- Secrecy: They say Freemasons are more open than Chettiars, highlighting their secretiveness
- Practical: Since the decline of Chettiars in business, many are taking up salaried jobs
- Traditional: Are educated, keep a low profile, have a quiet elegance. Families meet in their huge village mansions for family functions.
- Land all-important: Traumatised by their forefathers’ loss of huge land holdings abroad, they now own lots of land and plantations in India
- Women out: Chettiar women rarely join family businesses but focus on the families’ cultural and philanthropic initiatives
V. Nagappan, director of the Madras Stock Exchange, recounts how his father Vellaippan Chettiar, a trader, reacted when he asked him for Rs 25,000—this was in the 1980s—for enrolling in an MBA course. “A course?” his father had...