Lakshmi Video Centre: Malaysia’s first and last to survive the digital revolution

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BEFORE the existence of the Digital Versatile Disc (DVD), Video Compact Disc (VCD), USB flash drives, hard disc drives, and advanced digital streamings, there was Video Home System (VHS) tape.


For a little while in the late 20th century, VHS reigned supreme as the standard format for home videos.


The ease of use, affordability, relatively good quality, and accessibility made it a household staple in Malaysia during the late 1970s.


One man’s decision in 1979 to enable Indian households in Malaysia to enjoy cinema most affordably created a chain of positive reactions among the people here.


Datuk Seri K. Palaniappan, 68, the founder of Lakshmi Video Centre, who founded the country’s first video rental store here in Penang, is currently operating the last store in the state.


After putting much thought into this business plan, Palaniappan probably made the smartest move in the business landscape, as he understood the form of entertainment that brought joy to the Indian community, which was watching movies.


“My first branch was introduced at Market Street before I went on to expand to 27 other centres throughout the state.


“I am an ardent fan of the late M.G. Ramachandran, an Indian politician, actor and philanthropist from India.


“I used to have a complete collection of his songs at my centres, and just by listening to the songs, I can perfectly guess the movies.


“We used to rent the tapes for as low as RM3 daily, and customers would usually keep it for more than one day,” said Palaniappan during an exclusive interview with Buletin Mutiara at the Bombay Kitchen restaurant in George Town on Jan 17.


When All-Asian Satellite Television and Radio Operator (Astro) came onto the scene, I was prepared to face the potential challenges that were to come.


“That was when I decided to open a restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, called the Gem Restaurant.


“The evolvement of technology is so rapid these days, which has paved the way for people in this modernised era to have access to video content faster,” Palaniappan said.


When asked why he took the unusual business switch, he said there are two things that humans can’t live without, one is entertainment and the other is food.


The Gems Group founder currently operates eight restaurant chains in Penang and Kuala Lumpur, and the latest to join the chain is Bombay Kitchen, which was opened some two months ago at Beach Street in George Town.


Bombay Kitchen is run by his son P. Krishnan.


Palaniappan, who was born in India, stayed there for 21 years before moving to Malaysia in 1977.


He waited for five years before obtaining his Malaysian citizenship.


Story by Kevin Vimal
Pix courtesy of Lakshmi Video Centre