80 Years of Karma Yoga

Setty S. Viswanathan (1923 - 2020)

“Rama Vilas in Salem is 115 years old. It is known for its high-quality textiles. The promoters S. N. Ramaswamy Chettiar and S. N. Sadasivam Chettiar were known to be hard working and committed. This textile wholesale outlet supplied quality goods sourced from the weavers of Salem to a number of establishments around the country. The founders hailed from the Setty family and were the sons of Navakoti Narayana Chetty and Balalakshmi. Narayana Chetty was an educated and refined person. He was the ninth child in his family. This family was known as the 'Setty' family. All the good occasions were solemnised in their presence. They were blessed with one more brother Setty S. N. Padmanabha Chetty (1893 - 1973) and two sisters. The family lived happily in Salem town.”

“Setty S. Viswanathan was the only son of S. N. Sadasivam Chettiar. He began to work from the age of 17 and kept himself updated with the business until the age of 97. He passed away recently in his sleep and it was an 'Anaayaasa Maranam'. This Karma Yogi had worked for 80 years. Such a passing away happens to good and blessed souls only. Setty S. Viswanathan proved that he was a good soul in both - life and death. I remember meeting his father S.N. Sadasivam Chettiar in the Avadi Congress Conference in the year 1955. I was a young boy of 15 years of age at that time.”

“S. N. Sadasivam Chettiar's only son Setty S. Viswanathan is 17 years older than me. He was an active person all his life. He followed the footsteps of his father. I liked his approach to life for he was busy all his life. He was up to date with his work till his last day. He was known for completing his work on a day-to-day basis. Viswanathan did not believe in 'arrears'. He was cast in the mould of his father S. N. Sadasivam Chettiar. Work discipline had been part of the family culture. This helped them to grow over the years. Suppliers would be settled in cash within 4 hours. S. N. Sadasivam Chettiar had created such a marvellous system. Setty S. Viswanathan had picked up this trait from his father.”

“Clients of Rama Vilas could pick up goods based on their needs at any time of the year. Setty S. Viswanathan was known to manage his inventory in order to ensure speedy supplies. All his goods were of high quality. He used to look after the family retail business too. His hard work knew no bounds. Setty S. Viswanathan was exceptionally good with his work. He was straight as a stick. His memory was prodigious. He would remember the cost of each and every consignment that had reached his outlet. His recalling capacity was extremely accurate, which could be observed from the way he would recall even the dates connected with each of his consignments.”

“Setty S. Viswanathan was endowed with a photographic memory. His mind would simply register the order details and there would never be a need to look at the order form once again. His mind functioned like a computer. I used to look upon S. N. Sadasivam Chettiar from my younger days. He was a father figure for me. S. N. Sadasivam Chettiar treated me like his son. My father Nalli Narayanaswamy Chettiar passed away all of a sudden in 1953. S. N. Sadasivam Chettiar came over to Chennai immediately and spent 2 days with our family. I was the only male heir in the family and had to get into the management of 'Nalli' in the year 1956. S. N. Sadasivam Chettiar approached my uncle Nalli Rangaswamy Chettiar and told him that he should guide me (Nalli Kuppuswamy Chettiar) until I completed 18 years of age. He kind of ordered him to be with me until then. My uncle trained me thereafter. Usually, family seniors would only play such a role, but S. N. Sadasivam Chettiar did so much out of concern for me.”

“S.N. Sadasivam Chettiar was known to treat his employees and suppliers like a family. There was a time when a supplier made an employee create false purchases. Both the supplier and employee made money out of these transactions. This was going on for some time. Neither S. N. Sadasivam Chettiar nor his brother S. N. Ramaswamy came to know of this anomaly. These crooks were finally identified by Setty S. Viswanathan Chettiar. On learning about this, his father S. N. Sadasivam stated that this was due to his oversight. Why should a person be punished for working under a careless management? The concerned employee came to know of this, and he underwent a change of heart! S. N. Sadasivam Chettiar lived as per the Thirukkural verse "Orutharkku Oru Nalai Inbam Porutharkku Pondrum Thunaiyum Pughazh" (The one who does not tolerate the work of a wrong doer is happy or one day, but the one who tolerates the misdemeanour will be famous for eternity).”

“Setty S. Viswanathan was a calm person. He would not talk much but his words would be laced with love and concern. He would visit us in Chennai those days. The stay used to be at Ramakrishna Lunch Home. He would complete his collection and return to Salem. The wealthy gentleman led a simple life. His high-income levels did not lead him to indulgence. I remember watching plays in his company. In fact, this habit began with him. He used to complete his work by 5 PM and come to our shop before 6 PM. We would watch plays thereafter. He liked plays and I remember watching the play 'Dronar' by R. S. Manohar with him. This was the first occasion. He took me to watch one play by Cho. Ramaswamy. Setty S. Viswanathan Chettiar accompanied me during my first trip abroad. He was a person of refined taste. He used to attend all our family celebrations and I used to reciprocate his gesture.”

“The wonderful Karma Yogi worked for 80 years. He had joined his father at the age of 17. His accounting processes were perfect. The son Badri was a Chartered Accountant. Badri used to ensure that his father, Setty S. Viswanathan would get the required funds for business on time. Badri had an exceptionally large circle of friends. The son and the father enjoyed a lovely relationship. Badri passed away all of a sudden. The loss of the son was something beyond consolation. However, Setty S. Viswanathan Chettiar conducted himself like a sage at that moment by not showing out his grief.”

“Setty S. Viswanathan concentrated on bringing up Badri's son, Karthik, thereafter. He made the grandson do an M. B. A. and brought him into his business - Rama Vilas. He taught him the nick knacks of the textile trade. The grandson used to accompany Setty S. Viswanathan during his early days. Subsequently the grandson began to visit us for business on his own. Setty S. Viswanathan Chettiar had thus trained his grandson Karthik Badri to become a successful businessman. Karthik is doing very well today.”

“The life of Salem Setty S. Viswanathan Chettiar will guide the youngsters of today. He will always be a role model. If rendered, his biography will be a guiding spirit for entrepreneurs!”

Related Posts

Shantilal Karamshi Somaiya ( 1927 - 2010 )

Shantilal Karamshi Somaiya used to visit the Arya Vaidya Pharmacy at Coimbatore regularly. He used to be ensconced in the facility near the Dhanvantri...

The Balakot Airstrike

Nabhah Sparsham Deeptam Bombing Balakot 18 February 2019 Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa....Tony Dhanoa as he is called by his buddies, was...

A Compelling & Insightful Foreword by S Jaishankar

Back in 2005 during my B school days Dr SP Singh used to teach us Geopolitical and Social Environment of Business, we understood it was a connected wo...