Vummidi Amarendra believes he and his younger brother, Jithendra, had started hearing about jewellery right from the time they were in their mother’s womb. After 20 years, while handing over the reins of Vummidi Bangaru Jewellers (VBJ) in 1991, their father Vummidi Raghunath asked Amarendra to take care of only one thing — that the good name built by their forefathers over a century be maintained.
VBJ is a 118-year-old legacy. From the jewellery box of the ancestors that brought in big sales during auspicious days, the business has gone on to become an heirloom jewellery brand that draws interest from across the seas. Till recently, all three of its showrooms were based out of Madras (now Chennai). But the fourth generation, which includes Amarendra and Jithendra, has their eyes set on expansion and more.
The story of VBJ’s growth runs parallel to the evolution of Chennai’s retail markets. However, it’s not in Chennai where the tale begins. It can be traced back to the fag end of the 1800s when the Madras Presidency was slowly gaining prominence. In a small village named Gudiyatham near the Andhra Pradesh-Tamil Nadu border, the Vummidis were the go-to people for ear and nose piercing during the village temple festival. It was then that Vummidi Bangaru Chetty, the first generation of VBJ, sensed an opportunity and moved to the city. At the turn of the century, he started his shop in Madras and, eventually, the whole family moved there. The front portion of their house doubled as the first shop. And then there was no looking back.
The business picked up and they opened their first shop in George Town, a buzzing area at that time. As years passed, they opened their second shop in T Nagar (the first jewellery shop in the area) as it evolved into the city’s shopping destination. Once Chennai started gaining its cosmopolitan complexion and saw the opening of its first mall — Spencers