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It's a brand new outfit

Not the regular office T-shirt bought in bulk off the shelf: Thyagu will make clothes keeping your profession in mind

Thyagu Valliappa: constantly looking to do some innovation — Photo: Murali Kumar K.

THYAGU VALLIAPPA began work in much the same way as any scion of a large business family would. Start at the bottom, do the mandatory stint at a far-flung office and then begin to handle a part of the business. But Thyagu Valliappa is made of different stuff. He's an avid racer, an old face on the forest rally circuit and someone constantly looking to do something innovative.

"It's the era of `different' things," he says and his unique idea came to him while travelling on a plane in the U.S. Looking around he noticed most people wearing clothes with their company or university logos emblazoned on them. Anything that is big in the U.S. eventually finds its way to India, he reasoned and came back armed with the idea of customising corporate wear for clients.

"What are you trying to do?" he remembers being asked by a slightly sceptical family, but he stuck with the idea and began Valliappa Logowear, a branch of the business which would custom-make clothes for specific requirements.

Instead of companies doing the usual and buying large numbers of designer tee-shirts for their employees, Thyagu thinks about what kind of office wear would suit the employees best. On the shop floor for instance, if an employee's job requires him to work with a screwdriver in one hand and a hammer in the other, Thyagu might design a shirt with a pouch to store one instrument while it isn't being used.

Setting trends

"Pouches on shirtsleeves for mobile phones are safer than storing a phone in the regular pocket so close to the heart," points out Thyagu and it's these kind of innovations that the company is trying to introduce in Indian corporate wear.

But Thyagu is also an avid sportsman (a racer and a golfer) and he has blended his passion for sport with the garments business. He makes clothes for golfers and is now looking to make race gear for rally drivers at less prohibitive prices than what is currently available abroad.

In terms of texture, cut and design Thyagu should know exactly what goes into making racing wear. He learnt to drive much before most kids his age and was racing when he was just 18. In his second rally on the Munnar Ghats he was flagged off at 6:45 p.m. just as the sky was darkening. "I was the youngest in the race, everyone else had done it before and knew the stages," he recounts. "No one told me there was a 400 foot drop on one side, so we raced through at night and did an incredible speed, but on the return the next morning we were much slower since we could actually see the deep gorge on one side and huge lorries appearing as small as ants. When you're frightened you're so much slower."

Sports lover

A serious businessman by day, it's on the weekends when Thyagu indulges his passion for racing. It has taken a bit of a backseat now, he admits, but he has his share of horror stories: being airborne at 150 kmph, skidding at 130 on a corner and breaking his suspension and of course attempting a race when his parents didn't know he would be. "I remember sneaking the car out for a rally," he says, laughing. "My parents had no idea till they read my name in the papers the next day!"

Like any astute businessman he also plays golf: mainly to network, but it also gives him an idea of what to incorporate into the shirts he makes for the Karnataka Golf Association (KGA). "Tee pockets, left-hander gloves, a place to store the score card," he rattles off when you ask him about ideas for golf wear.

With the Internet opening up markets, Thyagu is set to retail via the Web, with people customising their requirements and even choosing colours on a website from where Logowear will pick up the information and make clothes. Thyagu Valliappa can be contacted on 22260671.

Daily Bread is a weekly column that features people who've chosen offbeat professions. Our guest list has included the likes of scuba divers, perfume makers, and suave farmers.


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