Monday, August 4, 2014
This building was one of the most visible faces of the Nilgiri's Dairy Farm - a business that was begun in 1905 when Muthuswamy Mudaliar, a dak runner, opened a shop at Charles Villa, Coonoor. Muthuswamy was probably servicing requests from the families up on the hills to bring up butter and similar products from the plains and he felt he could do better than to carry such stuff piecemeal.
In 2006, after the business had completed a century, the PE firm Actis took a majority stake in Nilgiri's and franchised the brand. At that time, this store on Radhakrishnan Salai was the only one being run directly by the first family. Sometime last year, Prabhu Ramachandran, Muthuswamy's great-grandson took this property back from Actis, through the Blue Hills Group, an investment company with interests in diverse businesses.
So now, the family of the founder do not have the rights to the Nilgiri's brand. The Blue Hills Group has bought, apart from this store, a few of the other stores as well. Having done so, they have brought a clutch of brands into their new chain. Many of them are new, and even seem to be homegrown in Chennai. But there is one large sign announcing this to be the "Waitrose London Supermarket" - though it seems quite different from that famous London supermarket!