Monday, March 3, 2014

Banking down south at Mayavaram :Indo Commercial Bank

Indo Commercial Bank New Building Opening
Indo Commercial Bank New Building Opening
It had to happen to this column one day. I’m caught in the middle of two 
groups of descendants claiming that their ancestors were the persons
 who founded the Indo-Commercial Bank in Mayavaram (Miscellany,
 February 3). I’ll just present today the material sent to me by the rival 
claimants and look forward to readers who might know anything about
 the subject sending in more information.
It was on December 23, 2013 that I had mentioned “S.N.N. Sankaralingam’s 
Indo-Commercial Bank” and on February 3 I mentioned that the postman’s 
knock arrived with information that the Bank has been started by Rao Bahadur 
Subramanyam, T.R. Venkatarama Sastry, A.R. Vishwanathan, T. Sivaswamy
 and A. Venkataraman, and that S.N.N. Sankaralingam (SNN) was first Manager 
and then Managing Director of the Bank which had functioned in a house in
 Mayavaram in 1933 and then moved in 1935 into a handsome new building 
it built in Mayavaram.
This claim is what has brought a heap of responses from descendants of SNN. First, 
there are two pages from the Articles of Association of the Bank (the first page 
with the date is missing) stating that the “the first Directors of the Bank” shall
 be Rao Bahadur C.S. Subramaniam Pantulu, V. Venkatarama Iyer, R. Viswanatha 
Aiyar, K. Sivaswami Aiyar and S.N.N. Sankaralinga Iyer and that S.N.N.
 Sankaralinga Iyer “shall be the first Managing Director”. It adds, “All acts 
bona fide done by the said Directors on behalf of the Bank prior to the
 registration of these Articles are hereby ratified and confirmed by the 
Bank.” The “prior” in the wording probably refers to the activities of the 
Bank from its founding in, according toThe Hindu, November 1932. 
This is supplemented by T.M. Satchit’s Who’s Who in Madras, 1935 
stating that S.N.N. Sankaralinga Iyer “was doing business as an indigenous 
banker at Kumbakonam, Colombo and Madras very successfully until 1932, 
towards the close of which year he took up the management of the 
Indo-Commercial Bank Ltd., whose founder he was.”
Together with this material there’s a news report from The Hindu of 14.2.33
 describing Pantulu as the President of the Board and “Sankaralingam Aiyar” 
as the Managing Director of the Indo-Commercial Bank, an advertisement for
 the Bank in The Hindu of 31.12.34 signed by “S.N.N. Sankaralinga Iyer” as 
Managing Director, an advertisement from The Hindu of 12.3.1953 mentioning
 SNN as Deputy Chairman of the Bank, and two articles from Compass (1973),
 the house journal of India Cements which was the major industry that SNN founded
 in Tirunelveli District. In one, SNN’s personal physician Dr. K. Vedantam writes, “

At that time a friend of Sri Iyer, who was a relation of Sri K. Lakshmanan,
 suggested that he should start a public limited company with the object
 of rendering services in small towns and rural centres round about 
Kumbakonam which was a very big business centre… K. Lakshmanan, 
who was a law graduate and who had previously served in Indian Bank 
as an apprentice for a year, and Sri Iyer put their heads together and a 
public limited Bank was started with the help of the local educated rich
 mirasdars under the auspices of Rao Bahadur Subrahmanyam Pantulu, 
with its Registered office in Mayavaram…” In the other article, 
S.Y. Krishnaswamy writes, “In those day he (SNN) was a banker 
but he was also connected with the salt industry in the Tanjore District…
. His first important act of consolidation was to convert his private 
banking business into a limited concern with funds which at that time
 were considered adequate with great potentials for growth.
 He established the headquarters of the Bank at Mayavaram 
and collected together a group of friends who continued to be 
his associates for life. While the Bank grew steadily in the early 
years, his own mind was occupied in exploring certain industrial lines.” 
And it was while at the bank in the 1940s that SNN drew up the plans
 to start India Cements in the Tirunelveli District in 1946 together with
 T.S. Narayanaswami.
The descendants of A.R. Vishwanathan, who sent me today’s picture
 taken at the opening of the new headquarters of the Bank in Mayavaram, 
wonder whether without the funding by the others in the front row in the 
picture (excluding the Chief Guest) the Bank would have ever got off the 
ground. C.S. Subramanyam Pantulu, they add, was a keen agriculturist
 and had handled many agriculture related problems. “Soon after harvest
 the mirasdars of Tanjavur used to lavishly spend money. When it came to
 paying taxes they used to borrow from moneylenders at very high interest 
rates which ruined many families. He came up with the idea of starting a bank
 to help develop saving habits. … they decided to rope in S.N.N Sankaralinga 
Iyer of Kallidaikurichi to manage the bank as he ran a successful finance
 business in Kumbakonam and was considered a very efficient go-getter 
and a livewire businessman. He also knew who had money. He brought in
 a lot of his clients into the Bank.”
As one of my correspondents says, “It is not very important” and
 “sources are scarce”. What is important is that a bank was started in 
an area which needed its help.
E & O.A.
T.R. Venkatarama Sastry was certainly an Advocate General (Miscellany, 
February 3), but of Madras Presidency, not of India. And even in the Presidency, 
he was not the first; that honour goes to V. Bashyam Iyengar, according to several
 readers who have kept the postman busy. Mea culpa.
A. Madhavan sends me a list of banks that had branches in George Town and 
which I had missed in Miscellany December 23, 2013, January 6 and February 3.
 Most of these are no longer in existence, he adds: Bank of Bikaner, Broadway; 
Bank of Jaipur, N.S.C. Bose Road; Bharatha Laxmi Bank, Govinda Nayak Street; 
Devkaran Nanjee Banking Company, N.S.C. Bose Road; Indo-Commercial Bank,
 Armenian Street; Indo-Mercantile Bank, Thambu Chetty Street; Nedungadi Bank, 
Linghi Chetty Street; Palai Central Bank, N.S.C. Bose Road; Travancore Bank,
 Thambu Chetty Street; and Travancore Forward Bank, Stringer Street.

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