The billionaire who let his heart take over
* It was my decision to slowly liquidate part of my shares to create wealth for the foundation’s philanthropic activities
* Exactly ten years ago, when Chittilappilly was still at the head of his company, he became a kidney donor
* Creating wealth is not successful. Success is about starting a business or product, marketing it, and making it work. Wealth is a byproduct
Kochhouseph Chittilappilly carefully delineates his two identities – the industrialist and the philanthropist – and the two do not mix. For the chairman emeritus of two listed companies, V Guard Industries Ltd and Wonderla Amusement Parks and Resort, the “chef” is firmly in the driver’s seat when the business is going. The “heart” takes over when overseeing the growing philanthropic activities of the K Chittilappilly Foundation. In recent years, Chittilappilly has increasingly delegated business to his sons.
The head-and-heart binary has worked well for the 71-year-old Kochi resident, who has raised $ 1.1 billion in businesses over the past 40 years. “Business is business,” he says cryptically. And he plays him as a thoroughbred, competitive entrepreneur seeking to dominate the market. Philanthropy, he observes, obeys different rules. “There you apply your heart,” he said.
Chittilappilly unloaded 90 lakh shares worth 222 crore this year to fund his philanthropy. The sale of 50 lakh shares in the company earlier this week came on the heels of another – 40 lakh shares worth ₹ 90 crore – made in February. “It was my decision to slowly liquidate some of my stock to build wealth for the foundation’s philanthropic activities,” Chittilappilly said. Blink during a telephone interview.
Over the past decade, the foundation has focused on medical aid and housing for families living below the poverty line, supported women-led self-help groups with micro-businesses, and helped in the education of children, he emphasizes. “Philanthropy has been a part of my life for the past decade, and now I want to scale it up. I retired from V Guard and Wonderla, and it gave me more time, ”he adds.
Exactly a decade ago, when Chittilappilly was still running his business, he became a kidney donor. He was 60 when he donated the organ to a 42-year-old truck driver. The action set Chittilappilly apart from the ordinary platitudes of corporate social responsibility and has been the bulwark of his social enterprise ever since. Multiple requests for financial assistance for dialysis and organ transplants often landed at his office at the foundation. He came to understand closely the reservations about organ donation, even among family members of kidney patients. He decided to act by setting an example, by donating the organ to a stranger.
It was a challenge, he admits. “But I thought if I was healthy then why not?” Ten years later, he remains in good health, while the recipient must watch his daughter grow into a teenager. Chittilappilly’s much publicized organ donation has given the cause in Kerala more weight. “Compared to other states, organ donation is very popular in Kerala, especially among the family,” he says.
On the other hand, his interventions to rid the state of stray dogs made him unpopular among animal rights activists and led him to fight with animal welfare organizations. At the head of the “free movement of stray dogs”, he had started a hunger strike to demand the protection of people from stray dogs, and even filed a petition in the High Court of Kerala in 2014.
“We receive requests for help from accident victims at the foundation. When we probe the nature of the accident, we find cases where two-wheeler crashes are caused by stray dogs, ”he says.
The problem had polarized society, and stray dog attacks on people, some fatal in the state, often led to calls for their slaughter. Years after things came to a head, Chittilappilly says, “People who worry about stray dogs should provide them with shelter and feed them well. If they are hungry and are outside, they will bite.
The billionaire who started with a small voltage stabilizer business in 1977, two employees and a capital of 1,000,000 from his father, says it’s time to recoup. “I was born and raised in a village. Aside from my father’s initial support, I made my fortune through the company. I have a moral responsibility to give part of it, ”he says.
Philanthropy, he observes, has never been a chapter without context; it was a slow process that lasted a lifetime. As a small businessman in his early days, he helped as best he could, he adds.
Chittilappilly has kept a close eye on contemporary entrepreneurs and their backgrounds, whether it’s NR Narayana Murthy from Infosys or Azim Premji from Wipro. He has witnessed the changing dynamics of the business itself. “New entrepreneurs don’t hesitate to part with their fortunes. In addition, families have become nuclear. There is no sense in giving all the wealth to your children. A good amount of money can be set aside for the needy, ”he notes.
Chittilappilly’s business has diversified into a range of electrical products and amusement park chains in Kochi, Bangalore and Hyderabad. Besides his philanthropic endeavors, he is now engaged in a smaller business – Veegaland Homes. “It’s a very, very small entity compared to V Guard and Wonderla; here we are building small-scale apartments.
In another small start is a business philosophy that has always guided Chittilappilly – an incredible appetite for success. It clearly delineates the two takeaways of a good business: success and wealth.
“Creating wealth is not a success. Success is about building a business or product, marketing it, and making it work. Wealth is a by-product. We are not only working to create wealth, but to create more and more success stories. “