Some decades ago, nearly 90 per cent of Nattukottai Chettiars were entrepreneurs; this has dropped to 15 per cent. The community plans to reverse the numbers through know-how, family support, funding and networking. T E Narasimhan reports.
The Nattukottai Chettiars, which have prominent members like P Chidambaram and A Vellayan, are planning to launch a ₹500 crore fund to revive entrepreneurship among the community.
The decision was taken at the International Business Conference of Nagarathars held in the United Arab Emirates this month. The conference is held every two years to inspire and empower the growing Nagarathar business community.
The first two such conferences were held in 2013 and 2015.
The focus in 2013 was to instill the legacy of lost entrepreneurship and facilitate networking opportunities among fellow Nagarathars.
In 2015, the objective was to inspire youth to be entrepreneurial.
Thriving mercantile community of South India gave many prominent banks and business houses to the country
With 35,000-40,000 familes, the net worth of this community is estimated to be around Rs 1 lakh crore
Turnover of companies owned and run by the community members is estimated to be Rs 30,000-40,000 crore per annum spread across Sivaganga and Pudukottai districts, Chennai, Singapore, Malaysia and the US
Business interest ranges from pharma, finance, leather, paper industry, owning tea estates and trading
Top groups include Murugappa, Chettinad, SPIC, AVM, Thyagaraja Group, Karumuthu and Loyal Textiles
This year's conference looked at know-how, family support, funding and networking, said Chockalingam Annamalai, who hails from the community and is now a banker in the UAE.
Business forums for know-how and support are being planned in all cities across the world where Nagarathars live. They have also tied up with JJ College in Pudukottai, which runs courses on entrepreneurship, and the Indira Gandhi National Open University. The forum will support Nagarathars to join this course.
An online platform was also created to bring angel investors and entrepreneurs together. The angel investors will mentor, invest and provide consultancy.
The conference has also decided to launch a Nagarathar fund with an initial corpus of Rs 100 crore that will be increased to ₹500 crore in the next five years. The fund, which will be registered with the Securities and Exchange Board of India, will have five segments: venture capital, angel investment, crowd funding, working capital and B2B. Five managers, including TiE, would be roped in to manage these funds, said Annamalai.
"Initially, we are looking at mobilising money from corporates and individuals within the community," he added.
These initiatives are designed to revive the spirit of entrepreneurship in the community. Some decades ago, nearly 90 per cent of community members were entrepreneurs, specialising mainly in finance. This has dropped to 15 per cent.
"Over the next 15 years, we want to reverse it to 90 per cent," said Annamalai. Sources said a chamber of commerce floated for the community was planning to launch a venture capital fund with a corpus of ₹20 crore.
Nagarathars are known for their business acumen and have created successful business houses in India over the past 150 years. Some of the well-known business houses include the Murugappa Group, the Chettinad Group, AVM Studios, and the MA Chidambaram Group.