Joseph Augusti Kayalackakom

Joseph Augusti Kayalackakom (1884-1968) was an outstanding entrepreneur of Kerala, India. He made pioneering ventures in diverse spheres during the first half of the 20th century, and was a major figure in the financial and social arena of the State for nearly fifty years.

He was born in 1884 in Palai, a small town in the central part of the then native state of Travancore (which became part of Kerala after India's independence). He had little formal education. His father died when he was twelve years old, and after that he grew up under the guardianship of his paternal uncle. He joined the trading business of his uncle and helped develop it, and diversify into textile trade. In 1910, at the relatively young age of 26, he set up a textile shop in Trivandrum, the capital of Travancore, traversing the 200 kilometre distance on foot, bullock-cart and country boat. In 1913, he started motor transport business in Trivandrum by purchasing a bus and operating the first ever bus to run on the Trivandrum-Kollam route.

Augusti was the force behind the political and social activities of his younger brother, J Thomas Kayalackakom, including the starting in 1913 of a literary magazine by name "Vijnaana Rathnaakaram", with Mahakavi Kattakayam Cherian Mappillai as Editor. It was the second literary magazine of Travancore, and one of the early such publications in Malayalam language.

In 1927, he founded the Palai Central Bank, which grew up to become not only the biggest bank but the biggest institution in Kerala after the state Government, and the 17th largest among the more than 94 scheduled commercial banks in India.

In 1943, together with his younger brother, he oversaw the public-issue of the 2,800-acre Mysore Plantations Limited, the State’s first ever plantation-public-issue. In 1944, East India Agencies, a partnership firm in which he was a partner, took over the British-owned Teekoy Rubbers Ltd, the first acquisition of a sterling company in the state. In 1946, he inspired his younger brother and two of his cousins to start "Kayalackakom Company" Cochin, the first stock & share brokers' firm in the State. In 1948, he helped to revive the newspaper Malayala Manorama, by making an investment of 20% in its shares. He endeavoured to bring a new Diocese to Palai, and in 1950 led a delegation to Rome for the investiture of the new Bishop. When the Kerala State was formed in 1956, he took keen interest in the development of the newly-formed State by making his Bank subscribe to Government Bonds for large amounts.

Augusti retired from active work in 1960 and died in 1968. He was married and had three daughters. They were married to George Joseph Kottukappally, Varkey Tharakan Parayil and N J Mathew Neroth, respectively.

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