Puthiyottil Vijayan was born as the son of P Velayudhan and Leela in a lower middle class family of Puthoormadam village in Kozhikode district. He had four brothers and two sisters. Vijayan dropped out of school at the age of 12 and started working at construction sites to earn his livelihood. His only aim at that point was to become a good mason.

A few years later, Vijayan enrolled for night classes to prepare for the Class 10 exam, and cleared it in his second attempt. He continued private studies for pre-degree and then enrolled for BA in Economics.

Determined to earn a college degree, Vijayan set up a small soap manufacturing unit under a government sponsored self-employment scheme and took classes for schoolchildren as a means of income. He completed MA and M Phil from Calicut University. That's when IPS became his dream. And after three attempts, he was able to crack the civil service examination in 1999 to join IPS.

As Kerala cadre police official, Vijayan led the teams that investigated several high-profile cases including the Sabarimala Thanthri case, the Chelembra Bank Robbery case, and the email threat case against the Prime Minister. In 2005, Vijayan, as Commissioner of Police, Kochi City, constituted a team of Shadow Police, a first of its kind in the state.

His own journey from a child labourer to an IPS officer motivated Vijayan to initiate several novel schemes to promote education among poor children. He believes that juvenile crimes can be minimised by guiding underprivileged children in the right path. 

In, 2010 Vijayan launched the Student Police Cadet (SPC) project in 127 schools across Kerala, with 11,176 students enrolled as cadets. The project has now been expanded to a statewide network of 433 schools with a combined strength of nearly 35,000 SPCs, being trained by over 850 existing teachers and nearly 1500 officers of Kerala Police. The SPC project has received wide acceptance, earned him numerous awards, and has been adopted by various states already, and is planned for expansion throughout India.

Vijayan also initiated various other projects aimed at social transformation, including Our Responsibility to Children (ORC) project, Nanma Learning Centres, School Protection Group, and Punyam Poonkavanam.