The Lux List / Billionaires

Passing of a Regional Luxury Titan: Datuk Jethanand Valiram

16 is the age most teenagers are dreaming of first loves and distant fantasies, instead Jethanand suddenly became a patriarch and leader of the family. Luxuo celebrates the life and accomplishments of a regional titan of the luxury industry.

Jul 19, 2017 | By Jonathan Ho
Jethanand was thrust into leading the family enterprise at the youthful age of 16 after the sudden passing of Utumal Valiram

Jethanand was thrust into leading the family enterprise at the youthful age of 16 after the sudden passing of Utumal Valiram

Established in 1935 by Utumal Valiram as a trading company importing textiles and sundries, Valiram Group can find its roots from a humble store located within the heart of Kuala Lumpur.

The life and accomplishments of Datuk Jethanand Valiram

Over the years, Valiram Group has grown from a simple trading concern and into a formidable luxury retail empire thanks to the efforts of Jethanand Valiram. Under the most extraordinary of circumstances, Jethanand was thrust into leading the family enterprise at the youthful age of 16 after the sudden passing of Founder Utumal Valiram. 16 is the age most teenagers are dreaming of first loves and distant fantasies, instead Jethanand suddenly became a patriarch and leader of the family, dedicating his life to continuation and expansion of the family business and he did so with commitment and dedication beyond his youthful years. Most importantly, Jethanand led the company with great vision and foresight.

Under his leadership, Valiram grew to encompass the spectrum of textiles, no longer just imports, exports and wholesale but the family business had now progressed into yarn manufacturing, fabric and garment re-export.

Under Datuk Jethanand Valiram's guidance, the Group has expanded beyond its early days as a textile merchant

Under Datuk Jethanand Valiram’s guidance, the Group has expanded beyond its early days as a textile merchant

Seven years before the great Asian Financial Crisis, a chance encounter with then CEO of Malaysia Airports in 1990 introduced Jethanand to the luxury retail side of things. Malaysia’s Textile King immediately saw the potential and expanded the Group’s corporate portfolio from end-to-end traditional textile merchants, making and selling wholesale fabric into a leading Asian luxury powerhouse.

By 1996, on the eve of a currency crisis, Valiram opened the world’s first ever textile boutique at Subang airport. The venture was so successful that Jethanand’s acumen and commercial savvy attracted the attention of various global brands – soon, Valiram was opening several new concessions at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), among them a stand-alone Dunhill boutique, paving the foundations for Valiram’s second Golden Age as a luxury retail empire.

History remembers that the financial crisis hit Asia especially hard in 1997 but Jethanand’s steady stewardship guided the company through the hardship and where most other companies either contracted or worse, closed; Impressively, Valiram Group expanded into travel and downtown retail. By 2001, Valiram Group launched the multi-brand Swiss Watch Gallery store in Penang International  and continued to expand its retail portfolio to include brands like Coach, Montblanc, Hermes and Godiva at KLIA. In 2004,  Jethanand expanded Valiram Group’s Singapore operations with a Bally store at Changi Airport.

If you want proof of Datuk Jethanand Utumal Valiram’s foresight and planning? Look no further than 2015 when the family-owned luxury conglomerate reported annual turnover of RM 2 billion (SGD 647 million) dollars and 30% growth annually.

As a testament of Valiram’s legacy and genius, the company is over 80 years old today and among some of the most venerable of groups existing in an industry that is largely mercurial and prone to trends and whimsy. Valiram Group has travelled far from their days as a textile trading concern operating out of Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman.

The Passing of a Regional Luxury Titan: Datuk Jethanand Valiram

Today, it is a recognised conglomerate of luxury and lifestyle brands spanning nine countries (Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Singapore,  Indonesia, Australia, Thailand, Macau and the Philippines) and headquartered in Kuala Lumpur, its birth city.

“He lived a glorious life and went with much dignity. He is a legend and his life was a grand celebration.” – His eldest son, Valiram Executive Director Sharan.

When not leading Valiram Group to greater heights, Jethanand devoted his time to charity and philanthropy. A retail giant with an even bigger heart, his passion for good causes extended to organisations such as Lakshmi Narayan Temple, Lions Club, Rotary Club and many others. He also shared his wisdom and knowledge by serving on the management committees of the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Indian Chamber of Commerce. He also served as Vice-President at the Sindhi Association of Malaysia. Even though he was the King of Southeast Asian luxury retail, Jethanand never forgot his roots, serving as a community leader within the Sindhi community.

On the evening of 18 July 2017, the regional Luxury Titan passed. Datuk Jethanand Utumal Valiram died peacefully in New York City surrounded by loved ones. He was 78 years old. He is survived by his wife, Datin Champa Kirpalani Valiram; sons, Sharan, Ashvin and Mukesh; Daughters-in-law, Lavina, Monica and Roshan; Grandchildren, Neerav, Divesh, Harei, Jiya and Aarav.

Datuk Jethanand Utumal Valiram can rest assured that his legacy is steered by his sons with the group having grown to an expanse of 343 stores across nine markets – 160 of them, in Malaysia. The luxury retail group is eyeing an initial public offering (IPO) in three to five years.

The funeral will be held on Sunday, July 23, 2017. Well wishers can pay their final respect between 11am and 3pm at the Grand Ballroom, Xiao En Centre, 1 Jalan Kuari, Cheras.

 
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