How A Landless Farmer’s Son Built A Rs 3,600 Cr Empire & Swept Markets

Born to a father who was a landless farmer, 57-year-old Arokiaswamy Velumani today is the founding chairman of Thyrocare Technologies Limited. This brand is worth Rs 3,600 crore currently and employs more than 1,000 people all of whose average age is around 25 years. His business is not based on traditional knowledge and traditions.

In April 2016, Thyrocare took the Indian stock market and business gurus by storm when its IPO got a tremendous response and was oversubscribed 73 times. It has around 1,200 franchisee in the country where it collects samples directly from the patients or from the hospital. Then these samples are brought to a fully-automated laboratory in Mumbai.

The story goes back to a small village in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu where he was born into a poor family. He was eldest among four siblings. His parents were landless farmers who could barely fulfill the basic necessities of the family. Overwhelmed by family’s poor financial condition Velumani began working in fields after his school.

Despite the difficulties Velumani has always been an optimist who only saw the glass half-full. He only looks at the brighter side of things. Recollecting about his childhood, Velumani sys, “While going to school I had slate in one hand and a plate in one hand as the school served food.”

I had only one shirt which I would wear to school for three-four days. And on days my mother washed it I went to school wearing just half-pant.

Rising from the bottom of the economic pyramid to the top wasn’t easy. In 1978, he began working as a chemist with a capsule company against a paltry salary of Rs 150. After four years the company shut down and threw Velumani into a tizzy. He started applying to a lot of places and received a response from Bhabha Atomic Research Centre where he had applied for the post of scientific assistant and he joined the Mumbai office in 1982.

For someone who had spent most of his life in poverty, getting a government job of Rs 880 was nothing less than luxury. I began using the money to help my family improve its financial condition.

Alongside his job Velumani completed his post-graduation and went on to finish his doctorate in thyroid biochemistry from Mumbai University. After working in Bhabha Atomic Research Centre for 15 years he started feeling that his life had become way too comfortable for his liking. He decided to quit – a decision none of his family members except for his wife.

In 1995, Velumani pulled out Rs 1 lakh from his provident fund and rented a 200 sq feet garage space. This is how Thyrocare started in Byculla in South Mumbai. He had to face several challenges in the beginning but never gave up. He went to the laboratories and hospital himself to collect the samples. Gradually, the number of samples grew. In 1998, Velumani had 15 employees and had a turnover of Rs 1 crore.

After some time they expanded and began taking samples for diabetes, arthritis and many other diseases. Velumani now holds 65% of the company’s share, 20% of the share rests with the public while private equity has 10% of Thyrocare’s share.

Today, the company receives a minimum 50,000 samples out of which 80 per cent are for thyroid testing. In 2015-16, Thyrocare clocked a turnover of Rs 235 crore.

From the 10 slices of the economic pyramid I was on the last one but now I am at the top most of it. Back then I did not have money but a lot of time. Now I have a lot of money but no time. I was hungry but had no food in those days and now there is so much to eat but hardly any appetite.

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