COLUMN: Spouse's Turn
Latha talks about life with the business entrepreneur VK Mathews
By Shevlin Sebastian
In February, 2014, Latha and her husband VK Mathews went to the Laurentian Mountains in Quebec for a holiday. It was a beautiful place: blue skies, cool weather and snow-laden slopes. Their Canadian hosts asked the couple to use a sled. You sit on it, and go down the slope, using your legs as a brake. Latha was hesitant, but their friends said it was child’s play. So Mathews and Latha set out on separate sleds. After the first turn, which Latha navigated perfectly, the inevitable happened. She lost her balance and went tumbling down the hill.
Immediately, a few helpers arrived on a snowmobile to collect Latha. “I told Mathews that he should carry on, since he loves adventure sports,” says Latha. But Mathews shook his head and remained with Latha, applying an ice pack on her leg, as they went to the hospital. Scans revealed a cartilage tear.
“A woman always wants a feeling of security,” says Latha. “That is her basic need. And Mathews has always provided that.”
In fact, on their wedding day, at the Jacobite church, at Perumbavoor, on July 11, 1982, Latha experienced this secure feeling for the first time. When she was stepping down from the stage, during the reception, on her three-inch heels, she slipped and Mathews quickly reached out. “I can never forget the way that he held me,” she says.
Indeed, Mathews has always been there for his wife and daughters – Hannah and Maria – despite his jet-setting lifestyle. Sometime ago, he flew to Australia and Germany on successive days for work and returned to Dubai where he has a house. Soon, Latha and the girls went there from Thiruvananthapuram. They spent a week together and enjoyed watching Shah Rukh Khan’s ‘Happy New Year’ at a beach-side theatre. “At dinner, we had an avid discussion about the film,” says Latha. “Our conclusion: it was an absorbing though predictable film.”
Incidentally, it was in Dubai that Mathews established his career. He was in charge of the computerisation of the reservations system at Emirates Airlines. “He had to work for days at a stretch,” says Latha. “If there were any problems, he had to be present. Sometimes, I would go and spend time with him at the office at night. I always felt that work was his passion and the most important thing in the world for him.”
After 14 years in Dubai, Mathews told Latha that he was going to resign. “I did not say anything,” says Latha. “All my relatives asked me why I remained silent. I said that if this is what he wants, he should do it. I was confident that he would be successful.”
Mathews started the IBS Group in 1997. Initially, it was a joint venture with Swissair. But when Swissair went bankrupt in 2001, IBS had a crisis. “Despite the setback, Mathews did not get rid of a single employee,” says Latha. “He managed to have a makeover and made it a products company.”
And Latha also learned something from the experience. “When problems come up, if we face it positively, then things will work out,” she says.
Incidentally, the family is also involved in the business. Daughter Hannah is working in the administration, while Maria has just quit IBS to work in a firm in Dubai.
Today, the IBS Group is a 3000 strong company which provides new-generation solutions to over 200 clients, which includes airlines, airports, cruise lines, oil and gas companies, travel distributors and hotels. The company has offices at Atlanta, Boston, London, Japan, Sydney, Dubai, Bangalore, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram.
When asked about Mathew's qualities, Latha says, “Mathews has a positive outlook, is full of life and a charismatic person who is able to get along with people from all walks of life.”
And he had the determination to succeed. “Some people talk a lot about their plans, but it rarely becomes a reality,” says Latha. “But in Mathew's case, it came true. He is a visionary. He never spoke about making money or having a big business. He just wanted to do well in life.”
Interestingly, unlike most successful people, Mathews has been a hands-on father. “Mathews has attended all the functions at school and most of the Parent-Teacher meetings,” says Latha.
But Mathews has his drawbacks, too. “He has a short temper but it is usually about minor matters,” says Latha. “For example, if he comes home early and if I have gone out for a function, he might get irritated. If there is any problem regarding any member of his family, he will leave everything and go there. I guess it is fine. My reaction may be because of my selfishness. But then I am not a 100 per cent perfect person.”
Finally, when asked to give tips for a successful marriage, Latha says, “Everyone has a role to play in the family. As a homemaker and wife, I am the glue that keeps the house moving. So, play your role as husband and wife to perfection and love one another.”
(Published in The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)