On July 18, the chairman of Malaysian luxury retailer Valiram breathed his last breath. Datuk Jethanand Utumal Valiram died in New York City, surrounded by loved ones. He was 78 years old.
Jethanand’s legacy however, will forever be remembered. Not only was the man the family patriarch, he remained involved in the Valiram business as chairman and advisor till the very end.
His eldest son, Valiram executive director Sharan said in a press statement: “He lived a glorious life and went with much dignity. He is a legend and his life was a grand celebration.”
The Valiram group started out in the textile trade before moving into yarn manufacturing, plus fabric and garment re-export. Under Jethanand, it moved into lifestyle retail, opening the world’s first textile boutique at an airport.
This venture won the confidence of global brands that led to the group opening several new concessions at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, before expanding into travel and downtown retail.
Jethanand is remembered by his peers in the industry as a formidable businessman. He is respected for having the foresight to steer the Valiram enterprise through an evolution.
“Malaysia lost a retail visionary with the passing of Datuk Jethanand,” noted senior general manager of commercial services for Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad, Mohammad Nazli Abdul Aziz. “He was a man of passion and vision and he had a profound influence on the retail business community, in particular the travel retail industry. He will leave a lasting legacy to the industry and will be terribly missed.”
Jethanand was also instrumental in providing overall strategic counsel to his sons – Valiram executive directors Sharan, Ashvin and Mukesh, all of whom have helped grow the business across nine countries.
According to the Malaysia Retail Chain Association’s president, Datuk Garry Chua, Jethanand was a man of “vision, humility and compassion”. He said that he knew Jethanand through his son, Sharan.
Others have similarly experienced Jethanand’s legacy in the next-generation Valirams. The general manager of Bell & Ross for Asia, Tong Chee Wei, pointed out that the family’s business will be well taken care off.
“I regret not having met Datuk Jethanand personally. My acquaintance is with his sons. And through my acquaintance with his sons, I know the legacy he has left behind will be in good hands,” said Tong.
“I believe he was a great father figure and a leader by example to the children whom I got to know quite well through the course of work,” stated CEO of Pavilion Kuala Lumpur Datuk Joyce Yap, who has met Jethanand on several occasions.
“The children certainly have a lot of respect for their father and they put family first despite their busy schedules. I know they spend a lot of time together as a family, which is very important in life,” she added.
In his personal life, Jethanand devoted his time to philanthropic initiatives close to his heart. Among them included charitable works and donations to organisations such as Lakshmi Narayan Temple, Lions Club and the Rotary Club.
He had also served on the management committees of the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Indian Chamber of Commerce and held the vice-president role at the Sindhi Association of Malaysia.
Jethanand’s memorial service was held at the Xiao En memorial centre in KL last Sunday. It was well attended by individuals from the corporate, banking, fashion and lifestyle sectors.
He is survived by his wife, Datin Champa Kirpalani; sons, Sharan, Ashvin and Mukesh; daughters-in-law, Lavina, Monica and Roshan; and grandchildren, Neerav, Divesh, Harein, Jiya and Aarav.