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Corporate Report

Published on: June 19, 2023, 1:04 p.m.
Sengol-maker Vummidi's tryst with history
  • Managing Partner Amarendaran with his team at the design centre in Chennai

By K.T. Jagannathan

Scoring a century is tough. Tougher still is to keep playing.  This is easier said than done for this family business, Vummudi Bangaru Jewellers (VBJ), which was founded way back in 1900. The business has already seen four generations in the family (see family tree). The fifth one too has got into it. Brand Vummidi has not only survived the test of time but also come to symbolise fairness in what it does. Today, the family proudly identifies itself as manufacturing jewellers. Vummidiars are well-known – a household name in Chennai. Think of gold, Vummidis come to minds ever so quickly. 

Brand Vummidi has, all of a sudden, now become a national talking point, after the installation of sengol (sceptre) near the Speaker’s seat in the new Parliament. Vummidis were traced to be the makers of sengol that the Adeenams in Tamil Nadu had gifted to Pandit Nehru to symbolise the transfer of power from the British.

The installation of the sengol in the new Parliament by the Modi Sarkar has indeed pushed the Vummidis into an unprecedented limelight. The entire Vummidi clan was reportedly in attendance at the sengol-installation ceremony at the indigenously-built new Parliament building recently. If the sengol installation has cast on Brand Vummidi an additional responsibility, it has also elevated the brand equity of Vummidi to a new level.

Fourth generation family

The story of Vummidis is fascinating for the way it came into being and evolved over many summers into a compelling destination for people of assorted sort, who have propensity to buy gold ornaments. With fourth generation members now well and truly into the business and the fifth generation too comfortably sliding into the family business, Vummidiars are unique in a state where family-run businesses are dime a dozen. 

What’s so special about them? For one, the elders had held the business together in formative stages. As time went by, their cohesion continued. Years rolled by. The Vummidi family too expanded. Somewhere along, the seniors in the clan had the wisdom to foresee the challenges facing an expanding family in running their business.

Sometime in the 1980s, a transition happened, whereby there was a smooth division of business among the unit-families within the Vummidi clan.  Today, there are eight showrooms belonging to 10 people in the family. Though they all come under the Vummidi umbrella, they manage their stores independently for all practical purposes.

A trip down the memory lane will reveal the evolution of brand Vummidi. The foundation stone for the business was laid by Vummidi Bangaru Chetty, who hailed from a town called Gudiyatham in Vellore (which is now part of Tamil Nadu). There were two temples – Pallikondan Perumal temple and an Amman temple – near his house. Nose and ear-piercings were quite common among people around the temples. 

Vummidi Bangaru Chetty operated a small stall in the vicinity of these temples. On all auspicious days, the shop would turn hectic. On other days, he would keep himself busy making the jewellery. There was no proper shop, only a box with these jewellery items. Subsequently, his son V. Anjaneyulu chose to follow the footsteps of his father.  Chetty was always ahead of his time. He wasn’t trained to be a businessman, but he had the business acumen. 

A small-time vendor in Vellore, he chose to travel to Madras (now Chennai) in search of business opportunities. It was indeed quite normal those days for people to leave their towns to settle in cities to realise their business aspirations.

  • Father Raghunath Vummidi (Centre), mother Shyamala Raghunath and brothers Jithendra and Amarendran

At VBJ, there is a complete division of labour. While Raghunath Vummidi looks after the silver business, Jithendra takes care of gold and coloured stones, while Amarendran is entrusted with the responsibility of supervising the diamond and platinum business. “The P&L (profit and loss account) of the verticals is the responsibility of the individuals responsible for running the respective verticals,” says Amarendran, who is a member of Young Presidents Organisation (YPO).

It is a global leadership community of chief executives driven by the shared belief that the world needs better leaders. Through YPO, they are inspired and supported to make a difference in the lives, businesses and the world they impact. “It’s a networking of people to discuss ideas,” he articulates. Based on the YPO model, VBJ has created an internal forum for the daughter of the brother-duo (each has two daughters) to interact at a fixed interval among themselves. It is designed to be a non-judgment, advice-free and experience-sharing interaction among the daughters,” points out Amarendran. The whole idea is to give them a sense of equal importance in the affairs of the management.

As it looks to the future in the wake of the sengol-induced national attention, VBJ has chalked up an expansion plan. It has two show-rooms and three creative/ manufacturing centres (one each in Chennai, Mumbai and Coimbatore). Come August, it is planning to go global by setting up a showroom in Dallas in the US, as there is a huge Indian diaspora in America and VBJ is keen to bring them onto its board. VBJ is run as a partnership firm for assorted reasons. The US foray will be through an Indian subsidiary. If one is to go by what Amarendran says, VBJ has already set up a company to facilitate its American entry.

Trust is the password for the gold jewellery business. That explains Brand Vummidi’s tryst with the history and its enduring progress.

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