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Ornamental fish produced this successful entrepreneur. Unlike in the past, launching an enterprise in Tamil Nadu is easier with the availability of consultancy from the government as well as several companies. About 50 years ago, the situation was more challenging. Nobody would offer consultancy or advice and you would be dogged by funds crunch. Yet there were entrepreneurs who dared to carry on business in the face of the heaviest odds. But several sank into oblivion. A few stood their ground, catching up with the times and adapting to changes driven by technology.
Kuppusamy is one of the few who withstood time and trial. The 86-year-old started his industrial career with ornamental aquaculture and now runs an enterprise supplying particular kinds of fish to universities for medical research in biotechnology.
His fish breeding centre is at Manimangalam in Kancheepuram district. Age hardly withering his entrepreneurial spirit, he has no inhibitions in sharing his knowledge with wannabe industrialists.
He spoke of his road to entrepreneurship to inmathi.com
Question: How did you cultivate interest in ornamental fish culture?
Answer: In my youth, my ambition was to become an industrialist. I studied up to intermediate (old-time version of today’s Plus-Two). I got a small job in the veterinary department. With that handy experience, I reared goats and pigs. But I could not sustain it because my neighbours complained of disturbances. Moreover, rearing livestock does not immediately fetch you returns. After selling them to slaughterhouses, you had to repeatedly make efforts to get back your money. I thus started thinking of some other entrepreneurial options.
Now 86, he started his entrepreneurial career with ornamental aquaculture, growing his venture into an enterprise supplying particular kinds of fish to universities for medical research in the biotechnology sector.
Q: What options appealed to you?
A: I thought of businesses that would not cause trouble to my neighbours and yet ensure a steady money flow. One day as I was at the entrance to the mosque in Periamet near Moore Market, I saw devotees washing legs and hands from a water tub placed there. I also noticed colourful fish floating in the water and people feeding them with puffed rice. It was then that the idea struck me to rear ornamental fish.
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Q: Did you immediately go for it?
A: No. I needed several kinds of fish for that. So, I went in search of them. I found the Chennai Corporation staff breeding a particular variety of fish in their wells at home – the fish used for eliminating mosquitoes. I launched my business with that variety. I set up a shop near Moore Market. Since I had gained some experience working in the veterinary department, it was easier for me to identify the small colourful fish.
Q: Where did you breed the ornamental fish?
A: At my home in Tambaram. I bred several kinds at the breeding centre I had set up at home. It caused no problem. Yet, some malicious people complained to the Collector. It took me a great deal of trouble to convince the officials who had come for inspection and inquiry. They understood and went back. I was so upset over the episode that I chose a site near Manimangalam lake – where there was not much human movement – and set up fish farming.
Meanwhile, the then Chief Minister, MGR, inaugurated a fish sale centre at the veterinary office at Nandanam in Chennai. He also arranged for a centre nearby to sell ornamental fish. I joined that and improved my business. Besides, I taught several people the techniques of ornamental aquaculture.
We have moved from production of colourful chicks to breeding of particular varieties of fish for university research. It is our fish that are used all over India for medical research.
Q: In those days, Manimangalam must have had no great facilities. How did you manage?
A: Yes. It’s true. Manimangalam area had no great facilities those days. It was full of palm trees. But it was my mental strength that stood me in good stead. Then the veterinary department set up chicken sales centres in villages to promote poultry and I got involved in the work. At that time, several places had no electricity. We launched a centre for hatching of chicks at Kozhivakkam in Chengalpattu district. That too had no electricity facility, and we used hurricane lamps to set up incubators and successfully got the chicks hatched. Impressed by my work, the officials entrusted me with more challenging tasks. With the experiences gained thus, I started my own venture.
Q: How long has your industry been going?
A: About 35 years. We have moved from production of colourful chicks to breeding particular fish varieties for supply to university researchers. My sons are running the industry successfully. It is our fish supply that is used now all over India for medical research.
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