BUSINESS JEWELS OF INDIA
by C A Raghavan R S
Dhirubhai Ambani (1932 – 2002)
The iconic person who introduced many financial instruments for the first time in the financial market is none other than Dhirajlal Hirachand Ambani, popularly known as Dhirubhai Ambani. Considering the background of average standard of living, he personally felt that unless he does something radically and in super quick time, there is no fair chance of his coming up in the life. In order to make some quick money, at the age of 16, he went to Aden, in Yemen and returned back to India at the age of 26 or so to start some business of his interest.
He started “Reliance Commercial Corporation” to trade in yarn and spices. He himself was marketing the products in the Textile Bazaars of Bombay, as he imported Polyster textiles, which was new to India and it was considered to be, relative to cotton, maintenance free. With his passion to do business to come up in life backed by energetic personality, he began to make headway steadily. His first manufacturing outfit was established in Ahmedabad. He focused on product quality and practiced fairness in his deals, which were very much liked by his customers.
He and his family members, numbering six as the couple had four children – two sons and two daughters, lived in one room apartment called Jai Hind Society in Bombay. One can imagine the conditions they lived as the society housed nearly 500 families and the children had to share the clothes and other things, as that was the practice in the olden days.
With a view to manufacture fabrics for suits and saris, Dhirubhai set up a textile mill in Naroda, Gujarat in 1966 and this strategic move paid rich dividends both literally and metaphorically. Without hesitation, he started to plough back the money to buy more machines to manufacture textiles, which were sold under the brand name “VIMAL”, named after his elder brother’s son Ramniklal Ambani. He used to market the product as “only Vimal” and it became a very good successful brand in no time. The brand became very popular nation-wide as he opened show rooms in most part of the business centers in India.
If there is a single person who should be credited with the popularity of Public Issue of shares, more specifically I P O – Initial Public Offer, then the credit should go to Dhirubhai Ambani and his maiden issue of IPO of Reliance Textile Industries Ltd. was a resounding success in the Indian Capital Market in 1976-77. Later this company came out with a number of innovative financial instruments to tap money from general public. He is the first entrepreneur who inculcated confidence in the minds of public that the capital market is a tool for wealth creation.
As the company’s volume of business grew exponentially, profit also increased by leaps and bounds and he rewarded the shareholders in a number of ways like, Rights Issue, Bonus Issue, Convertible Debentures, Zero Coupon bonds, etc. Reliance success story made rounds in the capital market and its wealth creation potentials of equity were understood by both the business personalities and the common man shareholders. It is history that many small investors, who remained loyal with Reliance, became rich, thanks to the ingenious financial management by Dhirubhai Ambani. Many shareholders have seen the money multiplying into wealth creation of the order of lakhs, by just subscribing to the shares of Reliance.
As this paved way, many companies like Infosys, Wipro, TCS, some of the corporates in the Public Sector domain, Banks, etc., to tap the capital market rather comfortably with a premium attached to the issue, thanks to Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation (LPG) opened up by the government in the early nineties.
In the eighties he graduated from manufacturing polyester fabric into manufacturing polyester filament yarn that goes into the fabric. Foreseeing the potential of exponential growth in polyester yarn, he brought large capacity machines for operations. He also brought his son Mukesh Ambani, who was studying MBA, into the business so as to help him out to manage the growth trajectory.
It was an awesome scene to observe corporate Annual General Meeting being conducted in a football stadium, as nearly 12,000 shareholders attended the meeting with disbelief in their eyes about what they are seeing and all felt very proud to be a part of “reliable” Reliance Family. He took a very bold decision at the meeting to go for diversification and announced that he had to drop the word Textile from the company’s name, which was subsequently called Reliance Industries Ltd.
In 1996, he had a stroke that left his right side partially paralyzed. Strangely, this did not bring down his spirit of entrepreneurship, as in mid-nineties, he put up a huge manufacturing unit of oil refinery that took nearly three years to complete with the requirement of huge steel. This was done with the help of his two sons, one on technical and the other on the financial as well as administrative fronts. Dhirubhai felt that he had achieved his dreams, as his vision came true. Unfortunately, in the mid June – July 2002, he again suffered a stroke that took his life from the millions of investors / employees / customers / businessmen, all over the nation.
Though he left more than 12 to 13 years ago, he left an indelible mark in the business in general and capital market in particular. He rose from rags to riches and there are very few in parallel, who started business without proper financial support and educational background. He relied more on his potentials, capabilities and bold decision making acumen. What he lacked in the formal higher education, he more than compensated in his personal traits.
He groomed his two sons Mukesh and Anil, into the business activities after giving them good educational background. They picked up well and taken the business empire into greater heights through professional management. While Mukesh was strong on technical aspects, as he oversaw the construction of world’s largest oil refinery unit in Jamnagar, Gujarat Anil is considered to be good at commerce and finance. It is a different story that the brand name of “Reliance” was deeply affected when manipulative pricing was pushed in the Capital Market in an over ambitious way. Though parted ways to carry on the business and pursue their interest independently, the two sons of Dhirubhai Ambani follow the path laid by their illustrious and dynamic father, to a certain extent diligently.
Sunil Bharti Mittal
Like Naryana Murthy in I T sector, Sunil also built Telecom company right from the scratch. Both of them built a massive and huge corporate by dint of hard work. As his parents were of d
ifferent castes / roots, the family had to drop their family name of Mittal as they were ostracized by their community. This paved way for adoption of another name surname Bharti. But, later on they reclaimed the name of Mittal and hence Sunil is known as Sunil Bharti Mittal.
Though Sunil’s father was a popular political figure and a Member of Parliament, Sunil wanted to stand on his own leg and create a name for himself in the business world. Initially, Sunil started to manufacture cycle spare parts in Ludhiana and later shifted to trading business, as he imported products and sold it in the domestic / local markets.
When the Government of India restricted import of goods and w
anted to encourage indigenous manufacture of goods within the country itself, Sunil sensed good potentiality for his venture. As he was looking for the type of industry he needs to concentrate, telecom sector was getting opened up in a big way. Sensing good opportunity and potentiality in this sunrise industry, he set up a manufacturing unit to produce push button telephone, which was slated to replace the old traditional and heavy dialing telephone model. As the business grew, he went for related diversification by adding on Cordless Phones, Fax, Answering Machines, etc. to strengthen his presence and market share in the communication sector. All his employees own stocks in his companies, thus bringing in a culture of belongings among its staff. He does not believe in the H R policy of “Hire and Fire”. No differentiation could be felt between the employee and the owner, which kind of set up prevails in most of the companies.
As he became the front runner in the telecom products, he wanted to capitalize on the emerging telecommunication sector, which was making in-roads in India. Once he sensed the great potential, he plunged in a full-fledged manner. Sunil launched the “Airltel” brand in 1995 in the national capital New Delhi and there is no looking back since then. It became one of the household names as each and every person wanted to have a mobile set to communicate to the others in the quickest possible time.
It may not be out of place to mention that Bharti Airtel was the only company which became the “Sole Warrior” among the 30 shares BSE Index and 50 shares NIFTY Index, during the recent “Blood Bath” in the stock market on 6th May 2015, when sensex crashed 723 points (2.63%), as a fall out of Jittery FIIs selling efforts and non-too satisfactory financial results of March 2015, that were out by that time.
The positive wave length prevails over when one enters Bharti Airtel corporate office located near Qutup Minar in Mehruli area of New Delhi. Many say secret of his success is the satisfied employees working in the commercial capital Mumbai and the national capital Delhi, under his belt. He summarized as follows for the resounding success in his path breaking endeavours.
“Right from the beginning ours was never a trading of money–making mentality, but of wanting to be recognized in our field and to establish a corporation. We did things that were never tried before in India. We are very fair to the people we work with – suppliers, buyers, employees, etc. We wanted to prove that even with meager capital, we could do big things. Now a corporation, we are working to make it an institution”
Through the “Bharti Foundation”, Sunil ensured that he gives backs to the society something in return, particularly in the fields of higher education and management, well before Corporate Social Responsibilities became a mandatory aspect. Besides, in Madhya Pradesh focused on rural and semi-urban areas, more than 50 schools have been funded by this Foundation. In addition, I I T, Delhi is also in receipt of funds for building a Bharti School of Technology and Management.
Once enjoyed the status of being the “richest Indian”, Azim Premji was born in 1945. An untimely demise of his father, when he was pursuing his Engineering studies at Stanford University in US, made him take up the mantle of family business run in the name of Western India Products Ltd, engaged in manufacturing vegetable oil business, by cutting short his education. This was renamed as Wipro Ltd. Like Sunil Bharti sensing the potentials of Telecom sector, Azim Premji sensed the immense potentials of the revolutionary Information Technology sector.
He used to say “Quality is equal to Integrity, both being not negotiable”. For him integrity and value systems are very close to his heart, never wanting to compromise on the same. He built up a loyal team practicing value system that he preaches many time to prove his point. His company created huge wealth to its loyal employees and also loyal shareholders, with very few parallels in the corporate history.
The Time magazine rated him as one of the top 100 influential people in the world. He is very eager to take his company as well as India to the top of the world, ambitiously one day.
Though his son Rishab Premji is an alumnus of Harward Business School, Azim Premji, holding nearly 75% stake in WIPRO, ensured that his son spent considerable time of as many as 8 years or so in the company before inducting him into the Board as a Director in 2015. Thus, Rishab’s entry to the Board of Wipro was not a privileged one but only through due process, involving in-house exposure. Beauty is Azim continues to be as humble as he was when he started the career in Wipro and this is quite unbelievable, considering the status he has achieved. He holds majority stake in the shareholding of Wipro, which is a value based corporate entity.
Through Azim Premji Foundation, established in 2001, he fulfills his desire to do something back to the society, much before the Corporate Social Responsibilities came into the reckoning through the process of Law. This foundation contributes to the quality universal education to a number of children. Azim Premji contributes personally the financial resources to this Foundation.
Ratan Tata, born in 1937, was brought up efficiently by his grandmother as his parents were divorced when he was very young at around 7 years only. Besides showering love and affection to Ratan and also his brother, she ensured that discipline is inculcated right from the beginning itself, which stood him in good stead as he grew up to become a true businessmen. He is very much diplomatic and dignified in his relationship with others and also very competitive in the business environment. These traits brought him the name and fame with the title of “India’s most perfect gentleman”. Tata’s products touch everyone in India, in one way or the other. Ratan Tata had his schooling in Bombay and moved to United States of America for higher studies in Structural Engineering. Besides being a graduate in Architecture and Engineering, he has shown keen interest in automobiles and is a regular visitor to Jayem Automotive, an automobile design and development firm based in industrial town Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu.
Against his will of continuing in US only, at the instance and persistence of his grandmother, he joined the family business and there was no looking back since then. In hindsight, Ratan acknowledged that the decision to come back to India was the right one, though he was reluctant to take a call like that, but for the perseverance of his grandmother, to whom he is ever grateful.
He worked in TELCO, now known as Tata Motors Ltd., and TISCO, now known as Tata Steels Ltd. the two flagship companies of Tata business house. Ratan was given two sick companies in the group. He worked hard and turned around these two entities and gained confidence of the Top Management Team of Tata business group. At home though he was very much attached to grandmother, when his mother took ill, owing to cancer development, he stayed with his mother in New York, till he lost her to the deadly disease. During this period of near isolation from the active business work, he evolved what is known as Tata Strategic Plan, involving diversification of business interest of the Tata group. This totally changed the work culture of the employees of the Tata group. The radical changes effected by Ratan Tata paid rich dividends both to the corporate house and also its shareholders.
Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) which was part of Tata Sons as a Division, was hived off as a separate entity to concentrate on software development and it proved to be a grand success. In the stock exchange, this company TCS became the highest Market Capitalised entity within a span of 8 years or so. There are nearly ninety companies, many of which are market leaders, in the fold of Tata brand, a supreme achievement indeed. Ratan Tata leads a simple life, with work ethics and good governance, as the foundation, without much hypes and paraphernalia that goes with a person of his stature and standing.
Having spent more than two decades as the Head before hanging up his boot, he retired at the age of 75, as per the policy of the Tata Business house. But he is guiding the group in the capacity of Chairman Emeritus. Notwithstanding the ripe age, he is showing active interest in many of the start-up ventures such as e-commerce entity Snapdeal, energy generator Altaros Energies, jewellery retailer Bluestone, on-line furniture retailer Urban Ladder, financial advisory firm facilitating capital market Grameen Capital India, auto portal Car Dekho, mobile internet firm owing commerce platform One 97, health service provider Swasth India, smartphone maker Xiaomi, etc. so as to keep himself fully engaged in some or the other activities. As an avid flyer, he took keen interest in the formation of new airlines such as, Air-Asia India and Vistara, through joint venture deal. His investments in these ventures are made reported to be through his investment company RNT Associates. Innovations at Tata group through collaborations are on the rise and the brand TATA touches almost 35 million people worldwide.
An investment by a person of the reputation of Ratan Tata is actually an affirmation of the strategies adopted by those business ventures. Not only Ratan Tata, but also few others like Narayana Murthy, Azim Premji are showing interest in start-up firms of their liking. It is fervently hoped that these ventures graduate and fructify into a full-fledged IPO candidates in the near term.
Kumara Mangalam Birla
Kumara Mangalam Birla, son of the illustrious and intelligent Aditya Vikaram Birla, was born in 1967 and had to take on the mantle of his father’s business “Aditya Birla Group” at the young age of 28, when Aditya met with untimely death in 1995. Aditya himself was an eminent industrialist who was shuttling between the then Calcutta and Bombay to look after the business interest pursued from his father Vikram Birla. He is professionally educated as an MBA and belongs to a well to do and globally known business house of Indian origin. Aditya V Birla groomed his son Kumara Mangalam right from the beginning, knowing fully well that the latter needs to take the rein of business at some time or the other, but no one thought that it would materialize all of a sudden, in a quite unfortunate manner.
With a professional touch, Kumara Mangalam Birla saw to it that the companies under the brand name of Aditya Vikram Birla grew massively to become one of the leading business group not only in India, but also globally. The group’s business interest is spread to USA, UK, China, Australia, China, etc. Companies such as Grasim, Ultra Tech Cement, Idea Cellular, Hindalco, Indian Rayon, etc., are by itself well-known and reputed companies. Aditya Birla Group has interest in very many fields such as Telecom, Insurance, Telecom, Cement, etc.
Considering the impregnable age, when he took over the reins of the group’s business operations and the silver spoon with which he was born, many would have faltered. But not Kumara Mangalam, thanks to the style and quality of up-bringing by his father.
Before the advent of Corporate Social Responsibilities thrust on the corporate India by the revised Companies act 2013, this group spread its wings on several social causes in the fields of education, village infrastructure, rehabilitation of the handicapped, scholarship to deserving students, etc. through Aditya Birla Scholarship, etc. There is a boarding school named after his grandmother Sarladevi Birla. Kumara Mangalam Birla appears to have achieved more than his father and has a long way to go as age is firmly on his side.
Brijmohanlal Munjal was born in Kamalia, part of Pakistan now, in 1923. He had the knowledge quest even at the young age and at the age of just six; he enrolled himself in a well-known Gurukul that teaches multi various subjects along with the value systems based on Indian culture and traditional values. He developed keen interest in the subjects of Economics and Finance that laid him strong foundation to take on higher international exposures and competition.
Thanks to partition in 1947, his family moved to India for better prospects and settled down in Ludhiana, the industrial city of Punjab in India. The family business of cycle components manufacturing grew leaps and bounds and the Hero Cycles achieved the status of famous brand. It may be noted that as the by-cycle is the cheapest mode of transportation in those days, the idea of manufacturing by-cycles was originated by BrijMohan and he made it to the general populace at a very reasonable and affordable price. This ideology of affordability, in the aftermath of partition, stood in good stead when he ventured into motorized vehicle manufacturing.
As Brijmohan did not compromise on quality, he entered into a joint venture partnership with Japanese two-wheeler Giant Honda Motor Company. This was a grand success in the road personal transportation business. As Japanese entities were generally known for quality standards, the same percolated down to India. The first four stroke engine, that was environment friendly, received good response as the vehicle CD – 100, proved to be fuel efficient also, besides being on low emission. The products were even exported to very many countries, in those days when export business was not thriving well. At one point of time in the first decade of the 21st Century, he was considered to be the highest paid Chief Executive in India. As he ensured that his customers get value for their money, retailers as well as employees are properly rewarded for the performances shown and good governance standards maintained by him in all his deals. He ensures that even shareholders get a share in the wealth created by his team of workers. He achieved so much success in the business ventures that the Government of India was left with no option but to recognize a businessman for Padma Bhushan award.
By stint of hard work, Brijmohanlal ensured that his company, Hero Honda Motors’ popular two wheeler vehicle entered the Guinness World Record for the largest number of two wheelers manufacturer of India. He built the company into a huge automobile giant company through his painstaking efforts and perseverance. Despite all his achievements, he remained very humble and gave importance to value system in his personal relationship and business deals.
Dr. Parvindar Singh (1943 – 1999)
Dr Parvinder Singh, born in 1943, is a product of Doon School of Dehra Dun, U P. He pursued pharmaceutical line for his education, initially in Washington State University and later doctorate in pharmacology from the University of Michigan, in 1967. Just around this time, his father bought pharmaceutical company known as Ranbaxy, in which Dr Parvider Singh joined. Knowing that India lacked pharmaceutical products of its own, as both economy as well as manufacturing drugs were not opened up in Indian environment, he wanted to capitalize on this shortcoming and succeeded immensely.
Against the above background, Singh wanted to convert the simple process industry of pharmaceutical sector into a full-fledged research oriented one. Leveraging lower labour cost coupled with high intellectual capital, he increased the capabilities of his company in the Research and Development areas. While the company was smoothly sailing in improving capabilities and capacities, he had to fight a battle with his father to gain complete control in the affairs of the company and he won the same only in the year 1993. He, then, enabled the company to progress in leaps and bounds, as the turnover grew exponentially, so also the wealth of shareholders. This company also exported some of the drugs to developed countries like European, American and African centers. He took the small pharmaceutical company into a genuine Indian MNC, the first of its kind at that time.
Aided by joint ventures and alliances coupled with the vision of Dr Singh, Ranbaxy became a truly international corporate with wings spread all over the world. Dr Singh surely deserves credit for the taking Indian pharmaceutical industry to the world, thanks to Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation. Besides concentrating on the business front, he contributed what he could by actively participating in several Committees set up by the government of India in policy formulation in pharmaceutical science and technology aspects. He was also instrumental in uplifting the pharmaceutical education in India, through National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education, the premier pharmaceutical institution in the country. Dr. Singh, despite having grown significantly in the pharmaceutical sector, preached and practiced Corporate Governance and corporate ethics in his dealings, all through. Though a family business entity, he roped in professional management team and also identified a professional technocrat Dr Brar, not a family related person, as his successor. He was the torch-bearer for inducting professional management in a family concern. Perhaps, this laid a platform for the acquisition and merger of the company, in store later.
It is irony of things that the company, Ranbaxy Dr Singh fought for acquiring control, has now changed hands to Sun Pharma group in 2015 and hence had its natural exit route, quite surprisingly. But this is after lapse of more than one and a half decade since his death, owing to cancer. A great pharmaceutical personality, with a keen sense of R and D in the field of medicines, had to fight with cancer for nearly two years. At the time of the demise of Dr Parvinder Singh, the then Prime Minister of India Dr Manmohan Singh, an economist of repute by himself, made the following rich tributes to him.
“Dr Singh demonstrated the highest standards of Professionalism, Integrity and Corporate Ethics and set an example for Indian industry. In building an organization that has done the nation proud, Dr Singh has made an indelible mark in the history of corporate India. We, the country, have lost in Dr. singh, an industry captain and a visionary”.