Not everyone gets the opportunity to explore all the niceties of the world; do what one likes to do and, yet, be very truly successful in life - both family and business. And, of those who are blessed - born with the so-called silver spoon in their mouth - the number of people who make the most of it is infinitesimal. But then, opportunity has in it nested challenges of myriad shades. Seemingly non-existent challenges show themselves up and test one to the core. That is where the good heirs are called upon to bring forth their strength of character and show their mettle to come good in this stern test of life. Mr. Adi Godrej, the Chairman of Godrej Industries, is one such beacon of the Godrej family who has lead this century-old consumer goods conglomerate into becoming one of the most trusted and successful brands in the country.
Born into a highly successful industrialist family, on April 3, 1942, in Mumbai, meant that Mr. Godrej had best that life could offer, and could, therefore, get a first-hand taste of what success, discipline and hard work signified at a very early age. Even as his father, Burjorji Godrej, went chipping away on the path of the company's success, his mother, Jai Godrej - a school teacher by profession- did not let her son get carried away by all this and ensured that his feet were firmly rooted to the ground, imbibing in him the virtues of hard work, discipline, and humility. So, beginning with such firm footings amidst fertile surroundings did young Adi Godrej aspire to add wings to his future by going abroad to pursue higher studies at the very tender age of 17 years. So far as is known, although he had contemplated on enrolling for mechanical engineering at Cambridge, he eventually completed both his Bachelors (MIT) and Masters (Sloan School of Management) in management from the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA). Having brushed shoulders with the best of talents from around the world, and gained precious insights into business management from people of diverse perspectives, he returned to India and joined the family business.
Birth of the Spark
Up until Adi Godrej joined the family business, it comprised only the manufacturing of locks, safes, and soaps. This presented the freshly inducted Adi Godrej with the opportunity to put to use all the knowledge he had acquired and, all the insights he had had from his association with MIT and the interaction therein. Bringing in a fresh approach to the way the business was run while preserving the basic fiber of the group, had long been fomenting in his mind, almost since the time he was at MIT. He began with all the energy and enthusiasm of youth to foster these changes in a subtle but effective way. He made the management structure more systematic and modernized and initiated the process of improving the standards of the group's offerings. One of other chief drivers of this change brought about by Adi Godrej was inducting CEOs from outside the family to head the various business arms of the family, while always ensuring that the incumbents appreciated and put into practice the basic hallmarks of quality and value of Godrej family business. Consequently, by the turn of millennium, the Group completed a 10-year restructuring process through which each business became a stand-alone company with a CEO/COO from outside the Godrej family. Subsequently, the non-family workers in the various group firms are governed by an exhaustive succession planning exercise put in place to meet the both planned as well as contingent succession.
It was with his vision and leadership that the group was able to improve efficiency, sustain very high quality standards and also create a niche for itself, on way to scaling unprecedented heights of success, even when faced with many hurdles and constraints - mostly owing to the controlled economy that India was. The change in guard, fresh approach, and the new methods adopted by the company stood it in good stead when the country, eventually, broke the shackles of being a closed / controlled economy and entered the era of a globalization - presenting businesses with opportunities and challenges anew.
Mr. Godrej initiated new processes and practices at a time when businesses were averse to change - perceiving them to be disruptive and threatening even. But he opted to move away from this so-called conventional wisdom and dared to bring about the changes, ever-so-subtly. His fresh outlook coupled with a shrewd sense of business also enabled him to create an emotional connect of both his as well as the group's brand persona with the people by maintaining the traditional middle-class core values that had helped catapult the company to the peak in the first place. It is not surprising then that he has been chiefly responsible for the shaping and successful implementation of scores of a long-term strategy of many entities both within the group and without, by laying great emphasis on value creation.
Under his astute leadership and guidance the group went from strength to strength over the last five decades, and touching the lives of about 400 million Indians every day while also spreading its operations to 60 countries along the way. The net worth of conglomerate has risen to Rs.7,500 Crore, encompassing diversified businesses such as consumer products, durables, chemicals, agri products, retailing, real estate, locks and safes, office furniture, precision equipment, machine tools, healthcare, interior solutions, office equipment, food-processing, security, materials handling and industrial storage solutions, construction and information technology, etc. No wonder then, that he heads many companies and organizations, in one capacity or the other, that include Indian companies like Godrej Industries, Godrej Consumer Products, Godrej Properties as well as international companies such as Keyline Brands U.K and Rapidol South Africa. In his capacity as Chairman of Godrej Industries, he also presides over the Group's joint venture company Godrej Hershey. He is also the Chairman of The Board of Trustees of the Dadabhai Naoroji Memorial Prize Fund.
Mr. Godrej has played an important role in the development of a variety of industries since the time of his inception into the family business, by leading key organizations of trade and commerce in various capacities such as the (former) Chairman and President of the Indian Soap & Toiletries Makers' Association, the Central Organization for Oil Industry and Trade, the Solvent Extractors' Association of India, the Compound Livestock Feeds Manufacturers' Association, the Indo-American Society and as member of the Governing Board of the National Council of the Confederation of Indian Industry.
Mr. Godrej is considered to be one of the icons of the Indian Industry and, his vision and wisdom are much acknowledged by both the business fraternity as well as the group's consumer base. Therefore, it came as no surprise when he was elected as the President of Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) for the year 2012-13.
In other spheres of life
He has actively participated in imparting management education through his various associations such as (former) Chairman of the Governing Council of the Narsee Monjee institute of Management Education, (former) Member of the Dean's Advisory Council of the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Wharton Asian Executive Board. That besides, he has also been a member of the "Tau Beta Pi" as well as the Governing Board of the Indian School of Business (ISB).
He may be amongst one of the richest Indians with a personal net worth of $5.2 billion, born into a highly respected and successful business family, but Mr. Adi Godrej does not fail to drive the point home that by being born rich does not automatically bring professionalism, and stresses the significant role of professionals in family-owned business. Not only that, he also firmly believes in the power, as indeed the vision, of youth that is built upon good education, and is always open to ideas put forth by youth. That is perhaps the reason why he has institutionalized in the company an event called the Chairman's Tea where bright young managers are called to discuss with him the issues before the company, and find ways to address them.
Mr. Adi Godrej is married to Parmeshwar Godrej; the couple has three children, and two grand children. As per the practice followed, the heirs-apparent were inducted into the family business after having met the necessary and sufficient conditions for succession - proper education, grooming, and rigorous training with other managers at the work place. While the eldest daughter, Tanya, is the Executive President (Marketing) of Godrej Industries Ltd, their second daughter, Nisa, and son, Pirojsha, have also joined the family business after having completed their management education abroad.
More about Adi Godrej
For his contribution to Indian industry, Mr. Adi Godrej has been the recipient of several awards and recognitions including the Rajiv Gandhi Award (2002). The group itself is a pioneer in many aspects of their business - it being the first to introduce in India lock with lever technology as also India's first indigenous typewriter, making the first Indian safe, made soap using vegetable oil, etc., and has, under his able leadership and guidance, been the recipient of scores of industry acknowledged awards and honors such as
Under Mr. Adi Godrej's leadership, the group is also involved in philanthropic activities. Godrej Industries is a major supporter of the World Wildlife Fund in India. It has developed a green business campus in the Vikhroli township of Mumbai, which includes a 150-acre (0.61 km2) mangrove forest and a school for the children of employees of the company. In addition to this and several other green initiatives, the group has also established many Trusts and Foundations through which it invests in education, health-care and the upliftment of the under-privileged of the country.
The group also built a self-contained township called the Phirozshah Nagar for its employees, thus paving way for basic but comfortable, safe and hygienic accommodation for hundreds of employees, who get access to the homes in lieu of the home rent allowance. This was its way of realizing the dream Phirozshah Godrej, as also to take forward the trusteeship legacy of its founding fathers by striving to achieve, in its own little way, what Gandhiji had said, in reference to trusteeship, a just equitable society.
A value-based upbringing and an unflinching adherence to the time-tested virtues of successful businessmen – quality, value for money, discipline, enterprising nature, acute business acumen with a flair for the best that life has to offer: be it physical fitness, education, living, luxury, travel, holidaying, adventure (jet skiing and speed-boating with his grandsons, and trekking), etc., as well as appreciating the benefits of being frugal when required, and a worthy and well-oriented succession waiting to take over the reins of the group, and top it with whole-hearted philanthropy – Mr. Adi Godrej is certainly up there with the best of the spark of the corporates.
Hope viewers caught up the spark..