Boat mechanic who tooled up with ingenuity & hard work turns heads

From humble beginnings in Aroor, Kerala, Manoharan K M rose to prominence as a top country boat mechanic. His innovative work with Honda engines earned him a dealership and international acclaim.
Manoharan at the Honda dealers meet in Goa
Manoharan at the Honda dealers meet in Goa

KOCHI : Experience counts. It is the engine that cranks out excellence. And that is what drives the likes of Manoharan K M, who is now the most sought-after country boat mechanic in all of central Kerala. The 55-year-old built up such a reputation that Honda company officials from Japan came calling and awarded him a dealership.

Hailing from Aroor, on the outskirts of Kochi, Manoharan was born to poor parents. The family situation forced him to take up a part-time job in an auto-rickshaw workshop at the age of 13!

“It was in the early 1980s that I started assisting Sura (who he fondly calls asan, or mentor), who owned an auto-repair workshop. Back-engine autos had not been introduced, and we were mainly working on front-engine brands, like the Lambretta. Asan was well versed in the work. But because of his drinking habit, he instructed me to take up most of the work. It became my passion,” recalls Manoharan.

Years rolled by and Sura retired, but not before handing over the workshop to his beloved pupil. Manoharan would often experiment with his ‘mechanical’ knowledge. One day, an elderly man approached him, asking him to fit an engine to his small country boat.

“That was the time when I wanted to do something new. He told me to make an effort and that it wouldn’t matter if I failed. I travelled to Ernakulam and bought a Honda engine and altered it to fit the boat. It was a success. Gradually, other country boat owners, mostly small-time fishermen, began to approach me,” recounts Manoharan, who dropped out of school after failing his 10th.

He was flooded with work orders. And it reached a point where despite working day and night customers had to wait for up to a month for deliveries. People came from different parts of the state after hearing about Manoharan through word of mouth.

Meanwhile, Honda officials called up their dealer in Ernakulam to enquire about the “spurt in sales”. This is when they heard about Manoharan and how he was fitting the company’s engines onto country boats. Initially, a team from Honda’s Delhi office visited him, followed by a delegation from Japan.

“They were surprised how I managed to alter the engine and generate the (output) drive to propel the boats using a handle. Their efforts at manufacturing mechanical-rowing engines hadn’t been a success. They had the theoretical know-how, but lacked my practical knowledge. The company saw this as an opportunity to rival Yamaha in the sector,” a beaming Manoharan says.

In 2016, another Honda team from Japan visited him during the launch of their new GX80 engine, the trial of which was carried out on the Arukutty backwaters in the presence of Manoharan. Soon the company awarded him a dealership and began inviting him to annual gatherings of dealers.

“In 2019, I travelled to Singapore. The company met all my expenses. This year, I attended the event in Goa,” he says.

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The New Indian Express