A furniture enterprise that was to become the face of furniture industry in Chennai grew from the inventiveness and courage of a teenager who single-handedly set up, manufactured and marketed his produce from his one-man workshop to British clientele way back in 1937. N P Ezhumalai contributed to his family kitty as an eleven year old, working as a helper in a furniture-making company in Rattan Bazar, Chennai. Six years later, in 1937 the boy started his own small one-man workshop, Jayabharatam, in Royapettah, near the famous Swagat Hotel, for handmade cane furniture. Endowed with grit and determination, the young man carried heavy furniture on his shoulders and on a cycle to go around town to sell his products. Soon he began supplying cane furniture to British clients in Adyar.
As business grew, Ezhumalai trained and inducted young men in his workshop. He was soon supplying furniture to south Indian clients across India through goods train. As an entrepreneur Ezhumalai was far ahead of his time. Decades ago, he outsourced artists who made sketches of furniture in their showroom, which were then printed as a catalogue and distributed free.
In the 1950s and early 1960s Jayabharatham was the only furniture workshop and showroom in Royapettah.Soon the trained young men from his workshop left to set up their own enterprises. In days to come, Royapettah High Road and the by-lanes in the vicinity acquired the pride of place in Chennai as an exclusive centre for furniture showrooms and Jayabharatham was the only reason for this remarkable emergence of a furniture hub in Chennai.
Jayabharatham became a household name in furniture transforming the culture of hospitality and lifestyle of three generations of people from the south, infusing comfort and aesthetics in their abodes, offices and other enterprises. Ezhumalai’s staff strength had gone up to 150 when he passed away in 1979. In one life-time Ezhumalai had established himself as the father of cane furniture in India and had created a furniture hub in the city of Chennai. Ezhumalai’s first son was running the cane factory after the demise of the patriarch. After laying the foundation for a furniture hub in the city of Chennai Jayabharatham stepped into the next milestone in 1986 when his younger son entered the family business, but with a new game plan and a different format. As an engineer, he understood that it was possible to mechanize in wooden furniture and that internationally, amazing advances had been made in the manufacture of wooden furniture.
Hevea furniture was designed and developed under the able guidance of E.Rajendran (Wood furniture Manufacturing consultant) in the year 1986. The period witnessed a transition in the furniture making process from man-made to machine-made. Today Hevea is on par with Europe, China and Malaysia in terms of quality, material, workmanship. JFA, Modfurn and touchwood are the other sub branches of Hevea in the retail segment.