In the late 1970s and 1980s M K Kumar rode the management scene of the south like a colossus. The brilliant chartered accountant was a prized manager who worked for the multinational Pierce Leslie Co Ltd, a renowned British company that was doing flourishing business in plantations. He joined Shaw Wallace and rose to the position of CEO and non-Executive Chairman. But he reached the pinnacle of his career as the Executive Chairman and Chief Executive of Best & Crompton Engineering Ltd. Under his tenure Best & Crompton recorded multi-faceted growth. He embarked on a large number of collaborations with reputed multinationals. Beacon Kone, Beacon Rotork Controls, Beacon Weir, Krest Development and Leasing and over a dozen subsidiaries and associated companies were founded and earned the reputation for the quality and service of their products. Kumar was the first to forge a prized collaboration with Finland’s Kone Corporation, the European leader in elevators and escalators, was set up for the manufacture of elevators and escalators. His financial genius was helpful in accessing funding from Finnish Fund as an equity partner. Best & Crompton flourished in that period as a renowned engineering company engaged in a wide range of manufacturing and engineering construction activities. He lent his expertise as the President of Indian Society for Training & Development, President, Madras Chamber of Commerce & Industry and later President, ASSOCHAM and Founder-President of Indo-Australian Chamber of Commerce which was unique as a bilateral apex chamber having its headquarters in Chennai.
The brilliant business leader trained, groomed and mentored a number of young executives to rise to coveted managerial positions. The rapid expansion of the company forging new collaborations, helped in the quick ascent of managers across the group.
The company also set up joint ventures in Malaysia, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. Best & Crompton was financially starved and was heavily dependent on support from financial institutions. Vijay Mallya with the flourish of his liquor empire was in a mad spree of acquisitions and one of the victims was Best & Crompton. I remember the poignancy with which Kumar referred to this: “in that era of booming liquor business, all that was needed for a liquor baron was to dedicate one of his distillery’s income for acquiring even large well-established, century plus old company like Best & Crompton.” Best & Crompton, which he took to great heights, suffered like many others of Mallya’s acquisitions.
At a time when Chennai was dominated by family owned businesses, Kumar provided an exception of a managerially strong, professionally managed company which reached great heights under his leadership.
It all required Mallya just five years to turn it sick, strip its assets and sell it off.
IE pays its homage to Kumar and sends its condolences to his family and that of his illustrious brother M K Narayanan, former Governor of West Bengal.