The Thiagarajar School of Management was established by Shri. Karumuthu Thiagaraja Chettiar, a visionary entrepreneur and benevolent philanthropist. His patronage of arts led him to be referred to by the sobriquet “Kalaithanthai”, meaning “Father of Arts”, and he was popularly called Karumuthu. Born in 1893, he completed his education partly in India, and partly in erstwhile Ceylon (Sri Lanka), where he embarked on his professional career as an assistant editor in the Ceylon English Daily “Morning Leader”. His leadership qualities came to the fore when, outraged at the unfair working conditions of Tamil laborers, he took it upon himself to fight for improving their lives. He wrote a series of articles, and even published a book “Indian Immigrant on Ceylon Estates”. His relentless efforts eventually compelled the Government to agree to his demands – no mean achievements for a young man, aged all of 22. In 1916, he returned to his motherland, contributing to the Freedom Struggle by joining the Congress the following year; he was made the President of the Labour wing.
Service to Education is Service to God
His ambitious nature didn’t allow him to rest on his laurels, and he embarked on his entrepreneurship journey with the establishment of the Meenakshi Mills Ltd. in Madurai in 1921 – the first of 18 textile mills. His business acumen helped him to acquire sugar factories, and the reputed firm of P.ORR & Sons Pvt. Ltd in Chennai. Not content with his achievements, he ventured into banking and insurance – Bank of Madura and Madura Insurance namely; the print media being his first career, he also started a newspaper – Tamil Nadu.
Shri. Karumuthu Thiagaraja Chettiar met Sri Rabindranath Tagore at Shantiniketan in Kolkata, where he had gone on a business matter. Tagore inspired him to give back to society; this was the beginning of his philanthropic journey. He established numerous charitable trusts: Thiagarajar Endowment, in 1944, Thiagarajar Dharma Vanigam in 1948, Thiagarajar College Endowment Trust in 1951, the Thiagarajar Charities in 1962, and Thiagarajar Educational Trust. In memory of his wife, he founded the Visalakshi Kalasalai – a school, in his hometown, A.Thekkur in Sivaganga district, in 1959. It was inaugurated by the Prime Minister at the time, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.
It was this time with his proactive thinking and ability to visualize the future that led him to realize the need for professionally trained, efficient managers. Just a few years later, Shri. Karumuthu Thiagaraja Chettiar established the Thiagarajar School of Management, in 1962.