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Article [ Published in TIMES OF INDIA of 16/08/2010 in page 4 ]
PUBLIC SPACE PRIVATE LIFE At 82, this free spirit is flying high
This octogenarian industrialist still packs in a busy day like businessmen decades younger than him. The man who’s conscious of his roots says his success mantra is dipped in the age-old adage, simple living and high thinking Manu Aiyappa | TNN
He's a man who believes in simple living and high thinking. Eighty-two-year-old Rama Nagappa Shetty has come a long way from his humble origins in Murudeshwar. When people of his age generally head for quiet places or stay at home to spend time with grandchildren, R N Shetty isn't one to toast his toes in the morning sunlight. His still packs in a busy day like businessmen decades younger to him.
"I like to work. To keep myself busy with office meetings or business conferences. Twice a month, I also ensure I visit my beloved God (Lord Shiva) at Murudeshwar," says Shetty, who was born on Independence Day. He celebrated his 82nd birthday on Sunday
with a visit to the temple. "Oh, my father keeps himself busy though we insist that he take it easy," smiles Sunil, his second son, who likes to keep a low profile and is always a step behind his famous dad.
THE POWER OF SIMPLICITY
The octogenarian is a fitness freak and loves to keep himself trim by sticking to a fish and vegetable diet. "It's not good to overeat. Eat right and walk every day. This is my mantra," says Shetty, who drives daily from his Cunnigham Road bungalow to Cubbon Park to walk with his friends.
Though Shetty's annual business turnover today stretches beyond Rs 2,000 crore, his inborn simplicity and humility have remained untouched. In his autumn, he is ever ready to travel by non-luxury bus and sometimes boards a second-class sleeper train to reach Hubli from Bangalore. "Whatever I am today is because of the respect that people have bestowed on me. I am glad they appreciate my simplicity and hard work," said Shetty.
After all, Shetty was not the one who was born with a silver spoon. "I came from an agricultural family at Murudeshwar in Uttara Kannada district. My father was the administrator of Murudeshwara temple."
After completing high school, Shetty started his career as a civil contractor in Sirsi. "Those days, it was a strenuous walk to school in Sirsi every day. But there were no colleges in Sirsi in those days for me to continue my studies. However, whatever happens, happens for the good," Shetty reminisces. His career as a civil contractor blossomed so much that his father got him married at the age of 24. In 1961, he started a partnership company (R N Shetty & Company). During the next four years, it undertook construction of three major projects — building bridges on Honnavar-Bangalore road. "This phase taught me that quality and hard work really pays," Shetty says, citing examples of how they managed to impress bureaucrats with good construction work by hiring skilled workers from Kerala.
As business flourished, Shetty moved out of his native district and began operations from Hubli. In 1967, he started another company in Hubli in his younger son's name (Naveen) with seven civil contractors. The company bid for construction of Hidkal dam in Belgaum district. However, the company did not survive for long due to huge financial losses. In order to keep it alive, other stakeholders in the company offered Shetty their share. The next year, he took over the company and over eight years, R N Shetty undertook several projects that nursed the company back to good health.
Thereafter, there was no looking back. He's built roads, dams, bridges, hotels, a ceramic company, power projects, automobile ventures, hospitals and educational institutions. "Murudeshwar's blessing and luck really favoured me after my third son was born," he admits. This, he says, is the reason why he chose to name many of his business ventures after his third son.
TRYST WITH HOTEL BUSINESS
Buoyed by his success in the construction field, Shetty could have remained invincible in that field. But, as always, he wanted to experiment. He entered the hotel business in 1975 and constructed a five-star hotel in Bangalore which was leased to the Taj Group of Hotels (Taj Residency). "The lease will expire in another two years but we are thinking of extending it. We are also on the verge of completing another fivestar hotel at Yeshwantpur, which will also be leased to The Taj," he says.
He has car dealerships too. "We have set high standards of excellence and are extremely conscious about delivering value to our customers. This is proved by the fact that we are one of biggest dealers in Maruti cars in the state and have also won awards for our services," says the industrialist.
Materialistic pursuits and achievements apart, Shetty is a deeply religious and philanthropic person. He is instrumental in putting the sleepy town of Murudeshwar on the tourism map. Being a devotee of Lord Shiva, he first showed keen interest in renovating and rebuilding the Murudeshwar temple in Dravidian architectural style. The 249-ft-tall Raja Gopura at the temple is considered the tallest gopura in the world.
Another marvel is the 123-ft Shiva idol erected on the hillock on the coast of Arabian Sea, said to be the tallest in the world. "I decided to build the idol inspired by my visit to Kanyakumari in the early 90s. I had visited the place two years after the famous Vivekananda statue was installed there. After that it took about two years to build the shiva idol," he says adding, "I will continue the development work at Murudeshwara till my last breath. I also want my children to take it forward." Shetty who believes in leading a spartan life, instilled a sense of duty and discipline among his seven children - three sons and four daughters. His kids heed his advise to lead simple lives. "As a father, I was a strict disciplinarian with my children, but with the grandchildren, I have turned their friend," he says candidly.
Rama Nagappa Shetty INDUSTRIALIST
WHAT DOES HE DO?
He is the chairman of R N Shetty Group of companies and also runs a chain of educational institutions under the R N Shetty trust
FAVOURITE THINGS TV show: Serial Mahabharata, directed by B R Chopra Food: Any hot vegetarian food and occasionally, sea-water fish Actor: Kannada matinee idol Rajkumar Place: Bangalore
FIRMLY GROUNDED: Though R N Shetty's annual business turnover today stretches beyond Rs 2,000 crore, his simplicity and humility have remained untouched