Game Changers, Leaders and Scions
Tomorrow Inc. is back with a bang - For the fourth year in a row, we give you a low-down on the gravity of family business across India
Every year our team gleans insights into new business family heirs and how they are shaping up in taking their legacy forward. This year too we have selected the game changers from different sectors and families who have played a major role in shaping the Indian economy. Interestingly, our selection covers not just those who are playing key roles in continuing the legacy business, but also those who have chosen to tread a different path. Read on for gripping stories on the Indian family businesses.
Contributions by Aashika Jain, Vanita D’Souza, Sara Khan, Bhavya Kaushal and Aastha Singal.
The Pump Moderniser - Rama Kirloskar, Managing Director, Kirloskar Ebara Pumps
The fifth generation entrepreneur, Rama Sanjay Kirloskar hails from the influential Kirloskar family, the owner of the legendary $2.1-billion Kirloskar Group. She feels the responsibility of taking the company forward and doesn’t think her gender is any hindrance in achieving the same. “Two pre-requisite qualities for being a leader are confidence and competence. As long as you have both of those, leading an organization will not be difficult,” she asserts. Kirloskar is the Managing Director of Kirloskar Ebara Pumps, a joint venture between Ebara Corporation, Japan and Kirloskar Brothers, the parent company of the 130-year-old Kirloskar Group.
“Family businesses have a very ingrained culture. Changing with the times can be slightly difficult for old companies,” confesses Kirloskar. She has been working towards bringing in new technology and digitizing operations of the company. ”We are trying to streamline operations to monitor productivity, look at where the product is in the entire supply chain and make processes more efficient by bringing some kinds of automation in the plant,” she says. Kirloskar holds a double major in Mathematics and Biology from Bryn Mawr College, USA. “The interdisciplinary approach has given me a different perspective on the business. Today is all about being multidisciplinary,” she explains. Kirloskar Ebara Pumps already has operations in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Egypt and Thailand, among other countries. “We want to be a global brand. Penetrating into other markets of strategic interest is on our radar,” shares Kirloskar.
She joined her family business in 2014. She has worked as the General Manager and Head of Product Portfolio Management at Kirloskar Brothers Limited. Later she shifted to Kirloskar Ebara Pumps Limited, a new venture by the company. “After seeing my work in the Kirloskar Group my father felt that I was ready to take up a new role,” she shares.
(This article was first published in the July 2019 issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)
Beauty Boss: Anchit Nayar, CEO-Retail, Nykaa
Anchit Nayar is the son of Falguni Nayar - the mind behind the online retail giant in beauty and wellness industry, Nykaa.com. Nayar joined Nykaa recently after working as an investment banker for Morgan Stanley in New York for six years.
Currently, Nayar is working as the head of retail department in Nykaa. He is spearheading the company’s offline retail strategy. “I had to convince people that this business makes sense and that everyone believes online is the future, but I believe that the future is actually omni channel. Especially for a B2C business, you have to give the consumer the option to shop both online and offline,” asserts Nayar.
He is fully aware of the expeditious growth rate of Nykaa and hopes to maximize it. He credits the professionalism and expertise of the people working with the company for its great success. “We have a very professional management team who all report to CEO. I also report to her,” Nayar shares.
Nykaa already has 36 offline retail outlets with plans to expand the physical store footprint to more than 100 stores soon. On his journey of heading the offline retail, Nayar tells, “Physical retail is like a start-up within a start-up. It is like I am doing my own thing in bigger start-up.”
(This article was first published in the July 2019 issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)
The Cement Mixer: Vivek Patni, Director, Wonder Cement
Till the time Vivek Patni had not booked a berth at the management table of his family business, he was grinding his teeth at the Nimbahera cement plant near Chittorgarh district in Rajasthan. At an age when his peers were playing cricket, his sojourns with his father to the business facilities spurred him to take up entrepreneurship.
Later, it were his branding strategies that gave Wonder Cement, a rather young brand, an identity that could lock horns with market doyens like ACC, Ambuja and Ultratech. After completing his studies from the States, Patni, who oversees the branding and communication of the company, deployed significant manpower to exploit social media.
The team garnered more interaction with consumers online than any of its competitors. “Instead of telling the story of how we were, like other brands, we chartered emotional factors through our tagline ‘Ek perfect shuruaat’ (hinting at the foundation of a house). We had an impressive cost and quality which people related to.”
Patni’s flagship CSR project, Cricket Saath:7, a seven-over cricket tournament, saw 39,000 people participate from across 1,100 rural locations across Rajasthan.
(This article was first published in the July 2019 issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)
The Tea Connoisseur: Karan Shah, Director, Society Tea
When Karan Shah got back from his university, he was asked to intern with the parent company, Amar Tea, to understand his calling. “While others simply ‘serviced’ the market, our sales people genuinely believed in striking a personal chord. It was a tipping point for me, as I saw the belief in the brand first-hand,” says Shah.
Considering the legacy the brand holds, running the show for Society isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Talking on behalf of his brothers, he shares, “We were blessed with a ready platform but we were left with a big reminder to keep a constant subconscious check if were being worthy of the shoes to fill. I still worry that I don’t live up to the mental image I have of me 10 years from now.” His father, Atul Shah, sees a lot of himself in his son.
“We are very much alike and yet very different. He has the wisdom to give me the space that I desire for me to connect with today’s customers and their aspirations. And I know that he is there to guide me whenever I need an expert’s viewpoint,” says the younger Shah.
The 34-year old entrepreneur believes in marrying the family’s core values of trust and quality with modernism and ambition in taking the company forward. The company is looking at exploring the food and beverage space.
“Chutneys and pickles being our latest offering under the brand name, ‘Spice Secrets’, some other new conversations around brand extensions have commenced as well. We are also looking at the dairy segment keenly. The plan is to play a key part in the journey towards making it a truly global company and brand while staying true to our core values,” says Shah.
The Active Clothing Caterer: Rishabh Oswal, Executive Director, Monte Carlo
Business bug runs deep in Rishabh Oswal’s veins, a third generation entrepreneur. He started his entrepreneurial journey while he was still studying. “I was into frozen yogurts and gelatos. But after meeting the big players in the food industry, I figured out that it can never be as big a business as what I can do with Monte Carlo,’’ says Oswal.
He started with his family’s denim business, which was looked after by his father. One-and-a-half years later, he joined Monte Carlo. Currently, Oswal is the Executive Director of Monte Carlo and the founder of sports apparel brand, Rock It.
Oswal says, “My grandfather, dad and uncle look after three separate businesses. So, when I had to launch Rock It, I only had to ask my grandfather. To be honest, my dad doesn’t even know what I do in my day-to-day work life,” the young heir giggles. “A few years back, we changed the outlook of the business; instead of being one brand (i.e., Monte Carlo) we wanted to make a house of brands.” 80 per cent of the Oswal group business is B2B, Monte Carlo is their only B2C business.
“We have started a low-end brand under the name of Cloak and Decker. They are 20-25 per cent cheaper than Monte Carlo,” adds Oswal.
The Knowledge Container: Divya Jain, CEO, Safeducate
In 2007, Divya joined Safexpress, India’s largest logistics and supply chain firm run by her father-in-law, Pawan Jain and husband, Rubal Jain. She spearheaded the training division there. When she realized the lack of manpower and skill gaps within the logistics and supply chain workforce, Jain decided to launch Safeducate. Safeducate is India’s premier supply chain training company offering vocational and diploma courses.
Jain says setting up a new business was no easy ride. She further confesses that being a woman, it was harder for her to make a distinct identity for herself. “India is still very patriarchal. I made sure I did my contract deals on my own. Never was my father-in-law or husband involved in any of them,” says Jain. The reason for the same, she tells us, is that people earlier would think her to be the mere face and the real decision makers to be the men in the family.
Jain worked assiduously to be taken seriously. “I made sure that if there is a problem, people come up to me for a solution,” she says. Today, Safeducate has set up 150 centres across India and trained more than 70,000 individuals.
The ‘Brilliant’ Chef: Dipna Anand, Chef
Award-winning celebrity Chef Dipna Anand co-owns Brilliant in Southall and is the owner of Dip in Brilliant, a Punjabi café in Fulham, next to Chelsea Football Club. Her grandfather started the first Brilliant restaurant in Nairobi, Kenya, in the 1950s. Her father, Gulu Anand, was running the restaurant in Kenya initially. Due to a political issue in Kenya, they relocated to London. Her father started the restaurant in Southall then with 36 seats. Brilliant has grown from 36 to a 250+ seater restaurant.
“I was good at food technology and sports,’’ says Anand. Her career took off when she won a national award on one of the food technology projects – Low Fat Indian Food - presented by the British Nutrition Foundation. Soon, Anand decided to go to the University of London to pursue food technology in hospitality and catering. Anand offered to teach Indian cuisines at the university; it has been 13 years now. She won her second award as Industry Personality of the Year presented by David Cameron. Anand’s philosophy is simple. “I see my failures as learning curves. I reflect on what I learnt and how I could improve further. For me, failure is never a failure.”
The Education Transformer: Akshay Munjal, President, BML Munjal University
I never thought in my wildest dreams that I will venture into education sector,” jokes Akshay Munjal, a third generation entrepreneur. Munjal is the grandson of Brijmohan Lall Munjal, the founder of Hero Group. BML Munjal University, overseen by Munjal, is named after his grandfather.
With a background in management, Munjal had other plans. He recalls, “I thought I’ll do something very glamorous in banking, PE, equity research. This was in 2006, I had always prepared for finance.” After working for Merrill Lynch in New York, he returned to India in 2008.
Hero Mindmine, a part of Hero Group’s BPO service, was into training and consulting services. Till 2002-03, Mindmine was doing well. But later the company nose-dived. Munjal realized that they were only service providers and their ability to control and make decisions was very little. “In 2011 we decided to make a big impact. You have got to set up your own institution and do things differently. Till this day I’m working on the university full-time,” says Akshay.
His grandfather’s advice to “focus on the basics” remains Munjal’s guiding principle.
Financial Wizard: Thomas Muthoot John, Head of Innovation Lab, Muthoot Pappachan Group
As a teenager, Thomas Muthoot Jr would often visit Muthoot’s branches across Tamil Nadu and Kerala with his grandfather Mathew Thomas Muthoot, who would often interact with his customers to understand their pain points and advise them. This is when Muthoot Jr learnt his first lesson about the business – purpose over profit.
He says, “Most of our customers came from lower strata of the pyramid and hence were not eligible to get a bank loan. Our purpose is to build a better tomorrow for them where they can access banking services. This value system is also imbibed in me. ”
Prior to joining over a century-old Muthoot Pappachan Group, Muthoot Jr took up a risk analyst and advisory role with KPMG. In 2015, he joined the family business as a marketing manager. Currently, he is a part of the technology and innovation lab. “The lab helps us garner insights with the senior management about technology and innovation around. There are a lot of employees who have grown with us, so we want to broaden their insights and develop them into leaders,” 29-year Muthoot Jr adds.
As a fourth generation entrepreneur, his focus is to reboot the business. The group recently launched MSME loans, catering to the needs of businesses starting from Rs 15,000 to Rs 3 lakh.
The Logistics Taskmaster: Bhairavi Jani, Executive Director, SCA Group of Companies
Bhairavi Jani, Managing Director, SCA Group of Companies, can seamlessly operate a majority of machines and forklifts owned by her company. If the preceding three generations of your family is engaged in logistics business, you are more or less groomed to be a part of the legacy. But Tushar Jani, co-founder of domestic courier giant Blue Dart, tested Bhairavi’s acumen in entrepreneurial arenas first. After graduation, she worked with KPMG for a few years and then returned to India.
In 2001, she launched her independent venture, i3pl, a fourth-party logistics company. Jani had always cherished memories of ports and airports she used to visit with her father during childhood where trucks, containers and aircraft would whiz past. But her personal experience was harrowing. “I was a 21-year-old woman entrepreneur. It was hard to recruit talent as older men didn’t want to work for a woman,” she iterates.
Though logistics was infused in her blood, Jani says that massive potential of supply chain industry as a driver for global trade augmenting business outcomes is what prompted her to find her calling in this sector. In 2005, she was elevated as the director of all companies under SCA Group.
“The industry provides an opportunity to work with a wide range of skilled professionals – from ground operations team to supply chain and distribution strategists. This provides an excellent opportunity for leadership development,” says Bhairavi. In 2008, she established a 30,000-pallet multi-user warehouse which didn’t go down well with market players. “We eventually managed to convince the players,” she says. “We are also setting up a logistics venture accelerator to support exciting ventures,” adds Jani.
The Electric Vehicle Mobilizer: Shreyas Shibulal, Founder & Director, Micelio
Bengaluru-based Shreyas Shibulal, son of Infosys co-founder SD Shibulal, inherited a penchant for engineering from his father. The 26-year-old says, “I like working with start-ups, great minds and great ideas.”
For Shibulal, who pursued Bachelors in Computer Science from Haverford College in USA and a Masters specializing in Embedded Systems from the University of Pennsylvania, coming back to India had always been the plan. After returning to India in 2016, he worked as a Data Scientist in Bengaluru. But, the desire to make a sustainable impact through innovation on the society remained.
He says, “Oil is one of India’s largest import. Today, with the increasing number of nuclear families, there is an increasing demand for automobiles. So venturing into the Electric Vehicle (EV) space appeared a natural fit.”
Thus, in January 2019, he launched Micelio - a Rs 140-crore seed-based fund for start-ups. Shibulal says, “The fund shall cater to start-ups operating across the value chain in the EV space.” The corpus, with a ticket size of $100,000 to 1 million per start-up, would also be utilized in establishing a Design and Discovery Studio to act as a co-working and an engineering space for ventures in the EV arena.
“My father advised me to not get stuck in thinking too much,” he confides.
The Wonderman: Arun Chittilappilly, Managing Director, Wonderla Holidays
I want to take Wonderla Amusement Parks to all the major cities in India”, discloses Arun K Chittilappilly. Chittilappilly is the son of Kochouseph Chittilappilly, Founder and Chairman of the Rs 1,800-crore V-Guard Industries, a voltage stabiliser manufacturing company.
On being asked why he did not join V-Guard, Chittilappilly says, “I didn’t want to work directly under my father. Our working styles are different,” he smiles. While his father is more regimental, Chittilappilly is more of a free thinker.
Chittilappilly Sr had opened an amusement park named Veegaland in Kochi in 2000. When Arun came back to India after completing his Masters in Industrial Engineering from Swinburne University (IRIS), Melbourne, he could have either joined the already flourishing V-Guard or Veegaland.
“V-guard was already a well established company and somehow I wasn’t drawn to it,” he admits. He was thrilled to “take a small concept of Veegaland and make it into Wonderla” a favourite in amusement parks in South India. From a Veegaland in Kochi, now there are three amusement parks. Wonderla Holidays operates in Kochi, Bengaluru and Hyderabad, with a fourth one coming up in Chennai.
Chittilappilly shares that “patience, perseverance, will, grit, compassion and fairness” are a few takeaways from his father. Meeting new people, reading, travelling, mining the web and visiting new amusement parks across the world are ways through which Arun keeps generating new ideas.
Producer of Her Destiny Deepshikha Deshmukh, Film Producer, Founder, Homey Home And Love Organically
Being a mom has given me superpowers,” says versatile entrepreneur Deepshikha Deshmukh. She dons many hats. She is a film producer, founder of the organic skincare brand Love Organically and owner of a home store in Mumbai. “My mantra in life is to never say never,” she says.
Deshmukh started working at the age of 16 as a stylist in father Vashu Bhagnani’s produced film Mujhe Kuch Kehna Hai. Deepshikha started her entrepreneurial journey at 21 by opening Homey Home, a home decor store. She followed her father’s footsteps and produced the movie Sarabjit (2016). Within two and a half years, she has produced six films. She ventured into skincare products in 2017, after two years of research. The impulse to explore this unfamiliar terrain was the health of her then infant son who had suffered from dry skin issues.
The journey into this new territory was not smooth sailing for the mompreneur. It was after customers gave their feedback, realization dawned on her. “We had not put any information on how to contact us,” she giggles.
The Natural Therapist: Siddhesh Sharma, President, Baidyanath and Founder & CEO, Naturedge Beverages
Ayurveda runs in my DNA. I was always passionate to join my family business. I had a lot of interesting ideas for it,” avows Siddhesh Sharma. He is the grandson of Ram Dayal Joshi, the genius behind the century-old pharmaceutical giant specializing in Ayurvedic medicines, Baidyanath Group. Sharma joined the company in 2006 after finishing his education from the University of Nottingham. “Today, I see a global trend where people are more health conscious and are opting for herbal options. Yoga has now become cool in the West.” He has introduced modern technology to test all products. “Documentation is very important to bring credibility back to Ayurveda,” he avers. The technology is being used for both evolving new formulations while standardizing traditional herbal preparations.
“There was a lot of resistance to the idea of technology. But I figured out that it was because our people felt that they will become irrelevant,” recalls Sharma, “I told my staff that they are indispensable for us and the technology would improve the efficiency of our organization.”
Sharma is also using his entrepreneurial impulses to move forward. The idea behind his current venture, Naturedge Beverages, was to have fun with herbs while expanding the demographic market of the brand. The beverages have zero sugar and calories.
Siddhesh Sharma, currently President of Entrepreneurs Organization, Nagpur, says, “What we are doing is solving a need, solving a problem. So identifying that gap and to be able to solve that gap more creatively and efficiently is what entrepreneurship is all about.”
The Home Curator: Jahan Tahiliani, CEO, Tahiliani Homes
Jahan Tahiliani, son of celebrated designer Tarun Tahiliani, has overcome several dilemmas to reach where he is. He is heading the realty arm of his father’s business because as he puts it, “Retail and fashion don’t resonate with me.”
Sharing his earliest memories, Tahiliani says, “I remember going to the studio with dad when I was five or six years old. He was sketching designs and used to even stitch himself.”
After high school, he along with his friends worked on a microfinance project during which they took Rs 5 lakh and dispersed it to around 100 women. Sports and social work are close to his heart but life took a different turn. He started working with CB Richard Ellis, an American commercial real estate services and investment firm. And there has been no looking back ever since.
Having an overachieving parent can sometimes put an extra baggage of expectations. However, Tahiliani is mindful of not losing his individuality by moving forward with the spirit of constantly learning.
The Hospitality Seeker : Parthiv Neotia, Director, Ambuja Neotia
Ambuja Neotia is one of the prominent corporate houses with headquarters in Kolkata and verticals including real estate, hospitality, healthcare and education built under Harshvardhan Neotia. His son, Parthiv Neotia, 22, is ready to take the business forward with the launch of Uno Chicago Bar and Grill in India. The Babson College graduate, who has always been interested in the Indian start-up ecosystem, is determined to bring interesting consumer brands to India along with steering his own tea brand. Neotia says he and his father have different interests to some extent. “My father is passionate about real estate but I am interested in the hospitality industry,” Neotia Jr says.
He is inclined to take Tea Junction, the QSR brand that started in 2004, forward. “It aims to provide a relaxing ambience while savouring the flavour of a cup of tea, Kolkata-style,” he says. Currently, the brand is present only in Kolkata and East India but Neotia Jr has plans to expand it further. The Ambuja Neotia Group has brought the famous American food franchise UNO to India. According to Neotia Jr, American casual dining business is taking shape in India to some extent with eating joints like The Hard Rock Café, Chilis and TGI Friday coming into the market. “If we can position the brand in the market well and create a certain ambience, we can scale much faster,” he says. He stresses on a lot of unexplored opportunities that await India.
The Ayurvedic Healer: Samrath Bedi, Exceutive Director, Forest Essentials
Since childhood, Mira Kulkarni was intrigued by the applications of Ayurveda. Her curiosity turned into passion when she established Mountain Valley Springs, a brand that hosts one of India’s leading cosmetics and skincare company. Supporting her throughout the journey was her son, Samrath Bedi, Executive Director, Forest Essentials. An Economics major from University of Rochester, Bedi had a short stint in corporate banking before returning to India upon seeing a massive opportunity in the evolving organic skincare market. “It was an exciting time helping build a completely new category in the natural beauty space,” he insists.
It is under his leadership that the brand has grown to become the largest player in the luxury hotel amenities and spa business. The brand currently retails from 62 stores across India.
The ability to adapt to environmental changes has what kept the mother-son duo going. Boasting of a slew of Forest Essentials’ innovative products, Bedi answers, “Ideas and inspiration come from various triggers. It can be new products, design or branding.”
Author of a New Chapter: Aparna Piramal Raje, Author
Born to influential parents, societal pressure for taking up her family business — VIP Industries — was inevitable but Aparna Piramal Raje had dreams of penning her own destiny.
After completing graduation from Harvard Business School, Raje was leading their office furniture business, BP Ergo. While running the business, she realized that CEOs and designers were speaking different languages. She then thought of connecting the two via design writing. “I partnered with a close friend and interior architect Radhika Desai and we started compiling case studies on exceptional workplace design.”
What started as a way to aid her business brought to fore her penchant for writing. Connecting the right dots landed her with ‘Working Out of the Box’, a book that explores connections between work spaces and work styles.