Sunday, December 01, 1996

KTWV02-Issue 5: Stephanian Malayalis

Hi Web-surfing Stephanians,

I was web surfing when I came across the mention in some Indian web newspaper that the Kerala Seafood Exporters were intending to start a stir for something or the other. When I looked down the srticle I noticed the name of one Mr. A. J. Tharakan, who is the Convenor of the action Committee. Bells jingled in my head as I put two and two together!!

This week I concentrate my topic about a couple of Stephanian Christian Malayalees - you can't get away from that crowd, can you!

Who is India's largest sea-food exporter?

He is none other than Stephanian Abraham Tharakan (the same J. A Tharakan mentioned above), known as Abe during his days at St. Stephens, who was in residence along with me in the early sixties.

Abe was one of the few Christian Malayalees at college and was an inseparable friend of Ajit Ninan. (Other Christian Malayalees I can remember by name are Delhi veteran journalist B. G. Verghese who married lady Stephanian Jameela, my elder brother in Chennai Dr. Ranjit Matthan, Bangalore top electronics consultant T. Joseph Joseph, athlete and Indian Army Officer, now Kottayam based Publishing Manager of Manorama Publications, Jose Vallikappan, guitarist Ranjit Jacob (see below), Bombay Cathedralite, Stephanian, Cambridge and Stanford economist, Dr. Peter Phiip, New Yorkian (?) artist, etc. Prakash Joseph, John Thomas (sorry - no info), Kottayam planter and industrialist George Verghese, Trivandrum planter Ajit Ninan, Chief Editor of Malayala Manorama, Ko tayam, Mammen Mathew, Kottayam and Supreme court lawyer Joseph Vellapally, Managing Editor of The WEEK in Kochi, Philip Mathew - and the Arctic jack-of-no-trade, supposedly Plastics and Microelectronics expert, yours truly.) (Others - please inform me!!)

Abe completed his economics degree (along with present Indian Finance Secretary Montek Singh Alhuwalia) in 1963 and joined the Indian Revenue Service. However, he did not think much of being a bureaucrat and shifted as a management executive and tea taster to Brooke Bond. After 10 years he shifted to Kochi and started a small business called Amalgam Foods.

It took him about 2 long years to get his product accepted on the international market. Today Amalgam has a turnover of around US$65 million which is about 8% of the marine exports from India.

Abe started the process of freeze-drying and pre-cooking shrimps. He started the first cooked shrimp factory in India. He then started several other sea-food related ventures and now has factories all along both Indian coastlines.

Abe has set a target of crossing a turnover of US$100 million by the end of the millenium and to do this he has planned a cold-store chain across the country and a large poultry farm complex. I think we wish him all the best to achieve his target.

I do not know whether Abe is on the web as yet, but as a high flyer I am sure that he will soon have to be. It feels good to share in his success.

The story of Ranjit Jacob is also remarkable. He was a classmate of my elder brother, Dr. Ranjit Matthan (who left college in 1960 and did his doctorate on Rubber Technology from London).

I think that it was in 1959 when they all parted to go home for their vacations, that Ranjit Jacob fell off the train on Jamuna Bridge and was very seriously injured. He missed a year at college and returned the year I joined. Although his speech was slightly impaired he was back to all his old tricks being a great singer and guitarist. He used to seranade and entertain us in his room with all the popular melodies of the fifties. Shy and retiring by nature I believe he is now settled in Chennai.

Hope to give you more stories in a fortnight,

Till then, take care,

Your Stephanian colleague

Jacob Matthan

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