Born at Ottapidaran in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu in the late nineteenth century, V.O. Chidambaram Pillai qualified as a lawyer. He was a staunch supporter of the Swadeshi Movement and was drawn into the freedom struggle when Bengal was partitioned in 1905. He launched a campaign to boycott foreign goods, and founded cooperative weaving mills and warehouses for national products in Tuticorin. Noticing the ill-treatment of Indian workers by
British shipping companies, Chidambaram Pillai floated the Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company. His speeches against the imperialist policy of the British led to his arrest and the award of a double life sentence (which was later reduced to 6 years rigorous imprisonment). Released in 1911, he died in 1936.