The heir apparent

TAKING FORWARD THE LEGACY: K. Hari Thiagarajan. Photo: S. James   | Photo Credit: S_James

The introduction of K.Hari Thiagarajan is bound to be long. He is the grandson of textile king and educationist ‘Kalaithanthai’ Karumuttu Thiagarajan Chettiar and the son of eminent industrialist Karumuttu T.Kannan. His grandmother Dr.Radha Thiagarajan and his mother Dr.Uma Kannan – both scholars and social advocates are equally well known and respected. So how does the head that wears such a crown lie easy?

“It all depends on how we become our best selves,” says the 27-year-old suave scion of one of the most influential industrial families of Madurai.

The business of managing your family fortune and getting it to grow is bound to be challenging. But as the Executive Director of Thiagarajar Mills overlooking the operations of a company with a capacity of 85,000 spindles, K.Hari Thiagarajan carries forward the responsibility on his young shoulders with ease and élan. “I was never forced,” he makes it clear with a smile, “or told that this has to be my future.”

“I had the choice between ‘I have to’ and ‘I want to”, he asserts.

There is no denying that he was born into a rich and right family. But more than to inherit and see your business profits take flight, as he says, it is important to prove yourself outside the family firm.

So not only did London-born and raised in Madurai, Hari go off to University of Warwick to gain a degree in engineering and business management and work as a junior research analyst in Julius Baer, a private wealth management company in Singapore, but he also chose to become member of the Young Indians (YI), an initiative of the Confederation of Indian Industries. The launch of the Madurai chapter coincided with his return to India in 2010 and Hari felt it would be the best way to connect with his city and the youths.

“I am also a very home-loving and family-oriented person and so I guess I would not have stayed away for long”, he reminds me. To use Madurai as a springboard to be the driver of change and be of benefit to society is something he wanted to self-make.

“Unfortunately a good number of our talented youngsters are leaving the city and I want to reverse this brain drain by creating an entrepreneurial environment and bringing in the same hope that the youths seek elsewhere,” he says.

When he returned to Madurai at 22, he was at an advantage, able to relate to the youths. “I know how my learning in U.K broadened my experience and boosted my self-confidence. Our family foundation runs Thiagarajar group of educational institutions and I was face-to-face with 5,000 plus young students understanding and relating to their problems,” he says.

Five years on, he took on the mantle of YI chairman (2015-16) and undertook a record 87 activities in a year before stepping down this January. All along he was clear about one thing. That he would be an enterprising doer. He admits that his generation may be lacking their grandparents’ capacity for austerity or their parents’ passion for reforms, but it does have the ingenuity and fire. “The potential has to be appropriately tapped and opportunities provided to add up to the industrial benchmark and economic welfare,” he says, adding, how much he loves to mentor potential entrepreneurs.

The projects that Hari initiated with his YI team ranged from global entrepreneurship to start-ups and business development plans, environment protection and waste disposal and management strategies to e-toilets and composting, traffic discipline and awareness on child sexual abuse. To have a positive impact, he went all out harnessing the power of youth, motivating them to think, act and build a developed society.

The results may not be seen or felt overnight but Hari, who is perhaps no less than a youth icon in the city, is sowing the seeds for change. As the Secretary of Thiagarajar College, he is on the move initiating an inter-disciplinary approach to every subject. “The more you learn about the nuances of a language and delve deep into any subject, you will laugh at your own ignorance,” he says with candidness, and has therefore, ushered in structural changes in the college’s multiple programmes. He wants to break the barrier between different departments and link all subjects to each other. When you take to an integrated approach, the knowledge and skill is neither limited nor taken for granted,” he says.

Like his grandparents, Hari has a strong affinity to Tamil culture, the language, arts and history. Like them he shares an infectious enthusiasm to read and discuss Tamil literature and admits how it has helped him to conquer his fear of public speaking.

A perfect blend of traditions and modernism, Hari loves to be in the fast lane of a free highway and as much cherishes Indian classical music. His bucket list ideas include exploring lesser known places within the country, photographing the exotic and cycling around to bust stress.

Ever-smiling, affable and easy going, Hari prefers to do things on his own. In every business family, he says, you have moments where you don’t agree but complement each other. “My father is very tech-savvy and ahead of the curve and I always turn to him for guidance,” he says.

Fact file:

Catering to the needs of high quality yarn for the domestic and export market, K.Hari Thiagarajan is also the Director of VTM Limited, Virudhunagar, which has a capacity of 300 modern shuttleless looms and a product portfolio that consists of fine grey shirting fabric and high-end home fashion. The company has won several accolades for exports. He is part of Committee of Young Directors-SIMA, Coimbatore and serves as a member in The Cotton Textiles Export Promotion Council, Mumbai, and the Textile Sector Skill Council, New Delhi.

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2022 11:18:17 PM |

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