Vallinayagan Ulaganathan Chidambaram popularly known by his initials, V.O.C, also known as Kappalottiya Tamizhan “The Tamil Helmsman (a person who steers a ship or boat)”, was an Indian freedom fighter and leader of Indian National Congress. He was the first Indian who started shipping company to kill british monopoly.⁣

He was born in 1872 in a vellalar family in Tuticorin District. He completed his college in Tirunelveli and later he pursued law.⁣

From 1892 Chidambaram was influenced by Tilak and became his disciple. Along with Subramanya Siva and Subramanya Bharathi, he became a prominent spokesperson for the cause in the Madras Presidency. ⁣

In response to the British India Steam Navigation Company’s trade monopoly, Chidambaram started an Indian-owned shipping company, ‘Swadeshi Shipping Company’ in October 1906.⁣

In response to the new competition, the B.I.S.N.C. (british company) reduced the fare per trip to Re.1 (16 annas) per head. The Swadeshi company responded by offering a fare of Re.0.5 (8 Annas). The British company went further by offering a free trip to the passengers with a free umbrella; however, nationalist sentiment meant that the free service was underused. The B.I.S.N.C. attempted to buy out Chidambaram, but he refused the deal.⁣

He and Subramania Siva were arrested in Tuticorin on 12 March 1908 for delivering inflammatory speeches. Following their arrest, a serious riot (also known as Tinnevely riot) broke out in the neighbouring Tinnevely in protest. He was charged with punishment of four years imprisonment and six years in exile and his barrister license was also revoked.⁣

In 1920, Chidambaram withdrew from the Indian National Congress, citing ideological differences with Mahatma Gandhi. He focused his efforts on establishing labor unions in Madras and writing. However, he later rejoined the Congress party in 1927 and presided over the third political conference held at Salem. ⁣

In 1929 he moved to Thoothukudi, where he spent his time writing and publishing Tamil books. After few years he died in 1936.⁣

Tuticorin Port Trust, one of India’s thirteen major ports, is named after him.⁣