Dec 19: Globe-trotting Kerala businessmen have over the years made a mark in their respective businesses with some joining the billionaire club including MA Yusuf Ali, TS Kalyanaraman, Ravi Pillai, Joy Alukkas, Azad Moopen, Kris Gopalakrishnan to name a few. Many attributed the success of these people to their efficiency, intelligence, hard work and innovativeness in whatever they do.
However, amidst these successes three prominent businessmen had ended up in jail for economic offences and there was a general perception that the Union and State Government and the business community didn’t come to their rescue.
Biscuit King Rajan Pillai
Biscuit King Rajan Pillai fled Singapore when he was convicted to 14 years in Jail by Singapore authorities for cheating and criminal breach of trust. According to Independent, UK, Rajan Pillai was a flamboyant businessman whose multi-million-dollar empire spanning six countries was built up on a little more than a shoeshine and a smile. He claimed to run Britannia Industries but had only 3% stake and many of his financial dealings were mysterious.
That’s when creditors became suspicious and called in their debts. He died under tragic circumstances in Tihar Jail due to liver cirrhosis. There were allegations that he was denied timely medical help in emergency and his wife Nina Pillai The Justice Leila Seth Commission that enquired into the issue had narrow terms of reference and asked Nina Pillai to furnish evidence regarding any conspiracy against Rajan Pillai.
Rajan Pillai, born to a cashew trader Janardhanan Pillai in Kollam had studied at TKM Engineering College and his meteoric rise in business world had raised the envy of many.
His brother Rajmohan Pillai and eminent journalist K GovindanKutty authored the book, The Wasted Death- The Rise and Fall of Rajan Pillai. Nina Pillai in a review of the book pointed out that the book did not do justice to her husband and described it as a sad attempt by an envious brother and non-achiever.
P A Mohammed Ali
P A Mohammed Ali who had established successful business with his Galfar Engineering and Contracting Company was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in January 2014 for trying to bribe officials to get contracts in oil and gas sector.
He was slapped a fine of 1.7 million Omani riyal (Dh16.9 million) after convicting him in five graft cases. Ali resigned after being convicted by an Omani court in a high-profile corruption case. He was accused of bribing officials in state-owned Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), to obtain contracts in the oil and gas sector.
He was born in Thalikulam in Thrissur and in 1972 established the Galfar Engineering and Construction company in the Sultanate of Oman with Sheikh Dr. Salem Said Al Fannah Al Araimi. Mohammed Ali was conferred the Civil Order Grade III by the Omani Government for his contributions to the country and India government had honoured him with PravasiBharatiyaSamman Award.
He did not serve the entire jail term and was released as part of a royal part on the first day of Ramadan in June 2016 by the Omani Government. And he was back to business ever since.
MM Ramachandran or Atlas Ramachandran as he is popularly known hails from Thrissur and became a successful jewelry businessman after establishing his first shop in Kuwait in 1970’s. He himself appeared in the advertisements with the popular tagline, ‘Atlas Jewelry, JanakodikaludeVishwasthastaphanam’ (An enterprise trusted by crores of people). He went on to set up jewellery chains in Gulf Co-operation Countries (GCC) and within in India. He also became a film producer and acted in films.
Misfortune fell on him and his business when he began to default on the Rs 1000 cr loan repayment with several banks including Bank of Baroda and State Bank of India. With at least 50 showrooms across the United Arab Emirates including Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ras Al Khaimah and in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and India, Atlas Group had a turnover of Dh 3.5 Billion at one point of time. He was sentenced to three years imprisonment by the UAE Court and now serving sentence in Dubai jail.
Now his wife Indira Ramachandran is finding it difficult to pay the house rent and liquidating their jewellery business assets to pay off the loans.
A senior business journalist Srinath of TV News 18 posted in Facebook regarding the hardship faced by Atlas Ramachandran which drew tremendous response within a day. He pointed that one point of time the media and several people in Kerala benefited from his establishments by way of advertisement income and jobs. However, in times of crisis no body is there to help him out. Following the financial crisis, 19 branches of Atlas Jewellery in UAE and tohers in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Doha and Muscat have been shut.
Tailpiece: Liquor baron Vijay Mallya is now fighting an extradition case in UK Court and owes Rs 9000 cr to various financial institutions. Despite the staggering debt, he was allowed to leave India and now fighting hard against extradition saying that all allegations against him are politically motivated.