THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: MM Ramachandran aka Atlas Ramachandran’s WhatsApp status says: “Working hard to rebuild.” And that’s exactly what the Atlas Group founder has been doing ever since his release from 2.5 years of detention by the Dubai Police. He was taken into custody in May 2018 for a delay in the repayment of bank borrowings, as he was in Kerala when the remittances had to be made.
But he has no ill feelings against his former staff members who, in his absence, did not care for his assets -- a whopping 3,000 plus kilos of gold, worth 740 million AED (Rs 1,583.77 crore) -- spread across 44 jewellery shops in the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries.
On his 80th birthday, on Sunday, a few of the banker-turned-jeweller’s friends organised a small gathering at his apartment in Dubai. A video of Ramachandran enjoying a ghazal was shared by a popular radio jockey, Fazlu, on his social media page. The clip shows Ramachandran, clad in his trademark colourful kurta, his wife Indira, who he calls Indu fondly, and their daughter, Dr Manju.
Talking to TNIE over zoom, Ramachandran -- who produced several popular Malayalam films like Vaishali and Sukrutham -- was his vibrant self, going down memory lane. He is keen to resume from where he lost his business.
“It’s always a question of the right time to bounce back but I understand that brand equity has its value. Every day, I wake up as usual, between 5am and 6am. After breakfast, I get ready as if I am going to the office like old times. I attend meetings here, at my home. I am spending the time, as if nothing has happened, ensuring a positive frame of mind. My attitude is that I have to keep up my hard work,” said Ramachandran, grit writ large on his face.
A firm believer in god, Ramachandran is confident that this phase too shall pass. He felt his competitors in the industry, synonymous for its cut-throat competition, had ensured that his businesses were wiped off. He had no inkling what was happening behind his back, he said.
The former Delhi School of Economics product recalled that it was his decision to bring a uniform gold price in the UAE that led to his downfall. That he held several coveted positions -- like the Dubai Shopping Festival’s Gold Promotion Council chairman and the Dubai Gold and Jewellery Group secretary, besides receiving the contract to set up Atlas Jewellery at the Kochi airport -- had not gone down well with his competitors in the trade, he pointed out.
When the CEOs of various companies were not prepared to announce themselves in public, Ramachandran appeared in an advertisement with the tagline ‘Atlas Jewellery — Janakodikalude Vishwasthasthapanam’ (establishment trusted by millions).
If the Atlas Jewellery group’s turnover during the financial year ending 2014 was USD 1 billion (Rs 7,912.82 crore), now he has to start everything from scratch. His life resembles the story of the movie ‘Jacobinte Swargarajyam’, with his wife, Indu, taking baby steps in business -- which saw her selling their two hospitals and following up with the banks to ensure his release.
“In my absence, Indu had to do everything. I didn’t know any lawyers as we never had a case when we were having a roaring business. When we sold our hospitals, we got only AED 35 million when the agreement signed was for AED 105 million as the buyer too was in the doldrums. My release was expedited after the intervention of the ministry of external affairs, as three banks agreed to sign a standstill agreement,” Ramachandran added.