K Pandia Rajan, a former minister in the Edappadi Palanisamy–led AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu, has decided to take a sabbatical from politics and return to pursue active business. Shareholders have approved his appointment as chairman of CIEL HR and Ma Foi Strategy, the two companies that are part of the Ma Foi group that he founded several years ago.
“In the last five years, I have been 100 percent in government and in politics. In the previous five years, I was an Opposition MLA. And, there was no bar then. So, I was actually running these businesses with 50 percent commitment. I will now give 100 percent,” he said.
To a pointed query, he said he had taken a sabbatical from politics. “My CEO allowed my conditional entry. My CEO said anything less than 100 percent commitment, there is no way,” he added.
CIEL HR, he said, was in a pre-IPO (initial public offering) phase. “It is too dangerous to have anything less than 100 percent commitment from any of us in the management,” he said.
What is the Ma Foi group?
The Ma Foi group has four companies – CIEL HR, Integram Technologies (an IT product company), Ma Foi Education and Ma Foi Strategy.
Pandia Rajan mentioned he continued to be a member of the AIADMK party.
The Edappadi Palanisamy–led AIADMK government was in power from 2017 to 2021, and was defeated in the assembly elections held in May.
Pandiarajan, who was the minister for Tamil language, Tamil Culture and Archaeology, in the Edappadi Palanisamy government, said his time in politics will be next to nil at least for the next five years “or until we do our public issue”. “Now, I won’t be able to appear in the media as a politician.”
He asserted the positives of his past as a minister in Tamil Nadu would transfer advantageously as he adorned a new role, albeit a familiar one. He was confident that his perspective of the subject matter, his contacts and his identity would all keep him in good stead as he picked up the thread from where had left when he joined the government five years ago.
“My identity as a gentleman politician with a strong perspective will transfer positively. I see no negative transfer of any kind,” he said.
The management is toying with the idea of IPO for Rs 306-crore (in 2020-2021) CIEL HR. Pandia Rajan indicated that it could happen in the next couple of years or so.
Spotting the HR Opportunity
In 1992, Pandia Rajan co-founded Ma Foi Management Consultants along with his wife Lata to tap into opportunities arising out of the 1991 economic liberalisation policy in India. Initially, the focus was on placing middle-level and managerial people overseas, especially in the Middle East.
In 2002, he struck a partnership with Vedior, a Dutch head-hunter firm looking to expand its operations in West Asia and South-East Asia. He sold the majority of his stake in Ma Foi to Vedior in 2004.
In 2007, Dutch HR services firm Randstad acquired the operations of Ma Foi through its acquisition of Vedior. In 2012, he founded a new venture focusing on management consulting and education space, Ma Foi Strategic Consultants Pvt. Ltd.
Somewhere along during his business journey, he stepped into the world of politics. His foray into politics was through the Bharatiya Janata Party, but he subsequently joined DMDK party founded by actor-turned-politician Vijaykanth.
He contested in the 2011 Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly election and won from the Virdhunagar constituency. Subsequently, he moved to the AIADMK and was rewarded with a ministerial position when the late J Jayalalithaa was chief minister. He was made a minister when O Panneerselvam was chief minister after Jayalalithaa’s death and later when Palanisamy took office.