Kanpur: The sprawling 4,000-square-yard ‘Santushti’ mansion in the plush Tilaknagar locality in Kanpur wears a forlorn look,except when the CBI officers show up.

Each time the gates open, revealing a punctiliously maintained lawn and a bevy of luxury vehicles, anxious camera persons and reporters, camping outside Vikram Kothari’s palatial residence, jump into action hoping to catch the latest in the ongoing probe against the tycoon, embroiled in one of the biggest bank fraud cases in Indian banking.

‘Santushti’, which means satisfaction in hindi, was till now associated only with opulence and success. And its owner, stationery czar Vikram Kothari, creator of the Rotomac brand of pens, figured among the who’s who of Indian business.

Vikram Kothari, managing director of Rotomac Global.
Vikram Kothari, managing director of Rotomac Global.

Neighbour Rajendra Kumar Saffar recalls that it was in 1973 that Kothari’s father Mansukhbhai Kothari laid the foundation of a ‘paan masala’ empire. Back then, Mansukhbhai, who hailed from Gujarat, lived in Nayaganj area of the city and supplied coconut oil to shops. He, however, soon moved into the paan masala business. Mansukhbhai Kothari was among the first ones to sell paan masala in pouches and his brand—Pan Parag—became a raging success, recalls Saffar. Leading Bollywood actors Shammi Kapoor and Ashok Kumar featured in the ubiquitous Pan Parag ad on TV and the brand’s tagline “Baraatiyon ka swagat Pan Parag se kijiye", became wildly popular. So much so that Kanpur itself came to be called “pan masala city".

At that time, Vikram Kothari and his brother Deepak Kothari assisted their father Mansukhbhai in managing the ever-burgeoning paan masala empire. As business prospered, the group diversified and in 1992, the Rotomac Pen company was formed while “Yes", a mineral water brand, was launched a couple of years later.

In 1999, the two brothers decided to go separate ways. Elder brother Vikram Kothari took charge of the stationery and pens enterprise while younger brother Deepak Kothari took control of the pan masala empire, said Saffar.

Rotomac too had its glorious run and emerged a top player in the writing instruments market. Its promotional tagline “likhtey, likhtey, love ho jaaye", too struck a chord with many. Bollywood actor Salman Khan and Raveena Tandon were then its brand ambassadors.

Social recognition accompanied commercial success and the Lions Club named Vikram Kothari as its goodwill ambassador, said Saffar. As time went by, Rotomac Pens Pvt. Ltd was rechristened as the Rotomac Global Pvt. Ltd while Vikram Kothari moved into sectors like real estate, steel and infrastructure, hoping to replicate his success.

However, what seemed like an uninterrupted success story gave way to a contrary reality as Vikram Kothari finds himself accused of a bank loan default to the tune of thousands of crores of rupees. Locals and neighbours now can only watch in disbelief as Kothari’s name figures in one of the biggest default cases and that too at a time when the banking sector is facing the NPA crisis and the issue has taken the centre stage in the political discourse.

According to neighbour Saffar, Vikram Kothari has one son and two daughters. Both his daughters are married in business families, he added.

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