HOW I MADE MY FIRST MILLION….
In 1976, when Vijayan Pillai landed in Mumbai, he had no clue about what job to pick up in the unknown city. The place he put up first was in Dharavi and later near Chembur, a periphery of Asia’s largest slum. In a room, four bachelors including himself lived. He lived in the same room for 12 years. Before reaching Mumbai, he had tried his luck at NTPC’s worksite at Ramagundam, in the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh and later for a few months in Chennai, then named Madras. After falling sick of typhoid while living in Chennai, he returned to his village in Kollam district of Kerala. Later, he unsuccessfully looked for a job in other places. Then he tried his luck successfully in Mumbai through someone who agreed to take him to the city.
As a migrant in the bustling metro with no knowledge of the local language and geography, Pillai didn’t have many choices of jobs before him. First, he took a labor job, as a plumbing assistant for a wage of `7 a day. Something was better than nothing. He had no qualms but determined to do whatever comes to his hands with a high degree of integrity.
Vijayan Pillai has built his company that is engaged in providing plumbing and fire-fighting system contract service in a hard way. For a migrant in India’s financial capital with no godfather or mentor to support, building a business single-handedly is not very easy. From a wage of `7 a day, he built his fortune, a multi-crore project executing company, through sheer hard work, honesty and the skill which he acquired from being a worker himself. He continues to remain engaged tirelessly in his job and mentoring his next generation.
First, he took a labor job, as a plumbing assistant for a wage of `7 a day. Something was better than nothing. He had no qualms but determined to do whatever comes to his hands with a high degree of integrity. At home, there was nothing much to carry with him while coming to Mumbai, other than a good culture and decent upbringing. His father, a farmer, who died 20 years ago, had to take care of four children. Since no wealth to inherit from his parents, Vijayan Pillai knew, hard work with a dream was the only way to build a fortune. He worked tirelessly at a very young age to meet his both-ends in the city, where he had no Godfather or a mentor.
He has been a self-made person with enough story to inspire everyone including educated and not-so-educated. At the same time, he recalls many of his friends, who supported at various times to come to this level. “The list of my friends who supported and encouraged me is too long to mention. They have helped me make what I am today. I have all of them deep in my heart ever memorable,” he reminisces.
For the first 14 years, he worked as labourer having the wage rising from
7 to 37. With the austerity that he knew since his childhood days, he could live happily even with the meagre wage. In normal circumstances, a labourer used to have only limited dreams. But there were opportunities for those who were willing to work harder. He found the truth. “At the time of my marriage in 1990, my wage was `37 a day,” he recalls. After marriage, life turned for a change. That was the first turning point in his life. His wife, Rajalakshmi, came to him like a Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth. “She also contributed what best she could to smoothly sail through the business,” he says with high regards to the support of his wife. By the time, Mr. Pillai’s honesty and integrity were set to reap the blessings of well wishers. For over 10 years since the beginning, he was working as a contract labourer on a Taj Hotel project. His hard work and integrity were admired by the Chief Engineer of the then project. That helped him fetch an independent plumbing and firefighting sub-contract works of Taj President in 1990. That was the first project he took up independently as an entrepreneur. Since then his rise has been steady as the project contractor.
After the Taj President project, he got the plumbing and firefighting systems contract from Lilavati Hospital, Mumbai. “Thereafter, we procured many prestigious projects. Each project was implemented on time. Wherever we executed projects and ran maintenance services, all were happy and repeated contracts wherever they had,” he points out. Over the last three decades, we used to have one or the other live project of Taj Hotel in our hand, he avers. “That shows the trust that India’s topmost hotel brand maintained with us,” he adds. Similarly, many large corporate entities like Reliance, global hotel brands, premium category shopping malls, uptown residential colonies, large real estate companies, etc have placed their trust in the company, which is known for its efficiency in project execution. Combined with his enterprising spirit, his work sincerity, timely completion and work quality helped him gain the trust of project owners. Honesty with good sense never fails, his success shows. In 30 years, his company
executed hundreds of large plumbing and firefighting systems contracts, most of them landmark residential and commercial structures all over the country.
His wife, Rajalakshmi, came to him like a Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth. “She also contributed what best she could to smoothly sail through the business,” he says with high regards to the support of his wife.
Today, more than 500 people find a job in the projects undertaken by the company through 15 projects, on an average, at a time. When the lockdown was declared, migrant labourers returned to their homes. Now we are facilitating their return to the worksite,” he says. Currently, he has projects with a value of `60 crore in hand. Now the second generation is groomed to step into his shoes. His daughter, Viji Pillai, a computer engineer and MBA Finance, has been trained to run the day-to-day affairs of the company along with her husband Abhishek Nair. Studied in London, Abhishek Nair has a degree in Hotel Management. “I am sure, the talents of the second generation would take the company to great heights and find footprints in other potential areas of business too,” he says.
His son Vijesh Pillai has embarked on a branded restaurant business, Kake Da Hotel through a franchisee arrangement with Kake Da Hotel, a heritage restaurant in existence of nearly nine decades. The restaurant is located at a famous business location in Vikhroli-Powai Link Road, Mumbai. Restaurant business has been a passionate segment for Vijesh, an interior designer by professional qualification. A good chef by the talent and having studied in Singapore, Vijesh finds the restaurant business as his right choice by professional taste. He takes his father’s business acumen as an inspiration.
Every business is built by hard work. That is the message Vijayan Pillai sends down to the next generation. As good food keeps everyone healthier, good business practices keep the business growing. Vijay means success.