The museum will be a tribute to the memory of K.C Karunakaran (KCK), the pioneer Travancorean industrialist who founded the Alleppey Company, which was considered on par with the large scale European coir establishments at Alleppey. He was a renaissance personality and contributed to the making of the progressive industrial policy of Travancore. The museum will document his career and contributions and also the emergence of Karan Group under his son Ravi Karunakaran (RK).
2. The presentation will be in five parts.
· Family background, childhood, education and marriage of KCK.
· His contributions to policy making.
· The growth and expansion of The Alleppey Company Limited.
· William Goodacre & Company.
· Ravi Karunakarans contributions to coir industry.
3. The Beginning
3.1 What was the source of accumulation for investment in The Alleppey Company? The growth of coir yarn exports and rapid spread of coir yarn spinning along the costal beach waters provided an important source of accumulation for Ezhava elite who organized the retting of husks, setting up of spinning yards and, most importantly, grew in to the intermediaries supplying yarn to Alleppey European firms. Krishnan Muthalali, KCKs father, was one of such important coir merchants at Paravoor, a small town in Kollam district. From being a supplier of yarn to the European manufactures at Alleppey he graduated in to a manufacturer himself in 1919 building a large scale factory at Paravoor (SKVI). Family history, growth of coir spinning industry in Paravoor, trade structure and accumulation will be presented.
3.2 It is interesting that the family decided to educate young Karunakaran at Madras University and then send him for higher education in Europe initially, Birmingham University, UK and then later at Heidelberg University, Germany. KCK married Margret, German lady from Berlin. Marriage was solemnised in the presence of Sree Narayana Guru at Varkkala. This ceremony at Sivagiri symbolized the blooming of the personality of young Karunakaran, where tradition blended with modernity. KCK moved to Alleppey and set up The Alleppey Company Ltd which soon became on par with the European companies.
3.3 A brief narrative of Ezhava Social Reform Movement and the role of Sree Narayana Guru is relevant at this juncture. An important focus of the movement was to reform outmoded caste customs that tended to squander away the resources and hinder accumulation. Removal of caste restrictions to education and promotion of modern education was a key slogan of the Guru which galvanized public action throughout the state. Guru did not confine to religious matters or social issues, he also campaigned for promotion of handicrafts industry, trade and agriculture which created a conductive atmosphere for entrepreneurship and material development. Guru also transformed the religious rituals as per agama traditions and reformed ceremonies such as marriage as to generate self respect in the community. The marriage ceremony at Sivagiri of Karunakaran with the German bride brought many of the renaissance threads together.
3.4.1 A video about Paravoor may be an appropriate introduction to the narrative.
3.4.2 Old photographs, documents and even artefacts connected to the family will enliven the presentation. A genealogical tree chart has to be prepared. Photos of houses of relevant family branches also be collected.
3.4.3 The photos of the schools where KCK study should be collected. Perhaps there is a greater probability of records being preserved in German and English Universities where KCK studied. The photograph of iconic spots of these universities may be collected.
3.4.4 Margret’s family has been traced and it is possible perhaps to collect her early photographs and other artefacts that can be used for the exhibition.
3.4.5 The photos and documents regarding social reform movements and Sri Narayana Guru are available in plenty. But their presentation will have to be kept in proportion. It will be appropriate to concentrate on Sivagiri and SNDP Yogam in and around Paravoor. The old notices and photos of Sivagiri pilgrimage, particularly or public discourses on themes prescribed by Guru is important. The exhibits and photos of industrial exhibitions held at Sivagiri are available in some of the old tharavads. Since it is unlikely there would be any photographs of the wedding ceremony, we may consider commissioning a painting or pen - picture of ceremony in the presence of Guru.
4. Making Industrial Policy of Travancore
4.1 The development of agro processing industries such as coir constituted the first phase of industrial development in Travancore. During the 1940 s a number of modern industries such as rayons, chemical fertilisers, aluminium, titanium dioxide, caustic soda etc were established. The number of joint stock companies also rapidly increased. The industrial policy of Travancore played an important role in this transformation.
4.2 The main elements of the new policy were the following: a) Encouragement to private enterprise by providing credit, land concessions, subsidised supply of raw materials, electricity etc. b) direct investment in selected sectors where private investment was not forth coming c) government intervention for ensuring markets and d) efforts to create healthy industrial relations. The remarkable shift in the policy of Travancore government has usually been credited to statesmanship of Sir. C.P Ramaswamy Iyer. But a closer examination will reveal pressure and demand by Travancore entrepreneurs in the Legislative Assembly and outside in shaping the policy.
4.3 Among the local entrepreneurs for a new industrial policy most prominent was KCK. The financial policy of the government which attached “undue importance to surplus budgets... like medieval statesman who always aimed at a favourable balance of trade” was severely and repeatedly criticized. It was demanded that accumulated surplus of government which were deposited in government of India securities and foreign bank at low rates of interest should be made available to industrialists. During the depression period KCK strongly argued for deficit budget: “Every progressive government should close with deficit”.
4.4.1 All legislative speeches and appellations of K.C Karunakaran are available in the Travancore Legislative Assembly Proceedings in Kerala University / Legislative Assembly libraries. Some of the important gazette notification on industrial policy and also archival documents also should be gathered. A photo gallery of important industrial members of Travancore Legislative Assembly would also be appropriate. Also photos of the pioneer industrial establishments of the 1940s are relevant.
4.4.2 It is very remarkable that KCK was arguing for Keynesian policy of anti cyclical budgeting in Travancore in 1930s. His arguments may be elucidated with ample graphics.
5. The Alleppey Company Limited (TAC)
5.1 The expansion of TAC in to the largest exporter of the coir in the world can be captured by statistics of annual exports from 1927 to 2017. We may be broadly divided the period in to four phases.
· Pre war period which is one of the rapid expansion. (SKVI 1919; Alleppey Co. 1927, Eastern Produce, 1937)
· War and disruption of the trade
· Post independence period which also is one of rapid expansion as other European firms withdraw from trade (Kerala Balers, Floor Co 1969, Nagarcoil Factory, William Goodacre)
· Post 1970 when KARAN GROUP became largest exporter of coir products.
5.2 We shall also discuss the change in the industrial organization.
· Pre war period is one of expansion of centralized production.
· War period dependent on war supplies orders.
· Post independence period when the subcontracting to outside small producers expanded.
· Post 1970 when the centralized mechanised production emerged.
5.3 We shall also discuss the organisation of production process in the factory by comparing various departments in the pre war period and now. It is not a presentation in the abstract but concrete description of TAC factory then and now.
5.4 The Alleppey company innovations in products, technology and marketing can be discussed. It has played pioneering role in adoption of new technology.
5.5.1 We already have shipper war exports for 1930s upto 1980s. It may be updated. Employment data has been collected. If we have annual wages the per capita earnings of the workers can be generated for long period. There has been increase in the real wages of the coir workers.
5.5.2 As many photographs and historical documents related to TAC must be collected. In fact we will decide on the presentation only after the materials are collected. We can have also a photo gallery of various types of looms and equipments that were used in the company. Samples of products can also be exhibited.
5.5.3 Advertisements of the company from the year 1920 onwards may be put together in an appropriate artistic forms to capture the changing the market taste.
5.5.4 A photo gallery of prominent employees and workers may be included. A large group photo of the workers and employees may be appropriate.
6. William Goodacre Company Limited (WGCL)
6.1 Since KCK Museum is housed in the office quarters of 19th century WGCL, it is only fitness of things that a gallery to be allotted to the history of WGCL. It may be either a part of the general narrative of the KCK Museum or presented as a separate module on the ground floor where the Bailing Press is located.
6.2 The scale of presentation will depend upon the photos and documents that we are able to procure from the company records in London. There is hardly available anything in the company records at Alleppey in the pre-independence period.
6.3 All the available old equipments still surviving in Goodacre compound including the old press should be part of the presentation.
7. Ravi Karunakaran (RK)
7.1 Ravi Karunakaran took over the leadership of the companies in 1952 when he was only 20 years old. His entire school education was in Europe and his graduation was in US. If Ms. Betty is willing, his marriage and family can be presented. Under him the Karan Group grew in to the largest export of coir products in the world.
7.2 Since the growth of the companies has already been discussed we need not examine it in this module. RKs engagement with international forums like FAO, International Trade Centre, UNCTAD and Indian trade delegations will be the focus of presentation here. The FAO report on hard fibers which he prepared as consultant will be highlighted.
7.3 RK was dedicated to the modernization coir industry. His perspective on mechanisation taking advantage of the decline of European power loom industry will be presented. He also attempted to put in to practise what he preached, setting up power loom factories in Paravoor and Nagarcoil.
7.4 The exhibition should end with a optimistic note how Kerala industries is today on a modernisation path.
7.5.1 Photos, letters, articles, souvenirs connected Ravi Karunakaran must be abundant and Ms. Betty have to decide what all related to the personal and family matters should be presented.
7.5.2 We should have an interview with Ms. Betty of her memories of both KCK and RK. Two short videos of 10 minutes each would be ideal. They may be screened in a sound proof cubicle.
7.5.3 Photos of RKs trips abroad for trade and professional meetings and copies of his reports and papers must be gathered.
7.5.4 The exhibition can end with screening of two short videos. The first one is a video made by a foreign journalist in the late 1940s. It traces the processing of coconut from plucking, de-fibering, spinning, weaving and finally shipping stages. No machines is used anywhere in the process. We can shoot yet another video of industry as it is getting transformed today where every stage other than plucking is mechanised. The videos would be 5-7 minutes duration.