TVS Group — Vehicles to Success

Each generation of the family has left its mark on the conglomerate that is across multiple businesses, especially the automotive sector.


S Vejay Anand

2 years ago | 3 min read

In 1877, in Thirukkurungudi, in Tamil Nadu, T.V. Sundram Iyengar was born to a family of Tamil brahmins. At the beginning of his professional life, T.V. Sundram Iyengar worked as a lawyer. He followed his father’s desires and got a job with the Indian Railways and then a bank in India.

After he resigned from his job, Sundram Iyengar first began a bus service in Madurai in 1911. He paved the way for the motor transport sector in South India. Sundaram Iyengar, a young timber trader in Madurai, remembers being awestruck by the shiny new cars that would zoom by his depot at an incredible rate of 12 miles per hour.

In the past, starting a bus service required obtaining permission from the Regional Transport Authorities, the Central Road Traffic Board, and the local police officer. He decided to bring in a few buses so that more people might enjoy the thrill of a fast ride on the open road.

In 1912, TVS began operating what was likely the first passenger bus service in the nation, between Madurai and Devakottai, with two Dennis and Commer buses equipped with a chain drive that required periodic refitting and a peak speed of 15 miles per hour. The trip of 64 miles set people back a paltry $4, but it included a complimentary meal. (Within a year, demand for passenger bus trips skyrocketed, luring numerous other operators who undercut TVS’s prices to the point that the company was forced to cease operations and switch to a new route, between Pudukottai and Thanjavur.)

Sundaram Iyengar’s ethical business methods and considerate employee welfare programmes earned TVS a stellar reputation, and the company’s timeliness set the bar for an emerging sector.

Before his death in 1955, his company, T.V. Sundram Iyengar and Sons Limited, had multiple buses and trucks working for Southern Roadways Limited.

Initial Diversification

Due to the poor condition of the roads, buses will have a short lifespan. The bus company had no choice but to double up as a road contractor to save money on upkeep. As early as 1916, Sundaram Iyengar imported and resold Firestone tyres with Ford and Graford vehicle parts. TV Sundaram Iyengar and Sons were founded in 1923 when he signed on as a Chevrolet sub-dealer.

As early as 1929, TVS had negotiated a contract to sell General Motors vehicles in the areas of Madurai, Tirunelveli, Ramnad, and Pudukottai. Sales were better than expected despite the economic downturn.

There were five boys and three daughters in Sundram Iyengar’s patriarchal Tamil Brahmin family, and all the sons followed in their father’s footsteps by entering the family company. The untimely passing of his son, T.S. Doraisamy, led to the active involvement of his other four sons, T.S. Rajam, T.S. Santhanam, T.S. Srinivasamy, and T.S. Krishna. Since then, TVS has split into four mainly separate divisions operating under the TVS brand.

Gasoline was in short supply in the Madras Presidency during World War II. The wartime scarcity of gasoline prompted Sundaram Iyengar’s son TS Krishna (the father of Sundram Fasteners Chairman Suresh Krishna) to invent a gas plant that could generate charcoal gas for use in automobiles. TVS sold 12,000 gas plants at the time.

TVS also constructed a retreading facility in Pudukottai to deal with the rubber scarcity and reduce the cost of its fleet’s tyres. Belts for Fords and Chevys would be produced there as well. Madras Auto Service Ltd (founded by A.K. Ramachandra Iyer and bought by the TVS Group in 1936) and Sundaram Motors (a subsidiary of T V Sundram Iyengar & Sons Ltd) were two further companies established around this time. In the 1950s, the former was GM’s most important distributor.

With that deal, Sundaram Industries was born.

Sundaram Finance was founded by T.S. Santhanam, the youngest son of T.V. Sundaram, widely recognised as the “Father of the Truck Finance Industry” in India.



Created by

S Vejay Anand

CXO, mentor, consultant, entrepreneur, executive, columnist, husband, father, son, politically aware and neutral, herbivore, pro animal life







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