Timeless Chettiar Business Sayings from the Community

Chettiar business sayings are timeless and are more relevant than ever for entrepreneurs.

Five parts of patience, six parts of effort_ using traditional ethnic Chettiar business saying

The Chettiar community hails from the southern part of India, particularly Tamil Nadu, stands as a beacon of entrepreneurial spirit and financial acumen. Known for their history in banking, trade, and finance, the Chettiars have left an mark on India’s commercial landscape, paralleling the Marwari community known for its business prowess. These business sayings of the Chettiar community, exploring their historical roots, their influence on contemporary business practices, and the lessons today’s entrepreneurs.

Chettiar History in Business

Historically, the Chettiars were pioneers in the banking and finance sectors, their business ventures stretching across Southeast Asia, Ceylon, Burma, and Vietnam. Their success was not merely a product of shrewd financial strategies but was deeply intertwined with a strong ethical framework, community support, and an education system that emphasized commerce and trade from an early age.

The community’s resilience in the face of adversity, including wars and economic downturns, and their ability to innovate in response to changing market dynamics, have been central to their enduring legacy.

Today the Chettiar community continues to flourish through numerous successful business houses that have roots in traditional Chettiar values yet have embraced global business practices. Notable examples include the

  1. Muthoot Finance Group, specializing in financial services and gold loans.
  2. Murugappa Group, a conglomerate with interests in engineering, cycles, fertilizers, and finance.
  3. Chettinad Group, with ventures in construction, cement production, and education.

These enterprises exemplify how traditional Chettiar business principles have been adapted to contemporary business models, achieving remarkable success both in India and internationally.

The Chettiar community’s approach to organizing themselves in different parts of India and overseas has been characterized by a strong sense of community and mutual support. Through their network of local associations and temples, they have fostered a culture of mentorship, financial support, and business collaboration that has enabled them to thrive in diverse environments.

This framework has not only facilitated business expansion but also ensured the preservation of their cultural heritage and business ethics across generations.  Central to the Chettiar business philosophy are several key sayings that encapsulate their approach to commerce and life.

Aarambathil Asai padu avarai Arambame Kandal

Those who desire too much at the beginning will be seen at the beginning itself. This proverb warns against being overly ambitious or greedy at the start of a business venture. It suggests that excessive aspirations at the outset can lead to early burnout or failure.

The lesson here is to start with realistic expectations and gradually build up a business. Entrepreneurs should focus on sustainable growth rather than seeking immediate success, which can help in long-term establishment and success.

Vandavan Vandi Mel Irupan, Vanangavan Kandi Mel Irupan

The one who comes will sit on the cart; the one who bends will sit on the ground. This saying emphasizes the importance of taking initiative and seizing opportunities. It contrasts proactive individuals with those who hesitate or show excessive humility, suggesting that success favors the bold.

Entrepreneurs are encouraged to be proactive and seize opportunities rather than waiting for them to come by. Taking initiative and being assertive in business dealings can lead to greater success and opportunities for growth.

Kadan Payanulla Vazhkai (A life ridden with debt)

This Chettiar business saying warns about the dangers of accumulating debt and the impact it can have on one’s life and business. It suggests that living a life in debt can lead to constant struggle and unhappiness.

Entrepreneurs can learn the importance of prudent financial management and the need to avoid excessive borrowing. It teaches the value of operating within one’s means and the importance of financial independence for a business.

Sollin Selvan Kaliyan, Kadan Selvan Paliyan

The wealth of words is Kaliyan (prosperous), the wealth of debt is Paliyan (fleeing). This proverb highlights the value of good communication and reputation over financial wealth that comes with liabilities. It contrasts the positive impact of integrity and trustworthiness with the negative consequences of debt.

The importance of building a good reputation through honest communication and ethical practices in business is crucial. Entrepreneurs should prioritize building trust and maintaining a good name over short-term financial gains that come with high liabilities.

Chettiar business sayings

Mudhalil guru, pinbu dharmam  (First master, then offer righteousness)

This reflects the Chettiar belief in the importance of learning from those who are experienced (gurus or mentors) and then conducting business in a manner that is ethically and morally upright. It underscores the balance between acquiring knowledge and applying it ethically.

Entrepreneurs can learn the importance of seeking mentorship and valuing experience while ensuring their business practices are ethically sound. This approach not only aids personal and professional growth but also contributes to building a sustainable and respected business.

Kai kortha vinai  (Your deeds are what your hands do)

This saying emphasizes the value of hard work and personal effort in achieving success. It suggests that one’s actions directly contribute to their achievements and outcomes in business.

This teaches the importance of diligence and personal investment in one’s ventures. Entrepreneurs are reminded that success is often a result of their own efforts and that they should be prepared to actively work towards their goals.

Anju pala thaan Aaru Pala (Five parts of patience, six parts of effort)

This proverb highlights the importance of patience and perseverance, combined with diligent effort, in achieving business success. It suggests that while effort is crucial, patience is equally important in navigating the challenges of entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurs can learn the value of persistence and patience alongside hard work. Understanding that immediate results may not always be possible, and being prepared to stay the course patiently, can lead to greater success in the long run.

Vivasayam thanthai, vanigam thai

Agriculture is the father, commerce is the mother. This saying reflects the deep-rooted respect for agriculture and trade within the Chettiar community, recognizing their complementary roles in sustaining life and society. It underscores the importance of both creating value (through agriculture) and facilitating exchange (through commerce).

It encourages entrepreneurs to recognize the value of production and trade, suggesting a balanced approach to business that respects both creation and distribution. Entrepreneurs should aim to create genuine value while also mastering the art of bringing their products or services to the market.

Thanneer Thalaiyil Satham (Rice on water’s surface)

This Chettiar business saying is used to denote wealth that is visible and accessible, akin to rice floating on water. It suggests that visible success or wealth is more appealing and accessible.

Entrepreneurs are reminded of the importance of visibility and accessibility in their offerings. Making your business or product easily accessible and visible to your target audience can enhance its appeal and success.

Good times will come with patience_Chettiar business sayings

Nalla kaalam varum, porumai venum

Good times will come with patience. This Chettiar business saying encapsulates the belief in the cyclical nature of business and the importance of being patient through challenging periods. It suggests that success and favorable conditions are on the horizon for those who wait diligently and prepare.

One can learn the value of resilience and patience in business. Understanding that markets and business conditions fluctuate, maintaining a steady course and preparing for the upturn is crucial for long-term success.

Kadan Vaangi Kalvi Kattru (Borrow for education)

This saying underscores the importance the Chettiar community places on education, even to the extent of incurring debt. It reflects the belief that investing in knowledge pays the best interest and is crucial for business success.

Entrepreneurs are encouraged to invest in their own education and continuous learning. This investment is seen not as a debt but as a valuable asset that can significantly enhance business capabilities and opportunities.

Uzhaippinil Uyarvu (Elevation through hard work)

This principle highlights the community’s respect for hard work and its role in achieving success. It implies that personal effort and diligence are the keys to elevating one’s status and business success.

It lays the importance of dedication and hard work in their entrepreneurial journey. Success is often a result of consistent effort and commitment to one’s goals.

Sinthikka Sinthikka Selvam Varamal Pogum

By overthinking, wealth will not leave.This advises against the paralysis by analysis, suggesting that overthinking can hinder action but will not diminish one’s wealth. It emphasizes the importance of decisive action in business.

Entrepreneurs thus need to balance thoughtful planning with decisive action. While it’s important to make informed decisions, excessive deliberation should not impede progress.

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