The Story of My Life

* Shri Chinnaswami Rajam (1882-1955) *

Founder - MIT, India

        ***********   THE  STORY  OF  MY  LIFE  ***************


                 SRI  CHINNASWAMI  RAJAM  (1882-1955)

                         Founder * MIT, Madras


     I was born on 28th Nov. 1882, in the village of Swamimalai, near
     Kumbakonam.  I had my High School education at the Town High School,
     Kumbakonam.  Till 1904, I was staying at Kumbakonam, searching for
     a job.

     In 1904, I joined the Salem Government Weaving School, and learnt the
     art of weaving.  Then I started my own handloom factory at Salem with
     a capital of Rs.1,000/- and manufactured dhoties, towels, shirtings
     etc., with fly-shuttle looms.  I was able to produce first quality
     materials, which had a ready market at competitive rates, not only
     in Salem, but in the whole of the Madras Presidency.  However, in
     1906, I handed over the weaving factory to a partner of mine, and
     to Madras, and started selling ghee and tamarind, at Triplicane.  This
     business was not successful, and it resulted in a loss.

     In 1908, I was a volunteer in the Congress, under Sri V.S. Srinivasa
     Sastri, as I was hard up for funds at that time.  I had to join as a
     volunteer for food.  As a volunteer I came in contact with Pandit
     Madan Mohan Malaviya and his sons, who visited Madras at that time,
     and had the opportunity of taking them round the city.  I spent one
     year like this, and during 1909 I felt that I should have a permanent
     job to keep me going.  I went from place to place, and tried even at
     a cloth-shop for a job on Rs.15, but was not successful.

     Sri N.S.T. Chari and Sri Visvanatha Pillai, who were in the Mysore
     Tanneries, asked me to take up Chrome leather goods on commission
     basis.  Without finance, I was afraid to take up the job on
     commission basis.  Without finance, I was afraid to take up the job
     on commission basis.  My offer to serve them on a monthly salary of
     Rs.15 was rejected.  Finding no opening in Madras, I went back to
     Kumbakonam, and from there wrote to the Mysore Tanneries that I
     would take up the job on commission basis, and I also put up a stall
     at the Mahamaham Exhibition in February 1909.  But they demanded an
     advance of Rs.250/- for sending me the supplies.  A friend came to
     my help and gave me Rs.250/- even without a promissory note.  It is
     only his blessings that has placed me in this affluent position today,
     and I should be grateful to him throughout my life.  I immediately
     sent the deposit, and got the samples.  Having a good personality and
     capacity to convince people, I was able to book substantial orders on
     the first day itself.  By the time the Exhibition came to a close,
     I had booked orders for Rs.10,000/- and earned a commission of nearly
     Rs.750/- in the first month itself.  Then only I realised that I had
     the capacity for selling.  I went to the orthodox widows in Tanjore
     District and asked them to purchase the deer-skin bags for keeping
     their 'madi', instead of using the old-type  'madisanchi'.  I then
     travelled throughout the length and breadth of India, as the agent
     of Mysore Tanneries, for nearly five years.  In 1914, I was
     appointed as the Manager of the Mysore Tanneries Show-room at
     Calcutta, on a salary of Rs.250/- plus free quarters.  I was
     attending to nearly 400 to 500 customers daily in the shoe-shop at
     college street, Calcutta.  At that time, the Mysore Tanneries were
     badly in need of funds.  They had no money to buy raw skins.  I
     booked orders, with advances, while the hides were still on the backs
     of the living animals!  The advance money received by me was used
     for purchasing hides and skins.  In order to help the Mysore
     Tanneries, I took up the management of the Berhampur Leather
     Manufacturing Company, Bengal, which was started by the Maharaja of
     Kasim Bazaar.  The machinery had not been fitted, and the factory
     was not working.  Still, I was able to collect Rs.3 lakhs for the
     working capital, in Bengal itself, though I was new to the place.
     The concern was brought to a sound position and we shipped finished
     leather even to England during the First World War.  The firm
     supplied boots and shoes on a commercial scale throughout India,
     including to European firms like Whiteway Laidlaw & Co. Ltd. and the
     Army and Navy stores, Simla.  On account of difference of opinion in
     the partnership with Sri N.S.T. Chari, I left the firm in April, 1917.

     There was a full in my acitivity for about two years and I was idle
     till 1919, when I started the India Company, with a Capital of
     Rs.1,700/- which my aunt had left into my possession at the time of
     her death.  The business of coal-tar, which I started was very
     profitable, and this enabled my friends, Sri C.R. Srinivasan and
     Sri G. Nagaratnam, to join me as partners.  The Indian Company Ltd.
     was registered.  I contributed Rs.5,000/- while Sri C.R. Srinivasan
     and Sri G. Nagaratnam each contributed Rs.2,500/- towards the share
     capital.  The capital was gradually increased to Rs.50,000/- during
     1920.  In 1920, I also took up a contract for the monthly supply of
     1,000 tons of coal to the Madras Corporation at Rs.5/- per ton,
     cheaper than what they were paying previously.   Side by side, I
     took up the agency for Oldmobile cars, and was able to sell a number
     of them, as the imported cars were very few in those days.  This
     car business helped me to take the Postal Contract, under the name
     'Garage Limited', and I secured the Contract for 15 years on a
     subsidy of Rs.10,000/- a month, starting from 1921.  Though it was
     not profitable in the first year, in subsequent years it proved to
     be very remunerative.  In 1925, the Postal Dept. offered me the
     Calcutta Postal Contract for Rs.17,000/- per mensem, which was 25%
     cheaper than what the Government were spending departmentally.  The
     Calcutta contract was for ten years, in the first instance, and for
     seven years in the second instance.  This also resulted in substantial
     profits.  In addition to the Postal work, the firm 'Garage (Calcutta)
     Limited' took up military 'hired transport' contracts, and the
     East Indian Railway street delivery service.

     The India Company Ltd., Madras, took up the agency for Tata Steel in
     1923, and for about ten years we were selling nearly 2,000 tons of
     steel per month on a small commission.  This enhanced my reputation
     very much in Madras city, and I became one of the important
     business magnates.

     I started the Kumbakonam Electric Supply Corporation Ltd.  in 1932,
     and the Negapatam Electric Supply Company Ltd. and Indian Steel Rolling
     Mills Ltd. in the year 1933, and these companies have flourished  very
     well.  I'm now the Chairman of all these five companies, viz.,

          *  The India Company Ltd.
          *  The Garage Ltd.
          *  The Indian Steel Rolling Mills Ltd.
          *  The Kumbakonam Electric Supply Corporation Ltd.
          *  The Negapatam Electric Supply Company Ltd.

     The paid-up capital of these companies exceeds Rs.50 lakhs.  I have
     been leading a princely life throughout.

     In 1944, when my wife died, I made up my mind to minimise my comforts
     and sold my two bungalows, and gave a donation of Rs.5 lakhs to
     start "THE MADRAS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY".  Nobody asked me to
     start this institute by selling away my bungalows.  For my Rolling
     Mills and Electric Supply Companies, I had to get foreigners even
     for erection work and therefore immediately made up my mind to
     produce Engineers-Scientists-cum-practical men in India itself, for
     starting industrial concerns, or for taking up posts in the Defence
     departments and replace foreigners in due course.  This has become
     a 'fait accompli' and the Institute has flourished very well during
     the last five years, and I am proud to say that many of our students
     have been absorbed in the Defence services, and in big industrial

     I am now just like a Sanyasi, spending my whole time, energy and
     attention for the Institute that I have started.  Even though I have
     become blind, I know from pin to plane-making in the Institute, and
     I'm guiding the Director and the staff in the discharge of their

     * My only ambition is that the Institute should be taken over by
       the Government and made a PREMIER SOUTH ZONE INSTITUTE.


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Last modified 25th Aug 1998
M K Saravanan, 48th Batch Elex, MIT, India.