Chettiar was born in 1893 to Muthukaruppan Chettiar and Vinaitherthal achi (Sivakami achi) was born in Sivagangai District, Tamil Nadu. He was the tenth and last child in his family. He was educated at St Thomas' College, Sri Lanka. He edited a newspaper championing the cause of the plantation workers. He returned from Sri Lanka and was elected Secretary of the Madras Province Congress Committee of the Indian National Congress. In his lifetime Chettiar established fourteen textile mills, the Bank of Madurai, and the Madurai Insurance Company. For a number of years he also published a daily newspaper called Tamil Nadu Daily. Chettiar also established nineteen educational institutions including Thiagarajar Preceptors College, Thiagarajar school of Management, and Thiagarajar College of Engineering.