There Is No Shortcut To Success : Interview With Mr. Kochouseph Chittilappilly, Founder & Chairman, V Guard Industries
One of Kerala’s leading industrialists and a well known philanthropist actively involved in social causes, Mr Kochouseph Chittilappilly is a rather unconventional man. From creating a successful business model based on outsourcing in the early 1980s to donating a kidney, Mr Chittilappilly has always lived by his own rules. Today, as he embarks on yet another new venture – a real estate division named Veegaland Developers – he takes time off his busy schedule to talk to us about his company, management philosophy and Kerala’s business scenario.
The V-Guard business model of outsourcing evolved out of compulsion. But it is lauded as a successful business model today. When you look back, to what extent do you attribute the company’s success to this model?
It was the labour issues that plagued Kerala in the 70s and 80s which forced me to think differently. Our outsourcing started out on a low scale, with our first unit being a charitable society. But it proved to be enormously successful and our network kept expanding. Today, we have around 60 different units manufacturing our products and around 70 percent of our turnover comes from outsourcing.
R&D and quality control have played a huge role in V-Guard’s success. How do you encourage this innovative atmosphere in the company?
I have a simple message for my engineers and marketing department – the market shows no mercy. Out there, it is the survival of the fittest. Shortcuts do not work. Quality consciousness, cost effectiveness and innovation do work. Our products have evolved tremendously over the years. For example, the water pumps we made 20 years ago are very different from what we make today. This is not just the case with V-Guard. Our competitors are also equally aware that to be a leader, you have to be cost-effective, quality conscious and innovative.
From electronics & electricals to entertainment & hospitality – V-Guard’s diversification has been path breaking. What makes you take such risks?
I think the diversification is linked to the fact that I am a firm believer in delegation. I also have enormous faith in the people who work with me. As a result, once V-Guard was up and running, I was able to concentrate my energies elsewhere. That’s when we launched the concept of amusement parks. Today, my sons run V-Guard and Wonderla. With time on my hands, I am now involved in the real estate segment with Veegaland Developers. As far as V-Star Creations is concerned, I have no role to play. It is my wife who is in charge of the organisation.
While V-Guard has a stranglehold in Kerala, it has strong competition elsewhere from brands like Havells and Bajaj. How far has V-Guard been successful in meeting this challenge in the northern markets?
We have made a concerted effort to expand in the north only over the last five years. Until then, our focus had been in South India. We do face competition in the northern market, but are completely confident about the quality of our products. However, we have to popularise our brand and we are now deliberately marketing the brand in these markets.
This is regarding the stabilizer business. With improvement in the power situation and the new era of built-in stabilizers what does the future look like?
When I started making stabilizers in 1977, I too felt that the demand for stabilizers would come down in the future. That is why we concentrated on building a range of products. Thirty years later, the demand for stabilizers is still strong! Stabilizers account for 30 percent of our revenue today.
What is your management philosophy?
Delegate to the maximum! I also am extremely concerned about the people who work with me. For example, before the V-Guard IPO, shares were distributed to our staff including drivers and sweepers. I have trust and confidence in my people.
There seems to be a wave of young entrepreneurship in Kerala encouraged by the government and its agencies like KSIDC. Does it give you hope that Kerala will soon make its mark in the national industrial map?
The signs are encouraging. We may still lag behind some of our neighbours as far as industrial development is concerned. But the change is happening. The industrial climate has improved. I am happy to see youngsters working abroad for several years and then returning home to set up their own ventures.
However, Kerala does have some drawbacks. Our land resources are extremely limited which impacts the development of large industries. The people here are also extremely aware of the dangers of industrialisation like pollution and therefore land acquisition will be a problem. Logistically too, we are at a disadvantage. I think the focus should be on high value added products.
What would be your advice to young entrepreneurs?
I would tell them that the old fashioned values of straightforwardness, integrity and honesty still apply. There are no shortcuts to success. I am also firm in my belief that quality consciousness is the road to growth.
A first generation entrepreneur, a well known philanthropist, an inspiration to Keralites and one of Kerala’s best known brand ambassadors nationally. You have several roles to play. Which gives you the most satisfaction?
I do feel that the visibility I enjoy is because I am based in Kerala. I am thankful and happy for whatever recognition I have received.