Now, have you heard of a trade union leader who is also part of management? I met a gentleman last week who was! G. Velayuthan is perhaps the only example of a trade union leader in India having worked simultaneously on the sides of union and management. In December 1972, 30 months after joining Kothari Industrial Corporation as stenographer, Velayuthan was elected joint secretary of the Kothari Group Employees Union. He went on to become general secretary and remained so till 2002. In 1994, he took over as chief executive of the company and later turned whole-time director. In his 36 years with Kothari’s, Velayuthan was also PRO and head-publicity & PR; he was the company’s public face.
How did he manage it all? “Maintaining the balance was easy. I could meet the chairman when I wanted. I never demanded anything, only asked for a share of profits for workers. Once, when the company was not doing well, I asked management to reduce workers’ salaries 25 per cent. After we tided over the crisis, each worker received a raise of Rs 1,000. My objective all along was to show that union is not management’s enemy; union is creator, not destroyer,” he explained.
Velayuthan was a Telephone Advisory Board member (1994-96), Southern Railway Advisory Board member (1990-94), Madras Productivity Council president (1995-97), Kothari Group Employees Cooperative Society president, and trustee of the company’s PF and gratuity schemes. A resident of M.G.R. Nagar-K.K. Nagar since 1972, he was chartered president of the Lions Club of Singara Chennai (1995), and chief commandant of TN Station’s Vigilance Committee and the Railway Police. He won the Union Government’s Indira Gandhi National Integration Award in 1994 and the International Integrity Peace Friendship Society’s Bharat Jyoti Award the following year.
Born in Kattakada Village, 15 km from Thiruvananthapuram, Velayuthan was the last of nine children born to Chellamma (she is 99 now) and Govinda Pillai, a farmer. Velayuthan studied at the Kattakada HS School and passed SSLC in 1965 (in those days hardly five per cent in Kerala’s villages would pass the exam, he says). He was class topper throughout. Velayuthan came to Madras – elder brother Kesava Pillai was working at the TN Housing Board. He passed typewriting-shorthand in 18 months. He was 17 when he joined Jaihind Travels, Royapettah. After two years, he joined Guindy Machine Tools. Then Kothari’s happened.
Velayuthan now runs Parvathi Fertilizer India Pvt. Ltd., trading in palm oil.