Fellows' Lounge
21 Feb 2017

Mr K M Philip FIMMM, 1912-2017

Mr K M Philip, winner of the Hancock Medal in 1986, passed away at his home in Chennai, South India on 12 January 2017.

Mr Philip was the family head of the $2 billion turnover South India MM Group Conglomerate with interests in Plantations, Media, Rubber, Tyres and Rubber Recycling. He was an active Chairman and Director on several Boards till the age of 102. Widely respected and regarded in the Asian Rubber Industry as the Doyen of the Indian Rubber Industry. He played a key role in the post war transformation of the post-independence nascent Indian Rubber Industry into a vibrant $15 billion Industry. His early 1980’s prediction of 1 million MTA rubber demand in India earned him the sobriquet from Tan Sri Dr B C Sekhar Chairman of the Malaysian Rubber Board (Colwyn medal -1975) as “Million Tonne Philip”. The industry crossed this mark at the turn of this millennium.

Born in the Southern State of Kerala (the Natural Rubber Producing State of India) in May 1912, he completed his MA (Economics) at Madras Christian College, Madras. After a stint in the family promoted bank, he migrated prewar to Bombay and tried his hand in a variety of startups. He honed in on his interests of supply latex to the rubber industry, a thriving tea and coffee supply business and creating an institutional infrastructure for the rubber industry. He helped establish several small family businesses, which prospered into modern medium enterprises run by third generation family members. He played a key role in securing tyre manufacturing knowhow that enabled his family to enter into a successful pneumatic auto tyre manufacturing business that is a pan-Indian presence with a predominant market share.

In the post-independence era the Indian economy, with its left leaning socialist democracy, was constrained by the overdose of planning and “Licence Raj” with controls which stifled businesses. Mr. Philip helped counter the effects in the Rubber Industry as a Founder member of the All India Rubber Industries Association (AIRIA). Collective representation was necessary for clearances from the Government bureaucracy. He established the Rubber India monthly magazine, that became the voice of the industry and channeled the inherent dynamism in the industry to overcome some of the generic problems faced by the controls systems in place. He also envisaged the need for R&D to meet the challenges of technology changes.

The Indian Rubber Manufacturers Research Association, formed in the 1970’s, has grown from modest beginnings to a state of the art rubber product and tyre testing and development facility catering to customers across the world. He remained its Chairman till 2007, with its autonomy and financial stability confirmed. He played an active role as Chairman of Indian Section (Western region) of the then Institution of the Rubber Industry, UK (subsequently PRI, IoM and then IOM3) and helped establish branches across India.

The K M Philip Biennial Gold Medal Award was instituted in his honour by the AIRIA and is the premier recognition for technologists and industry managers in India today.  He was active in the national and International YMCA movement and was elected President of the World Alliance, Geneva in 1982.The Indian government recognised his contributions with the national Padma Shree Award.

He died on the eve of Biennial 6th Rubber India Expo 2017, which showcased the Indian rubber industry. He was instrumental in supporting and nurturing in its formative years its current significance to the Global Rubber Industry.  He attributed his longevity to his 6 day a week daily routine and discipline, starting with a quick early morning round of golf, officework till lunch, evening bridge and a drink with dinner before retiring.

Dr R K Matthan FIMMM (Hancock Medalist 2014)