Evening was special today for Chennai’s Entrepreneurs, it’s the annual TiECON awards night and this year it was being hosted by Chennai’s favourite Historian Sriram Venkatakrishnan. Sriram was at his best, tracing the entrepreneur spirit of our city for last 375 years till date, the audience were entertained and were learning history at the same time.

  • Madras got founded by Francis Day and Andrew Cogan of East India Company on the land they leased from the local Nayak on 22nd August 1639 as a trading post, to procure Indian textile and send it to Britain and rest of Europe.
  • Madras was essentially a trading post, with many British owned companies that were founded in the city was by relatives of East India company officers. Modern India institutions got founded in Madras.
  • Healthcare evolved in Madras with Mary Anne Dacomb Bird in 1870s reading an article on women dying during childhood fighting for right to do a medical course in Madras General Hospital, then in 1882, at the age of 37, she was awarded her MB degree by the University of London, with Honours in all subjects and a gold medal in obstetric medicine. Mary Anne was the first woman to win this distinction in the annals of the University of London. She went on to establish Gosha Hospital in Triplicane (now called Govt. Kasturba Gandhi Hospital for Women and Children), Mary delivered by using Forceps (a first in India) a girl child who went on to become famous Widow welfare socialist Sister R.S.Subbalakshmi.
  • R.S.Subbalakshmi in her own way setup many institutions to work for welfare for women including Sarada Vidyalaya in T.Nagar and one who had the courage to close her movement when sustainable progress had been made on the issue of widow welfare.
  • The first steam automobile trial in Mount Road by Simpsons and Co., the arrival in early 1850s of six 13-tonne locomotives for Madras Railway Company by ships from London was a sensation for people of Chennai to watch.
  • During First World War Madras Harbour was one of the safest for the British Empire, with only one German Ship SMS Emden dropping bombs over Oil Tanks and ships in Madras shore. The incident has left a mark in the Tamil culture by giving the name “Emden” to symbolise a tough/rough guy, even though the ship was here for just one hour. Overnight property prices in Madras fell down with fire sale all over the city.
  • From 1905 to 1919, how Madras harbour was expanded vastly under the stewardship of Sir Francis Spring. Springs estimation on the traffic that the port could handle in the next 50 years turned out to be accurate, he had predicted that by 1970 the city will need another port, today Ennore Port opened in 2001 serves that purpose. How Madras got its famous Marina Beach, which was a creation of the man made harbour which was seeing in the south side sand accretion and in the north side severe sea erosions.
  • The International Ice Company was established in Madras in 1874 and in 1886, Subramania Pillai, of the firm of P. Vencatachellum’s began the South India Ice Factory in the city to make Ice locally and making the import from America unnecessary.
  • In 1951 M Ct M Chidambaram Chettyar wanted to build a headquarters modelled on the UN Building in New York, for his empire comprising United India Insurance, which was nationalised after his sudden death and the building eventually became the famous Madras Landmark LIC building in Mount Road.
  • The credit for the eradication of smallpox in Madras goes largely to the Communicable Diseases Hospital (CDH) at Tondiarpet and to Dr Ayyagari Ramachandra Rao who headed it from 1959 to 1964 who after studying smallpox cases over the years, calculated a wave its every 3 years and before the next one vaccinated any patient who walked into a Government hospital in the city.
  • How S.S.Vasan and AVM Chettiar setup a thriving a film industry in Madras. Vasan to fund his mega budget movie Chandralekha (1948) released an English book’s (Thirty three Secrets to a Successful Marriage) translation into Tamil and gave it a tantalising title “இல்வாழ்க்கையின் ரகசியங்கள்“. Sriram jokingly compared the title to what it will be if you name a Chess book as a “Manual for 64 different positions”
  • Lastly on the huge impact that M.G.R’s Mid-Day Meal scheme had in improving Literacy in the state.


The awardees for the night was selected by a distinguished committee, most were new faces to TiE and I felt they were excellent choices by the jury. The awardees were:

  • Entrepreneurs of the Year – Bharath K. S. & Mr. Nagaraj Krishnan, Aparajitha Corporate – Contract Labour, Legal outsourced services
  • Next-Gen Entrepreneur of the year – Vedant Jhaver, CEO, Prodapt – Telecom Software Services
  • Hidden Gem – S K M Shree Shivkumar MD – SKM Egg Products
  • Associate Member of the year – Mr. M. Sivakumar, Co-Founder and CEO, Nimble Wireless – IoT Solutions
  • Startup entrepreneur of the year – Krish Subramanian , Co-founder and CEO, Chargebee – Billing Solutions
  •  Lifetime Achievement Award to Mr. Nalli Kuppuswami Chetti, who talked about how listening to Carnatic Music program by M.S.Subbulakshmi in Krishna Gana Sabha developed his interest in Music.

The young artist Vilas Nayak, who on stage draw Dr Nalli Kuppuswami Chetti in seconds that too upside down was amazing.

Vilas Nayak drawing upside down a portrait of Dr.Nalli Kuppuswami Chetti

Vilas Nayak drawing upside down a portrait of Dr.Nalli Kuppuswami Chetti

Vilas Nayak's portrait of Dr.Nalli Kuppuswami Chetti

Vilas Nayak’s portrait of Dr.Nalli Kuppuswami Chetti

It was a wonderful evening to cherish and I enjoyed it thoroughly and looking forward to tomorrow for the full day conference.



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