Tell a Reddy there’s a fresh enterprise brewing and chances are he’ll give you not just a patient ear, but also come back with an improvised business model in hand. You can take a Reddy out of industry and put him elsewhere but you can never take the business gene out of a Reddy. The community, which has a history of successful farming and ancestry harking back to the ruler or warrior class, has an affinity for ‘leadership’. It’s no surprise, therefore, that where there’s an infrastructure, construction, real estate, power, irrigation, hospitality, pharma, healthcare, diagnostics, education or IT project, there’s a Reddy.
Credit it to the fact that a Reddy rarely loses his rural-agricultural connect. Regardless of the position he may hold, he (or she) can lecture you endlessly on crops, rainfall and soil fertility. Across the spectrum, Reddys know their paddy from their corn. T. Subbirami Reddy, former MP and founder of Gayatri Group, sums it up best: “The Reddys imbibe their risk-taking nature from their agrarian backgrounds. Since most of them have witnessed windfall gains and losses in farming, they are not given to panic.”
Subbirami Reddy’s was among the first Reddy families from Nellore to enter the construction business—50 years back, with the Nagarjunasagar dam. The family’s business interests now span hotels, films, construction, power, highways, infrastructure, sugar and chemicals. Son Sandeep and son-in-law Sanjay, who hails from the other Reddy powerhouse, the GVK Group, are ably steering the capitalist ship ahead. “We are aggressive by nature and a dominating force both politically and agriculturally. As a natural offshoot, Reddys are successful business barons as well,” says the industrialist-politician, a tad boastful.
Reddys have dominated Andhra politics for decades. The community has always seen a high number of MLAs and MPs since Independence, disproportionate to its numbers. This is because Reddys are perceived as ‘able’ administrators who can exercise power with flair. In the pre-Mandal era, almost the entire state cabinet would comprise Reddys, be it of Sanjeeva Reddy or of Kasu Brahmananda Reddy. “The Reddys have an ability to harmonise other communities and sustain them,” says Adala Murali Krishna Reddy, chairman of the MAK Group, whose verticals include irrigation projects, hotels, property and power. “Even though I left my village years back, I’d say I learnt the basic concepts of entrepreneurship like management, thrift, conservation and growth on the farm,” says the 58-year-old, extending the same tips now to his children.
The proximity of Nellore to Chennai had led many Reddys to explore industry in the erstwhile Madras presidency during the British rule. “Many Reddys in Nellore and Chittoor explored commercial exports like tobacco and micanite mining even way back in 1944,” says Satyanarayana Adapa, a professor of history at the Osmania University. “Studies reveal that during and after World War II, opportunities for investment in non-agricultural activities such as mining, transport and lift irrigation schemes were on the rise. Much of the surplus rural capital of dominant castes like Reddys flowed into these ventures.”
In the 1950s and ’60s, the Reddys made a foray as PWD (public works department) contractors in dams, canals, bridges, roads and even railways. And in the ’70s, when the government introduced public-private partnerships, they entered the manufacturing industry in a big way, taking baby steps into steel, electrical equipment, hotels, warehouses, detergents and TV sets. That changed after then prime minister Indira Gandhi introduced the Land Ceiling Act, and the Reddys, who had hitherto owned large tracts of land, began educating themselves aggressively. At the same time, they realised that agriculture alone could not secure their future and began scouting for fresh enterprise.
One of their strongest traits is said to be the community’s liberal and people-oriented approach. “It is again to do with our agrarian roots,” emphasises Telugu Desam Party leader from Nellore, Somireddy Chandramohan Reddy. Somireddy, whose family is in the business of power projects besides agriculture, thinks the best part about Reddys is “they know how to get work done”. The solidity of the Reddy stock as big farmers, village headmen, landlords and village representatives creates an almost impeccable line of top-notch industrialists. Evidently, it’s not just their spending capacity but their organisational abilities as well which make Reddys what they are: confident businessmen.
A place in the sun Dr Prathap Reddy of the Apollo Group. (Photograph by Nilotpal Baruah)
And so, Dr Prathap C. Reddy of the Apollo Group, Rajeev Reddy of Country Club, Anji Reddy of Dr Reddy’s Laboratories or G.V.K. Reddy, industrialists of this community wear their capitalist tag proudly on their sleeve. The Kammas in Andhra Pradesh come from a similar background of farming and landowning class. “But somehow, they’ve not wielded as much power as we have,” says a Reddy hotelier who also runs a successful business in neighbouring Karnataka. An accepted fact about Reddys is that they manage to stay close to the corridors of power, irrespective of the party in power.
Smooth, informal networking is also something the Reddy is adept at. From a distance, this networking may appear a chaotic honeycomb but in fact there is order within the chaos. Standard Reddy sanghams apart, most top industrialists of the community stay in touch, exchanging market tips and earthy business advice. They may compete against each other, but industrialists of the community do not shy from extending a helping hand should a fellow Reddy be in trouble. They also draw reference points of knowledge from each other. A modest Reddy employee who has worked in a cement factory would in no time be picking up the tricks of the trade from his employer and use him as an inspiration to set up his own cement business. What’s more, he will even borrow the initial capital from him. “That’s because we are an agricultural community which has transformed itself into a business community. Make no mistake. We are not a trader community,” explains Murali Krishna Reddy.
The clannish behaviour reveals itself in the pattern of marriages, mostly within the community. Wealth goes around, multiplies, but stays within the wider Reddy family. The women in the Reddy community are powerhouses in their own right. This is evident right from the village level. The wife of a Reddy farmer knows everything about crops and their marketability. She takes equal part in decisions affecting the farm. And when there is a void caused by incompetence or death of the male, Reddy women take charge with elan. Satish Reddy, who runs the show at Dr Reddy’s Labs as MD and COO, has a successful businessperson in wife Deepthi Reddy. Deepthi runs the widely popular Wow! Hyderabad magazine, of which she is the managing editor.
And even as they temper passions to meet market conditions, the Reddys are not averse to trying out new ventures. The Telugu film industry, busier than any other in the country, might be dominated by the Kammas today, but it was the Reddys who cut their teeth on it first. Prior to Independence, some of them, like B. Nagi Reddy, ventured into movie-making. Nagi Reddy started Vijaya Productions in Chennai and went on to become a famous producer and studio owner.
For that matter, industrialist A. Mahesh Reddy’s company amr India Ltd may be primarily into contract mining, but that hasn’t stopped him from producing actor Nagarjuna’s latest release, Shirdi Sai, his first such foray. “In 1992, our company had a turnover of Rs 30 lakh. Today it stands at Rs 1,500 crore. Even today, I travel 25 days a month and work 15-16 hours a day,” says Mahesh Reddy proudly. The secret of the Reddy’s success, says the newbie film producer, is that he never loses his drive. “Nothing is readymade. Reddys gather all the ingredients and cook the dish of success themselves.” It shows in the aroma.
Reddys and Kammas are two communities that became prominent in all spheres of public life in Andhra Pradesh (Always on the Ready). Traditionally cultivators, some of them became zamindars and acquired kingly traits in the pre-colonial and colonial eras. Originally, the word Reddy referred to the status of a person—of being a ‘village head’. ‘Kapu’ was the original caste of the Reddys. Their politico-economic rise can be traced to their historic hold on local land and village politics.
G. Niranjan Rao, Hyderabad
What a lame article! Doesn’t the author know that success has nothing to do with having a certain caste, but more with environment, geography, the prevailing economic atmosphere, etc. The Reddys comprise millions of people. And it’s no great wonder if some of them happen to be successful.
The article forgot to mention other natural leaders and flamboyant Reddys like YSR Reddy, Janardhana Reddy, Somasekhara Reddy, Karunakara Reddy, etc.
Subba Rao, Dallas
AND KONDA KAPUS ARE NEITHER FCs NOR OBCs, BUT A SCHEDULED TRIBE !!
G. NIRANJAN RAO
In the past, many reddys and kapus in TN are alleged to have made false claims and obtained ST certificates by just adding 'Konda' beside their actual caste.Thus a reddy becomes a Konda reddy and a kapu, konda kapu for getting a false ST certificate.
That's why in TN, any seeking ST status by calling himself Konda Reddy or Konda Kapu is not issued such caste certificate automatically without endorsement from the revenue authority of respective region of origin of the said caste from AP.
I know of a family who managed to get MBBS for her son in AIIMS through this route and he continued his studies there to finally become an MCh in gastroenterology, as a konda reddy only to marry into a regualr reddy family that gave him a hefty dowry, unthinkable for an ST.
This confusion among the non-Telugu people over the status of KAPUS in AP is quite understandable.
First a clarification : Kapu, Balija and Telaga and Ontari are the regional variants of the same caste. Inter marriages do take place among them. They form the Greater Kapu--Fold. Telagas are mostly found in the North Coastal Dts of Sreekakulam, Vijayanagaram and Visakhapatnam. Kapus are predominatly found in the rest of the Coastal Dts--from East Godavari to Prakasam Dts. Balijas are found mostly in Nellore and the four Rayalaseema Dts.
Except certain sections of Balijas, the rest of all these Kapu sub-sects viz., Kapus, Balijas, Telagas and Ontari--are Forward Classes. They DO NOT enjoy reservations in education and employment . In terms of social status they are comparable to the other cultivator FCs---such as Reddys, Kammas and Velamas. But in terms of economic advancement they lag behind the Kammas in Coastal AP. Hence, they now demand to be categorised as OBCs !
"KAPU" in Telugu means Protect or Guard. Historically the term referred to a KAPU's role as a Protector of Crops and Villages. As a Cultivator a Kapu was supposed to protect his crops and as a Village Chief or Mukhia he was supposed to protect his villagers from the external aggressors. In many parts of AP even now an agricultural labour would refer to his employer/Cultivator as "My Kapu"--irrespective of the caste to which his cultivator-employer actually belongs-- be he a Reddy, Velama, Kamma,Balija or a Kapu.
Now for the confusion regarding the FC--OBC status of the Kapus :
Yes ..there are both FC and OBC Kapus. In the six Southern Delta Dts of Coastal Andhra--East Godavari, West Godavari, Krishna, Guntur, Prakasam and Nellore --- Kapus are designated as a Forward Class (Caste). In Nellore they style themselves as BALIJAS. Inter marriages do take place beween Kapus, Balijas and Telagas. All of them, by and large, belong to the Greater Fold of OC--Kapu category.
Traditionally Kapus were cultivators and Balijas have had "Occupational Shifts" from Sri Krishna Devaraya's times. The Balijas of Vijayanagara Empire were Cultivator--warriors. Some of them rose to be the NAYAKA rulers (or Governors ) in the Tamil countryside .The Nayakas of Thanjavur and Madurai were Balijas--the famous among them was Viswanatha Nayaka who fought with his own rebel-father and restored the region back to Vijayanagara Empire. Sree Krihns Devaraya's son-in-law Rama Raya was a Balija. Balijas also became prominent in Trade . Thus, they had diverified their professions into Cultivation, Army and Trade . This had not happened to the Delta Kapus. By and large in the pre-Colonial and Colonial times Kapus of Coastal AP (Delta areas) remainned as farmers/tenants and agricultural labourers.
In Nellore and the four Dts of Rayalaseema region, except some sections, the rest of the Balijas are FCs. In the three Dts of North Coastal AP--Sreekakulam, Vijayanagaram and Visakhapatnam, there are TELAGAS and TOORPU KAPUS. Telagas traditionally have had the economic clout and social status comparable to the Kapus of Delta Andhra. Hence, they inter-marry with the Kapus of Delta Andhra. Both Telagas and Kapus are the FCs.
But Toorpu Kapus were designated as OBCs. Comparatively "Toorpu Kapus" are poorer than the Telagas. This sub-region itself is economically backward due to heavy population pressure and rain-fed agriculture. Earlier on, historically a large scale outmigration of people from North Coastal AP Dts to Burma, Odisha and West Bengal had taken place . The City of Khargpur in W.Bengal has a large number of Telugus, most whom are from North-Coastal AP.
In Telangana there are "MUNNOORU KAPUS" (Three hundred Kapus ) .The Nizam of Hyderad was supposed to have requested the Thanjavur Naik (ruler) to send Three hundred warriors to Hyderabad state. The present-day Munnooru Kapus of Telangana are their discendants. And they are categorised as OBCs.
To add further to this confusion, in the Two Godavari Dts of Coastal AP , there are "KONDA KAPUS" . Farmers from the Tribal Communities began to style themselves as "Konda Kapus".
AND KONDA KAPUS ARE NEITHER FCs NOR OBCs, BUT A SCHEDULED TRIBE !!
G Niranjan Rao >> Historically the word "Reddy" did not refer to any caste among the Telugus.The word "Reddy" originally referred to the status of a person--of being a "Vllage Head" or Mukhia. "Kapu" was the original caste of the Reddys.
I have read this before but truly puzzled. As far as I understand, Kapus of AP are the working class, peasans and are considered as OBCs, that is they get reservation benefits, etc. The Reddys are treated as FCs and they dont get the benefits.
If both Reddys and Kapus were from same community, and if they dominate the state in most spheres, why are Kapus considered OBCs and Reddys are not?
G. NIRANJAN RAO
Your post clarifying on savarna reddys and kammas is knowledge for me.
Reddys and Kammas are the two communities who became prominent in all spheres of public life in Andhra Pradesh. Traditionally cultivators, some of them became kings and zamindars in the pre-Colonial and Colonial periods.
Historically the word "Reddy" did not refer to any caste among the Telugus.The word "Reddy" originally referred to the status of a person--of being a "Vllage Head" or Mukhia. "Kapu" was the original caste of the Reddys.
On the eve of the 1921 Census, the later-day Reddys of Telangana of Nizam (Hyderabad) state had resolved to distinguish themselves from the other "Kapu" community viz., the "Munnuru Kapus". Among the Hindus there were prominent Deshmukhs (landlords) from the "Velamas"--one of the Fourth Varnas in Telangana (and Coastal Andhra). After the Velamas, Kapus ( the later-day Reddys) were the prominent landlords and the rich peasants . The Munnuru Kapus were small farmers and agricultural labourers. The Reddys wanted to distinguish themselves from the Munnuru Kapus. Hence they, as a community, had resolved to report not as "Kapus" but as "Reddys" to the 1921 decadal Census authorities! Afterall, isn't one-up-manship the core of Hindu caste system ?
In the Rayalaseema region, till 1950s and early Sixties the school certificates would have "Kapu" as a caste of the children and not the word"Reddy" . This was so because in this region traditionally the word "Reddy" meant Village Chieftain/Mukhia. Hence, it follows that even non-Reddy landlord families can add the Reddy-tag to their names !!
Incidentally, Mr Raghuveera Reddy, a cabinet minister in the present govt of AP comes from a landlord family of Ananthapur Dt. He is not from the Reddy varna . He is a Yadava. Thus, in this region any landlord -Mukhia from any community --be it Yadava, Balija or Kamma- can add this Reddy-tag even now.
The remarkable politico-economic rise of Reddys and Kammas ( two of the prominent Savarna Sudras in AP) can be traced to their historical hold on land and village politics . In Coasta Andhra there was a Reddy kingdom . Velamas and Kammas held many zamindaries . Population-wise, Kammas were larger than the Velamas. And there was a huge difference between the two communities in terms of the aquisitive ethos as well. While Velamas remained "feudal", shirking physical labour and chasing a laid-back pleasure-loving life, Kammas became enterprising farmers and the later-day entrepreneurs spread in trade, industry and the ubiquitous Cinema field.
For long Reddys dominated politics in the state. Numerically they were larger and scattered all over the state except North Coastal AP. Comparitively, Kammas fall short in numbers and were concentrated in fewer places. They are found in In Delta Andhra Dts of West Godavary, Krishna,Guntur Prakasam of Coasta AP and Chittoor and Ananthapur Dts of Rayalaseema. Kammas' long cherished dream of capturing political power remained unfulfilled for long--till the year 1983 when the Messaiah came in the form of the hugely popular film actor N.T.Rama Rao with the catchy slogan of "Teluguvaari Atmagauravam"-- the self respect of the Telugu people. The rest is history.
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