Driven by its core value of trust, the VST Group of companies today serves more than 5,000 customers every day with businesses in 7 different sectors and a turnover of over 3000 crore rupees a year. A business of this size and repute was not built overnight; it is the fruit of a century of dedication, foresight and hard work.
Like most epic journeys, the VST group’s saga begins with a single step, simple, but with far-reaching consequences. In 1909, group founder V.S. Thiruvengadaswamy Mudaliar (1881-1949) was a sub-agent for Asiatic Petroleum Company (APC) in the Bangalore Cantonment area. An unfortunate misunderstanding precipitated the termination of this arrangement, leaving Mr. Mudaliar with the dilemma of fulfilling orders that had already been paid for in advance despite the lack of stocks. He solved this problem by purchasing equivalent products from agents of the Standard Oil Company and supplying them to his customers.
This innovative solution to retain the customers’ trust, embodies the core values at the heart of the VST group’s approach. It also set the groundwork for a growing business, a fact that was not lost on APC, who re-instated Mr. Mudaliar as their agent in 1911. This marked the formation of VST & Sons.
Initially involved in distributing kerosene, the company diversified into petroleum products. In the early days, Mr. Mudaliar personally delivered kerosene supplies on his bicycle along with his team. In time the business grew to include petrol pump outlets in Bangalore and its suburbs. The late 1920s and 1930s saw another significant example of diversification as the company became involved in civil construction for the British Army.
Mr. Mudaliar’s sons, V.T. Padmanabhan, V.T. Krishnamoorthy, and V.T. Velu, started to take active roles in the business in the 1930s.
Mr. Padmanabhan followed a strict code of discipline at home and at work. His hands-on approach made him a natural fit for the construction business. During an outbreak of the plague in the late 1920s and the early 1930s, Mr. Padmanabhan personally oversaw construction sites. This inspired the workers who had been planning to return home, fearful of falling ill. One of them, a supervisor named Mr. K.R. Krishnaswamy not only stayed on the job; he eventually rose to become a director at VST Service Station Pvt. Ltd.
As one of the first Indians to study at the prestigious London School of Economics, Mr. Krishnamoorthy naturally took on the financial side of the business. He was the key to all the investments made from the 1950s to the 1990s.
Mr. Velu proved to be a dynamic and far-sighted industrialist, steering the manufacturing sector of the group for over three decades, focusing initially on India Garage and later on VST Tilllers Tractors Ltd, becoming Managing Director and eventually Chairman of VST Tilllers Tractors Ltd. He was often known as the PR person of the Group.
The grandsons of Mr. Mudaliar have since steered the Group, building upon the foundation laid by their fathers and grandfather. Mr. V. P. Thirumurthy, son of V. T. Padmanabhan, was the founder of Chennai Ford, VST Bajaj (Bangalore and Mysore) and also managed India Garage Chennai for many years, taking it from strength to strength. His untimely loss is felt keenly by both the family members and his professional associates.
The next generation, comprising of the great-grandsons of Mr. Mudaliar are now building on this legacy of hard work, to brighten the next 100 years.
Mr. Mudaliar started out selling kerosene, which was used for lighting lamps. He was a man known for his integrity and hard work. This served as a foundation for the group, and that initial flame that began in kerosene has grown into a torch, which represents the VST Groups ideals of trust, hard work and leadership. In the 1960s, the petroleum product business became smaller as oil companies were nationalized. When a traditional mainstay of a business shrinks, it can be the cue for a decline; or can be the trigger for further growth with some timely and intelligent diversification.
The latter proved to be the case as Mr. Mudaliar’s sons chose to invest further in the then-nascent automobile dealership sector. The market for automobiles in India at the time was nowhere near its current size and boasted far fewer players, but today it has seen incredible growth and is slated to be one of the largest markets in the world. In this way, the tradition of finding new solutions in challenging times established by the group’s founder has helped guide its enduring success and growth.
Thus from humble beginnings in Kerosene, the VST Group grew and diversified into multiple sectors including: Petroleum Retail, Construction, Automobile Dealerships, Auto Parts Distribution, Finance, Manufacturing and Exports.