TT Jagannathan, Exec Chairman, TTK Prestige, and the founder’s grandson, along with co-author, Sandhya Mendonca, a journalist-turned-media-entrepreneur get talking to DTNext.
When asked about why this book took such a long time to see the light of the day, Jagannathan tells us, “I was not at all keen on writing or contributing to a book. It was Sandhya, who literally ‘pestered’ me into collaborating on this title.”
Sandhya says, “I felt it was a story that needed to be told. Most of the South Indian businessmen are far too modest. But they have great achievements to their credit and it’s a learning for people both in the business arena, and for those who want to set out on new businesses. I happened to hear parts of the TTK story, as narrated by Jagannathan at the annual Ayaz Peerbhoy Memorial Lecture, organised in Bengaluru, by an advertising agency.
Jagannathan had been invited for this lecture several times, but he had declined each time, citing his need to keep away from delivering lectures. To my luck, he had relented that time, and I found his story quite gripping.
TTK’s story was one of failure and coming back even more successfully.” The accidental businessman chips in to inform us, “I was an academic and a gold medallist from IIT Madras and was absolutely not interested to join the family business.
In South Indian families, usually the elder son takes over the business and the second son finds something else to do. However, during my stint in academia at Cornell University, US when I was 22, my elder brother had turned into an alcoholic, and later passed away. My parents had come to America to inform me that I had to return to India.
That’s when they told me the company was in trouble and neck deep in borrowing. My father said he would not leave India until he repays all his debts, which is a very different scenario from what you see today. I thought it would be a one-year stint, but it turned out to be a lifetime engagement.”
On his advice to youngsters, Jagannathan says, “Hard work is a must and so is learning to rise up from your failures. Rely on your common sense and don’t dwell on the past. It’s impossible to predict what business challenges lie ahead of any company.
Just look at Kodak, which was a pioneer in photography and how its fortunes have turned today.” When asked about the state of manufacturing in TN today, Jagannathan said no comment, but went on to add, “I am a Tamilian, and I remember how at one point in time, when R Venkatraman was the Industries Minister in Tamil Nadu, my grandfather, TT Krishnamachari was the Industries Minister at the Centre.
At the time, TN was the best state for manufacturing.” On the lighter note, he tells us, “I love good food, and cooking is something about I am passionate about. I find it very relaxing and I would recommend all the men in the world to take up cooking. I used to bake a cake called Appa Cake for my children for all the birthdays.
My other passion, playing Bridge was developed at IIT-M. We used to play till 3 am, as there was no Netflix then. I also took up tennis and golf and found myself addicted to it. Playing with my grandchildren is something I look forward to.”