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Remembering M V Arunachalam

M V Arunachalam could be termed the most familiar public face of the Murugappa group of companies. Along with his uncles AMM Murugappa Chettiar and AMM Arunachalam, he formed the triumvirate that managed and expanded the group in the initial decades. This post graduate of the Madras University was quite articulate and freely participated in social and development activities of the state. The group initially focused on light engineering industries like bicycles and components, steel tubes, abrasives and metal sections. MV took bold decisions to acquire the 200 year old EID Parry which was much bigger and more widely known than the group at that time! In quick time he consolidated and seamlessly synthesised the differing cultures and systems of the TIAM and EID-Parry. The strengths of EID in sugar, confectionary, fertilizers, sanitaryware….were further expanded through the acquisition of Coromandel Fertilizers from the American Chevron. The group emerged a leader in agrichemicals.
MV is remembered for breeding a culture of focusing on core competence. This naturally called for the group looking at the issues purely on business growth, pushing aside sentiment. I often admire the group phasing out the well-established and profitable businesses of confectionary, sanitaryware… and even selling off the iconic TIAM House!
MV should also be credited for induction of professionals of repute at top executive positions. This has helped keep the well-knit Murugappa clan together. The succession plan has been smooth and seems to be well-founded on consensus.
A well-oiled communication machine of the group has also thrown up its leaders in top positions with industry associations like CII and FICCI. MV was President of FICCI and sibling M V Subbiah headed CII for a term.
It was a well-merited posthumous recognition of MV’s services: TN Governor Banwarilal Purohit releasing a postage stamp of MV. Chief Post Master General M Sampath mentioned that such a commemorative stamp was released on the second family member of the Murugappa group: the first one was released in 2005 in memory of founder AMM Murugappa Chettiar.

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