long programme, where he sadly remembers he was confined to the four walls of boarding which forced rigorous rules and regulations on him. He was eagerly tolerant to complete this somehow and had decided to become an entrepreneur like his father was. However, his father had already decided his destiny for him beforehand – Engineering! He had no courage to speak his heart to his father and thus joined Thrissur Engineering College for a five year course named Pre-professional, on Civil Engineering. He had been a star athlete from his school days and continued to excel to win trophies at the university level in all the athletic events he participated in.
Even though his father was a terror-figure for him in his early days, Muhammed realized that it was all because of his great
affection and love for the family. He just didn’t know to express his emotions openly. This realization made him go serious on his studies half-way through his college and eventually graduated his final year with high marks. And, thus, he successfully embarked on his 29-year-long Engineering career. His first on-the-job training was at Thumbormozhi dam site in Chalakkudy. The area was dark and dense and you could rarely see a human being around. One amusing occasion he remembers while he was posted there was when a movie crew came by for a month and half for shooting, for Navodaya’s ‘AgniMrugam’ starring Prem Nazir and Sheela. Those days you could rarely see stars that close, and the fanboy in Muhammed was super-excited to interact so close with Nazir for the first time, as Muhammed was the one who supervised the dam site and made arrangements for them. After a year of training at ThumburMozhi, he left for Madras as job was awaiting him there. However, before he could commence, he was called back as he got through PSC in Kerala; he decided to return to Kerala and joined Government service at PWD. He worked at Kannur and Kozhikode extensively during his career, and more closely with Medical College later.
It was around then he married Aisha, who was the daughter of the Central Excise Customs Superintendent; she was doing her final year MBBS then at Kozhikode Medical College. They are blessed with three daughters – Thasneem, Safrina and Vinni. He proudly states that all of them were rank holders at their academic strides. His son-in-laws are also into noble medical profession.
During his successful journey as a PWD Engineer he says, “I took a lot of risk during my career. The projects others left half-way through, I used to take it up with a lot of courage and finish with hard work and determination. I was a very
stubborn, persevering individual who never gave up on difficult situations. I never compromised on professional ethics, a stubborn attitude which might have annoyed a lot around and won me many enemies.” He handled Special Buildings Department, Irrigation Department and then the Roads Department, and feels proud about Kozhikode mini bypass, Mavoor road etc which passed the test of time because of high quality construction, was made during his service period.
He remembers the trauma he and his mother went through being a second wife to his father, when he was one of the first to fight against these atrocities. He remembers that long back people used to fight insensibly over money and possessions, one of the reasons that they despised to have step-brothers/sisters that they never wanted to divide their assets with more heads. He says, later after the factful strides of bitter truths of life, all of them realized that money is not everything. Life changes people. He himself had changed a lot through years of living. His mother is happy and is at her 106th age now.
Embarking into business
Mr. N K Muhummed always had a heart for business. Buying a hundred acre rubber plantation at Nilambur was his first real estate business. It was also his dream to build the first 21 storeyed multiplex in the heart of Kozhikode city, which unfortunately he had to dump due to political hostility; Today that project stands in the name of R P Mall. He still didn’t give up. It was for his father he became an engineer, and once he was to retire, he decided to fulfil his own heart’s burning desire and to have a new beginning to life, a second innings to his already adventurous life. That’s when he decided on starting Oriental Hotel Management institute at Lakkidi, which is India’s best today. He remembers no one encouraged his
dream back then, but he boldly risked it all. He traded his lands to make the 5 crore initial investment needed to kickstart this business idea of his. He used to travel a lot across the globe for leisure, later for business across 60 plus countries. Once he fixed on hospitality business, he then started traveling to learn hospitality, a thrilled 55 year old student in Switzerland, Netherland, China and many other parts of the world attending hospitality courses. “ Kadavu “ was another dream project of his, a plot he had bought before starting Oriental School of Hotel Management, but nurtured in his heart every single day – he went by the land and watered the plants and trees regularly even before laying the foundation stone; the construction started in 1997. Even though the initial years were really challenging, it eventually grew out to be a profitable one with guests from different ethnicities pouring in; eminent business magnets, distinguished leaders, celebrated artists, prominent politicians, people from the world of cinema have had their luxurious stay at Kadavu. Sad to say, after an unfortunate encounter about a deception and swindling by his own brother, Mr. N K Muhammed decided to give away his dream project and sold it out to Ravi Pillai. Life goes on and the toughest one survives – he proudly owns and manages the breathtakingly beautiful Vythiri Village resort today.
About overcoming the challenges in entrepreneurial life
“There is always rivalry, jealousy and obstacles in business. I used to react on certain situations while growing up. However, now I realize that it is utterly unnecessary to fret over others’ opinions about you and lose your sleep. This will only deteriorate your own health. Hence, the best way is to ignore. Let them bad-mouth; you should just mind your own business. Your dignity is not in someone else’s hands. Make sure you solve your issues as and when it comes a trouble to
you. Remember, there are issues you cannot solve too – try to find alternate ways to go around it. You cannot live with zero problems – In this life, you’ll need to confront with some or the other complications. I’ve been antagonized with life or death issues, however, you should be bold enough to survive it. Life is a teacher – you should always be a student until you die. A human being is never perfect, we err; we keep developing over the phases of life. I am now focusing on my last lap. Money alone will not satisfy your heart. Responsible luxury is what you need to focus on – what purpose is a golden washbasin for. Tie up your life to goals, not to people. People might not stand for you or with you, but your dreams are yours alone. I have heard a lot of people talking behind my back. When they started seeing you growing successfully, you will find a lot of enemies who somehow want to pull you down. You need to anticipate these tests and trials in advance if you want to be a successful entrepreneur. You always need to be prepared and expect the unexpected. I survived as I was ready to take risk.”
You should always stand close with your team. My team is my strength and reason for my success here. There are staff who has been working with me for more than three decades and are my close confidantes. I can trust them with my life. On the other hand, there also had been several others who didn’t rise up to my expectations. For example, there was a GM whom I helped with lakhs for his son’s hospital expenses and later to my utter shock I got to know that he was doing harmful things over my shoulders; I dismissed him, later he came pleading guilty and forgiveness and I decided to give him another chance again, only to take the brunt of betrayal again from him. There are more than a dozen examples of this sort. Some people do not change. Your kindness can be taken for granted. These things happen in business. Most of the times, blind trust can be foolishness, and cause you harm. An
entrepreneur should be mindful, aware and analytical about such wrongdoings so that others should not end up taking advantage of you nor should you get cheated.
Value that you hold close to your heart
“You always need to respect Time. If you have given time for someone, respect his and your time and make sure you be there on time. Punctuality is one quality that you always should adhere to. Do not let anyone else disrespect you by not keeping time with yourself as well. Always be honest with what you do. If destiny is in favour for you, no matter whatever happens, you will win what your heart wants. So be persistent and move forward with much courage and determination. Never falter from your step. Believe in Karma. If someone has done some grave hurt to you, he/she will get what they deserve in this life itself. So do not be weakened by any struggles, setbacks, challenges, back-stabbing – do your job well, and the universe will reward you generously for your effort.”
In our times, we used to experience life and take lessons directly from it. It was never theoretical; practical lessons gave us great wisdom and sheer strength. Today parents are making a grave mistake by isolating children from confronting and tasting life directly. Today, success is evaluated by the highest grades printed on certificates, which is baseless. I believe this makes the youth vulnerable, they are left with no armour, ammunition nor fuel needed for the battle waiting ahead for them. The competition in today’s world is scary; so is wrong parenting.
Pearls of wisdom you have for the new generation
“Today, the new generation is more into just flaunting stuff than what they really have. Most of them, I see that they do not want to save for the rainy days, but to live a luxurious life
now without being accountable to their family or surroundings tomorrow. Long back, we used to grow ample roots first, found water source enough to survive a drought, before we grew over the surface. Thus, we had enough experience, people and resources to back us up in case of a setback. I also want to suggest the new generation to be more patient. There’s no such thing as free lunch! Everything takes its own time to grow; inorganic growth is fast perishable. Commitment and hard work always help you win the game, always. Be responsible for your life, rather than relying too much on your parents. Being too greedy about money and success can be detrimental. Extreme hastiness and impatience lead to accidents on roads and life. So be calm, composed and focused on your work until it yields plenty of fruits. Give love unconditionally – because if you expect things in return, that might prove to be very disappointing later for you.”
The dreamy last lap of this life’s journey
This is the Highlight of all – His dream project – GOLDEN VillAGE! Mr. Muhammed has indeed kept the best towards the last. He wants to make a better place of this Earth. This dream project is now taking shape at the incomparable serene greenery of Vythiri, Wayanad and KrishnaGiri, Karnataka. Golden Village is a one of a kind of project which accommodates senior citizens, protects and cares for them. This is a peaceful dwelling place to live the rest of their lives, whoever who has crossed 55 years can choose to live here. The amenities are five-star quality, completely safe, and with all facilities for living happily. There are various options of physical exercises – indoor gyms, physicians, swimming pool, water games, Yoga, zumba, spa, massage, indoor games like snooker and other activities for healthy living. Caretakers and helpers are available round the clock. There will be hospitals, supermarket, clubhouse etc. An exclusive butler cum caretaker for each occupant. Organic, non-toxic healthyproduces from own farms will be served. Birthdays are celebrated with all residents with the family members online from different parts of world. Routine and periodic complete checkups and round the clock availability of inhouse nurses and doctors. There are temples, mosques and churches inside the premises – everyone will have their own religious freedom and provision to offer prayers as per their individual beliefs, and have the convenience to worship for people belonging to any cast or religion. The dusk of life is supposed to be lived in peace and happiness. Inhouse vehicle service will take you in and out of the Golden Village. There are annual international, national, local trips which will keep you amused and relaxed all throughout. This can be accumulated. Training sessions to enhance your creative skills can be opted. Evening will have musical and performing nights for entertainment. Children who are away or abroad can always witness how happy and safe their parents are via internet. You can also pursue your profession living here. In short, you have everything to relish life in absolute luxury and comfort.
Never confusing a single defeat with a final defeat, he is proving yet again that age is just a number – today even at his 77th age, Mr. NK Muhammed is very active and getting things done, one after another. He is working on a mall project at Kalpetta of 200 crores now and there is an ongoing 300 crore project restarting at Kodungallur. Golden Village accounts to be a 150 crore one. He determines to make the most out of his last lap – resolves to be healthy, is a vegetarian lately, wakes up at 4.30 am every morning, does Yoga on a daily basis, keeps a minimal diet with organic food from his own farm, and supervises all his ongoing projects personally within all his organizations. He has survived and sustained innumerable barriers and struggles in his life and has come out victorious, and still persists to endeavor new projects and dreams. He is indeed a moving lesson and inspiration for all of
The world makes way for the man who knows where he is going!