The Chungath Family Saga
Family traditions are like jewels. They always remain unique, often unequalled, and invaluable. Traditions strengthen family bonds, contribute to your children’s identity, wellbeing, and create lasting impressions. During the last 100 years, the rich traditions of the Chungath family based on trust have earned it a great name and credibility. In the jewellery business, both in the domestic and the international markets, Brand Chungath has become a credible name to reckon with among the top players in the gems and jewellery sector. “Chungath” has become a synonym for pure gold.
According to history, in India Christianity was first founded in Kerala by Saint Thomas, one of the 12 apostles of Christ. The supporting evidence for the Saint Thomas’s tradition in Kerala relies upon carefully preserved oral traditions, literary texts, genealogies, copper plates, coins of copper silver, gold, and archaeological remains. On his arrival, the Apostle converted several Brahmin families into the faith and founded seven churches in and around Palayoor near Guruvayoor/Kunnamkulam and Cranganore (Kodungaloor). It is believed that the later generations of these Brahmin families lived in and around Palayoor, Pavarty, Guruvayoor, and Kunnamkulam in the Thrissur district of Kerala.
Later, Punnathoor Raja, the Samantha of Zamorin of Calicut, brought two Christian families — the Chungath and the Cheeran families — from Palayoor and settled them near Kottapady, a place adjacent to the Punathoor Palace. Traditionally, these two Christian families were oil traders. Appreciating their loyalty and faithfulness to the royal family, the Punnathoor Raja authorised one of these Christian families the right to collect ‘chungam’ (tax) from the public in the surrounding area. Eventually, that was how the family came to be called ‘Chungath’.
The Golden Tradition
Later, Lazar, the forefather of the current Chungath generation established a local bank at Kottapaddy called Chungath Bank and would lend money to the local public against gold ornaments pledged as security. He also started trading in gold as part of his lending business. Those days, the rate of gold for one ‘pavan’ or sovereign (8 gm) was between Rs. 12 and Rs. 15. Subsequently, Lazar extended his traditional oil trading business to Palghat and Kochi in a bigger way.
Following the sudden death of Lazar, his son C. L. Pavunny, father of Shri. C.P Paul, the current Chairman of the Chungath Group took over his father’s business at the young age of 21. Pavunny was very hardworking, dynamic, and a go-getter by nature.
During those days, temples such as the Guruvayoor Sreekrishna Temple and the Tirupathi Temple in Andhra Pradesh used to auction gold offerings donated by devotees. Pavunny participated in those auctions and bought those gold ornaments. He then resold it to needy customers by keeping a low margin for himself. Pavunny always believed in two principles — “Be Honest and Be Transparent”, which earned him a lot of fame and goodwill. He won the hearts of the local public and his gold business expanded swiftly to the surrounding areas of Kottapaddy.
By the end of the Second World War, his business experienced a windfall gain when he sold off a large number of electrical generators he had bought at an auction by the British Navy. This gave the family a strong foundation to expand the gold business in a big way.
Soon, Pavunny had expanded his gold business to Kunnamkulam by setting up a showroom under the name C. L. Pavunny Jeweller. His brothers, Varghese and Stanly, also helped him in the gold business. After a few years, he helped them to set up their own jewellery shops under the names C.L. Varghese Jeweller and C. L. Stanly Jeweller, respectively. Later, the name of the premises became ‘Golden Corner’ at Kunnamkulam.
In 1962, after revoking the Gold (Control) Act, the Government of India sought industry opinion and formed an advisory committee, including representatives from the gold trading industry. Pavunny was nominated to the committee. Based on his vast experience in the industry, Pavunny presented many practical solutions and procedures to solve the crisis in the gold trading industry in India. In 1964, T. T. Krishnamachari took over as Finance Minister. It was during his tenure that the Gold Control Act was amended, incorporating many of the suggestions of the Committee. The gold trading business in India had turned a critical corner.
In 1956, Pavunny started his second jewellery showroom at Thrissur under the name “N. C. Davis and C.P Baby”. He assigned the responsibility of the showroom to his elder son Baby and his second son-in-law Davis Nadakkaukaran. Owing to the goodwill he had earned in Kottapaddy and the surrounding areas and his strong relationship with customers, the Thrissur showroom became popular. Later, he assigned the entire responsibility of the shop to N. V. Davis, his second son-in-law.
In 1959, Pavunny started his third showroom under the names P.I. Joseph and C. P. Paul at Chalakkudy. Here, he assigned the responsibility to run the business to his second son C. L. Paul and his elder son-in-law Payyapilly Joseph. Pavunny passed away at the age of 73.
The Era of C.P Paul
By then, C. P. Paul, Pavunny’s second son, had gathered enough experience in the gems and jewellery business from his father at the Kunnamkulam showroom and it helped him to further the new gold business at Chalakuddy.
As advised by his father, C. P. Paul launched a new jewellery showroom in Chalakkudy under the name Chungath Fashion Jewellery. The following years witnessed tremendous growth of the Chungath name in the gems and jewellery business.
It is interesting to note how C. P. Paul describes his success: “All my sons and sons-in-law are highly educated professionals. I am learning a lot about new business techniques, technological advancements, and new strategies to be followed in the business from them. I believe, we have to follow and adapt to the changes in the modern global business environment. Above all, the grace of God is an important factor to become successful in anything.”
C. P. Paul had a vision. Through his plan for ‘Employment for 1000 Families’, the group achieved its Chairman’s vision by providing jobs to members of 1000 families.
Though he has delegated the responsibilities of the groups’ businesses to his sons and other family members, C. P. Paul continues to monitor and direct the Chungath Gold and Diamonds business in Dubai.
A good gemmologist need not necessarily be a good appraiser. But a good appraiser must be a good gemmologist. It means that a good gemmologist is someone who constantly updates himself in the study of gemstones. That is why C. P. Paul has been selected by the Government of India to their panel of gems and jewellery appraisers and valuers.
Emergence of Young Generation
Rajive Paul, the elder son of C. P. Paul, is an engineering graduate and holds an MBA degree as well. He entered the group’s gems and jewellery business in 1994. As Managing Director of Chungath Jewellery at Kollam, he decided to push the frontiers of the business. Within a short span, the Kollam showroom became a great success. In 1998, Chungath Jewellery Kollam became the first exclusive showroom in Kerala to achieve the ‘916 Hallmarked Jewellery’ status. Soon, he started a second showroom at Kollam, focussing on Kerala’s traditional gold ornaments. The new showroom introduced an appealing array of lightweight jewellery in traditional designs under the label ‘Syrandry’. Rajive is also an authorised gold jewellery appraiser and valuer.
At present, Rajive Paul looks after Chungath Jewellery at Trivandrum, Kollam, Karunagapilly, and Kochi showrooms along with the group’s other initiatives in areas such as tourism, education, and media.
Ranjith Paul, the younger son of C. P.Paul, is also an engineer by profession with a masters in management. Currently, he leads the group’s Chalakuddy, Irinjalakudda, and Thrissur showrooms as well as other business initiatives in Thrissur district.
Abby David Kattookaran, the second son-in-law of C. P. Paul is an MBA and is Managing Director of Chungath Jewellery, Angamaly.
On the international front, the Dubai-based Chungath International Jewellery is led by Perlju Baby Chungath, grandson of C. L Pavunny and son of Late C.P Baby. Akhil Tony, another grandson of C. P. Paul’s, is an MBA and also a qualified Consultant Gemmologist. He is Managing Director of The Orbit, the group’s diamond and precious stone business initiative at Thrissur.