K. Lakshminarayana Bhattar, popularly known as Bhima Bhattar was born in Udyavara, near Udupi in 1904.
The young Bhima Bhattar moved to Alleppey to live with his brother in law, and used to help out at his restaurant, Girija Nivas, after school hours. He was saddened that he had to discontinue his further education at college due to financial difficulties and resolved that he would be financially independent. He started a small business of selling perfumes and cosmetics at Girija Nivas while working there.
After his marriage to Vanaja, the young couple settled in Alleppey where Bhima realized that the profit from his fledgling business was insufficient for a comfortable life. One of his acquaintances mentioned to him that the demographic situation in Alleppey was congenial for a profitable business in silver jewellery, cutlery, and puja articles. It was when Bhima was mulling over this that a customer at the restaurant asked him whether Bhima could supply him with two silver tumblers. Now the only concern was how to procure the silver.
Vanaja had a pair of heavy silver anklets that she gladly gave her husband when he told her of his quandary. Using these, Bhima had the tumblers made, and displayed these at the restaurant. Soon, demand for Bhima’s silver articles grew in leaps and bounds. It was at this stage that Bhima Bhattar met Madhavan Pillai and the duo started a business in gold jewellery called Alleppey Emporium. They parted ways a year later and Bhima started off on his own, dealing in gold and silver jewellery. Thus was laid the foundation of Bhima’s golden empire.
Bhima’s honest practices ensured the rapid growth of his business. During World War II, when trade in gold jewellery of lower quality was rampant, Bhima’s 22 carat jewellery was the beacon of trust. With hard work and innovative practices, Bhima Jewellers of Mullakkal, Alleppey attained a legendary status.
Bhima Bhattar is solely responsible for the paradigm shift in Kerala’s jewellery trade from ‘made to order’ jewellery to today’s ‘readymade’ jewellery. The Bhima showroom in Alleppey that exists even today is undoubtedly the first showroom of readymade gold jewellery in Kerala. He was one of the first diamond merchants in the state and also introduced Navaratna jewellery. Bhima Jewellers soon became the hub for gold wholesale trade in Kerala. The wholesale business was done in the showroom premises after 10 p.m., and catered to the demand of retailers all over Kerala.
Bhima Bhattar changed the perception of a retail jewellery showroom with changes that were unheard of at that time. His showroom was tastefully done – never had the people of the region seen a jewellery showroom of such splendour. His was also the first air conditioned jewellery showroom in Kerala.
The Gold Control Act was enacted by parliament in 1962 after the Indo-China war, and brought with it a slump in trade. 1968 witnessed leniency in the Gold Control Act. Now assisted by his five sons, Bhima Bhattar consolidated his position as the foremost jeweller of Kerala. The showroom in M.G. Road, Ernakulam (Kochi) that started operations in 1978 became the most renowned jewellery retail store in the state.
The demise of Vanaja on June 22nd 1984 came as a shock to Bhima Bhattar. He believed that she was the source of his success and good fortune. He would not see his name become the synonym for trust beyond Kerala to all over South India, for he died on December 16th 1985, aged 81.
After the abolition of the Gold Control Act in 1992, Bhima gradually spread its presence within Kerala and also to Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
The showrooms in Kozhikode and Kannur are managed by B. Girirajan, the eldest of Bhima Bhattar’s five sons who are in the jewellery business. B. Girirajan, who has worked closely with his father, is one of the luminaries of the jewellery trade in which he has been actively involved since 1964. Following in the footsteps of his distinguished father, he is also the President of the All Kerala Gold and Silver Merchants Association.
Today the Bhima Group, with the cheerful Bhima Boy as its trademark, is administered by the five sons of Bhima Bhattar. Though the showrooms are managed separately, it is the set of values infused by its illustrious founder that is the backbone of the entire group. Relations with the public are maintained as a unified brand that gratefully acknowledges and enjoys an unparalleled trust since 1925 – Bhima Gold Pure Gold.