Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Outward looking

Before this building came up on Mount Road, the space was the front lawns of Spencer's Hotel. Though they had sold the entire property to M.Ct.M Chidambaram Chettiar's family sometime around 1944, Spencer's continued to run the hotel into the early '50s. Even for many years after, that hotel building continued to be in use, as the training centre of the Indian Overseas Bank, who had by then raised their headquarters building on the hotel gardens. 

The Indian Overseas Bank was the second of the 'local' banks to be established in Madras, in 1937. As was the case with almost every business venture of the time, it began life in George Town. Chidambaram Chettiar realized that with several restrictions on foreign exchange business being placed upon banks after the Great Depression, Indian businessmen trading overseas would welcome an 'Indian' bank for their exchange transactions. And so was born the Indian Overseas Bank - that middle word establishing its market intent and to distinguish it from 'Indian Bank', which predated it. To prove that intent, the bank opened its overseas branches, in Rangoon (now Yangon) and Penang within a few months of opening their first offices in Karaikudi and Madras. 

It was M.Ct.M Chidambaram Chettiar's desire to have a skyscraper on Mount Road that saw him first go to work on the LIC Building, in 1953. But he died in 1954, before the building was completed - and before the insurance business was nationalized in 1956. His sons Pethachi and Muthiah fulfilled their father's wish - the design of this building also drawing inspiration from the UN Headquarters. This building also went into the Government's hands soon after - banking nationalization coming through in the late 1960s. Yet, a statue of M.Ct.M Chidambaram Chettiar's statue stands outside this building, which has been the headquarters of the IOB since 1964. Hopefully it will also participate in the platinum jubilee celebrations on February 10, 2012!


Homesick said...

Dear Mr. Shantaram,

To a perenially home (Chennai)sick person, your images take me home everyday. I am one of those daily anonymous (and lazily unappreciative) visitors to your blog.

Your recent pictures after a long absence are a sight for sore eyes :)

Shantaram said...

@Homesick: Thank you for the note! And I'm sorry that I haven't been able to work on this for a long while.... but will stay on for a while longer, now.