One of the pioneers in the retail revolution of Madras, a marketing legend and a person with a business knack — this is what businessmen who had worked with H. Vasanthakumar had to say about him.
“He joined our family business, VGP showroom, at Saidapet during the 1970s. He joined as an ordinary worker and within a few months became a salesman. Seeing his work and dynamism, my father promoted him as the branch manager,” said V.G.P. Ravidas, managing director of the VGP Group. He recollected that in those days, salesmen from VGP went for a door-to door campaign, and Mr. Vasanthakumar was one of the key canvassers. “While other salesmen strike 5-10 deals a day. Vasanthakumar would come back with 50 orders… He was a string salesman who picked up entrepreneurial skills quickly,” Mr. Ravidas said.
In 1978, he started Vasanth & Co, a consumer durable firm, which sold wired chairs. During those days, Mr. Vasanthakumar was the owner, marketer and salesman for the brand. As years passed, the firms started selling television sets, fans, air-conditioners, mobile phones and other home appliances. He worked with brands such as LG, Samsung, Sony, Philips, Whirlpool and Sharp. Today, the firm has its branches across the State.
“He was a legend — a marketing and innovation genius. All the manufacturers of white goods queued up to tie up with Vasanth & Co to sell their products because of attractive consumer schemes launched by Mr. Vasanthakumar,” said Gopal Srinivasan, Chairman, TVS Capital Funds.
Mr. Gopal Srinivasan worked closely with Mr. Vasanthakumar when the TVS Group had a joint venture with Whirlpool. Whirlpool had forayed into Indian market in the late 1980s in a joint venture with the TVS Group.
B.A. Kodandaraman, chairman and managing director of Viveks, who knew him personally for over 40 years, said his sheer determination and positive outlook made him what he was today, no matter how difficult a situation. “He built Vasanth & Co a great retail organisation in the consumer durable industry in India,” he said.
Suhail Sattar, chairman of the Chennai Chapter of the Retail Association of India, said Mr.Vasanthakumar paved the way for organised retail in the consumer durable space. “I met him nine months ago at the airport, and he said he was visiting one of his stores outside the city — that’s the kind of commitment he had,” Mr. Sattar said.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, people flocked to Vasanth & Co as the retailer offered innovative EMI schemes catering to the middle-class groups. Those who purchased during festive seasons were given attractive prizes and discounts.