As you sow... so shall you reap
With the new generation taking to IT like fish to water, many parents who have established businesses now realise that their business may not continue beyond their lifetime. One such parent I met last week was M. Pugazhenthi, a first-generation entrepreneur. He established Anantha Book Centre, a stationery store, when he was only 25.
From Kumbakonam, Pugazhenthi arrived in Madras in 1976 – most of his relatives, especially from his mother’s side, were here, and the job opportunities available in a city tempting. In Big Street, Triplicane, Pugazhenthi worked at the Vasantha Book Centre, run by a relative. For five years he learnt the trade. Meanwhile, in 1973, he had purchased a house in M.G.R. Nagar and his sights were now set on opening his own store in the vicinity. Backed by his experience in Triplicane, Pugazhenthi established Anantha Book Centre in 1981, on Anna Main Road. In about 150 sq ft of space, he started selling notebooks and stationery items that were necessary for school students. Today, he stocks books on general knowledge, science, well-known personalities (you will find primers on Kamaraj and Fidel Castro), cookery, computers and numerology, as well as dictionaries in English, Tamil, Hindi, Malayalam and French, and story books for children. And there are envelopes, covers, account notebooks, files, diaries and calendars. If you are a stamp collector, you will find some rare stamps at Anantha; and some rare coins as well.
When Pugazhenthi set up shop, he was the only one. Now there are several. Since Anantha has been around for 27 years, everybody in the area knows the place and comes. Puzazhenthi says he sometimes wonders whether he is running the business well. Kalyani, whom he married in July 1983, comes to assist him by afternoon and stays till late evening. The business, however, is unlikely to go into the hands of the next generation – elder daughter Ananthi now works for Perot Systems, and Priya, while studying computer applications, is working for Cognizant Technologies. “They have reached a different status and will not be interested in this business,” he is convinced.
Pugazhenthi was born in Kumbakonam. His father K. Mohananandam was a landlord. The youngest of five children (four sisters), Pugazhenthi studied at the Banadurai HS School, Kumbakonam, passing SSLC in 1969. When his father died, he could study no further, and immediately began work as kanakapullai (account keeper) in an oil mill in Panrutti. And, well, he has indeed come a long way! And ensured that his hard work has not gone in vain - his children are proof of that.