It is hard to separate the Syrian Christians from the natives. After all, they have left a mark in every field possible. From education to entrepreneurship, the community has its own share in the growth of the city.
The story of the Madras Rubber Factory family that started its business in a small shed in the late forties is one of hard work, grit and determination. Started in 1946 by K M Mammen Mappillai in a small shed in Tiruvottriyur that manufactured toy balloons, the unit used no machines. Gradually, the business expanded to manufacturing of tread rubber, becoming the only Indian company to manufacture the product. The very next year it elbowed out a number of MNCs in the field of tread rubber production.
MRF was incorporated as a private company and began manufacturing tyres in collaboration with Mansfield Tyre and Rubber Co (Ohio)under the trade name Mansfield Tyres (MRF).
In a matter of five years, in 1961, the company raised its IPO. In the next two decades, another big milestone in its growth was the founding of MRF Pace Foundation with Australian fast bowler Dennis Lillee as its director.
Talking about the success of the MRF family, Adarsh, a third cousin to the MRF family, says that the success story of the MRF family pretty much reflects the enterprising spirit of the Syrian Christians. “It is an ancestral inspiration for most of us. The stress is always on hardwork and the idea is instilled in the minds from a very young age,” he says.
Another big name in business is the MA Jacob family that again speaks of the prosperity of the Malayali Christians. Jacob Abraham explains why Chennai (then Madras) was the choice in the late thirties for setting up the business that has gone to become the leader in furnishing and home furniture requirements.
“The Kerala region that was largely under Communist influence and this city seemed to be a great recipient for developing the business,” he says.
He adds that the city then as it is today was accepting and had always welcomed those from other parts of the country. “It is almost impossible to feel out of place, in today’s cosmopolitans. However, Chennai isn’t so and I feel very much at home.
Today the Malayali Christians of Chennai have left an indelible mark in every possible sphere — education, medicine and business.