Gita Piramal, author of the acclaimed Business Maharajas, sensitively recreates the Business Legends is a compelling Account of ambition and achievement. Read Business Legends book reviews & author details and more at Gita Piramal offers a rare look into the lives – personal and business – of all. Read Business Legends book reviews & author details and more at Business Legends Paperback – by GITA PIRAMAL (Author). out of 5 .
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Skip to main content. Log In Sign Up. Unlike other freshly minted PhDs however, I never got round busness publishing my research. This was partly because of my desire to use it to compile – someday in the nebulous future – an annotated bibliography on the economic history of Bombay.
Legehds resolutely shelved years of hard labour waiting for the right moment to arrive. The moment came unexpectedly and not in the guise I suspected. Fortunately I had enough sense to seize the opportunity when it knocked on my door. Thousands of letters which no-one had ever seen! I felt as Aladdin must have as I unpacked the red cloth potlas into which the files were stuffed.
The added advantage was that my rigorous training and reading enabled me to grasp the contents of the letters, and to sift the trivial piramao the critical. After all, business at the threshold of the millennium is so different from bg fifty years ago. The environment has changed, as have the products and the pace of response. With nothing in common, what possible lessons can there be in the lives of four long gone businessmen to justify time spent reading pages? Quite a lot, actually.
Buusiness the similarity between India just before and after Independence and India in the s is far greater than between India in the s and the s. If this proposition seems rather extravagant, consider this: Indian entrepreneurs of the Raj such as GD Birla and Kasturbhai Lalbhai competed fiercely for legens share on their home turf against the giant multinationals of the day.
Imports then were unrestricted. It was only as India headed towards her first forex crisis after Independence pirajal the Nehru administration clamp down on imports, a policy which was subsequently followed by a major import substitution program. If you could wrangle a licence, you could print money on the back of it. There was no level playing field under the Raj or after it.
On the contrary, while the British ruled, Indians were discriminated in their own country. Government policy actively favoured British business especially in cotton textiles, jute and exports. Discrimination continued after the British left. In the s, there was little data on which to base forecasts about which products would sell, or predict the size of leegends market.
Business Legends by Gita Piramal
Today, advances in technology and the speed at which it is adopted have made the process equally daunting. Industrial production increased at a rate of roughly 9 per cent a year; and the production of certain commodities even more rapidly. However, today the Indian economy is vibrant once again and the liberalization process of the early s has created an environment which fosters aggressive entrepreneurship similar to the earlier era. During the pre- and post-Independence period, several entrepreneurs outperformed the rest, producing products and services which were globally competitive.
Bt second largest, Martin Burn, was a poor second, with assets of a mere Rs 18 crores. This was a formative age for the other three businessmen profiled here.
The Birla group, at 13th place, owned assets of Rs 4. Walchand in fact was bigger than the Birlas at that point of time with assets of Rs 3. By the picture had changed dramatically. The white burra sahebs had more or less abandoned their companies to Indians. This was a growth period for the Walchand Group as well and they jumped to pirramal rank with assets of Rs Thomas Timberg, The Marwaris, p Had they managed to retain control of the shipping giant, the Doshis would have hauled themselves to 4th place.
At 18th place with Rs What made these men special? GD Birla with his modern mind, was a rare man who dared to challenge old traditions from a very young age, a thing unheard of in the Marwari community which has been mired in conservatism. In the turbulent politics of the time, Birla liked to portray himself as an ambassador, mediating between Gandhi and the British but his true contribution to India was to industry. He and his three brothers built factories in the wilderness, factories which created wealth for local economies as well as India.
He rarely acted on gut instinct. Walchand Hirachand, on the other hand, wanted to run before he could walk, carped his critics. He built an aircraft factory years before India could produce a diesel businesss.
He built a shipyard which the Nehru government considered too important to remain in private hands. When he became a building contractor, his father was convinced that Walchand would bankrupt the family. He took exceptional risks but he built the foundations of modern India. His skill as a negotiator first came to light when he crossed swords with Mahatma Gandhi.
The year was and Kasturbhai was barely Despite his youth and the fact that his mill was then one of the smallest in Ahmedabad, his peers invited him to represent them in ending one of the most famous strikes in labour history. While Lalbhai was carving a name for himself in labour history, JRD Tata was busy writing his own chapter in the same book.
He surrounded himself with brilliant men, men who built companies busness as Telco and Tata Chemicals. But did JRD accomplish legejds true potential?
In their drive to build huge empires, these men faced all kinds of challenges. In an era when data was hard to find, they had the answers. Given the paucity of trained professional economists on whom they could rely, they took to writing themselves on economic subjects.
But does that make them legends? I doubt if the four businessmen featured here are perfect but I do consider them legends. Legends become legends not because of their personal triumphs but for the impact their work and effort have on hundreds of other lives. Indian corporate lore is full of awesome stories of remarkable businessmen who have established powerful dynasties.
There are marvellous rags-to-riches stories such as that of MS Oberoi b who made a mark for himself in hoteliering or of Mafatlal Gagalbhaithe Bombay textile tycoon who started his business career peddling cut-pieces on street pavements. There are stories of nationalist-businessmen like Jamnalal Bajaj ; of fine technocrats like Ardeshir Godrej the locksmith; and of customer-focused service- providers like TV Sundaram Iyengar who went on to promote the TVS Group.
Each of these offers fascinating insights about how to make money. But legends have to have a vision beyond the accumulation of personal wealth. To understand fully their contribution to Indian industry, we have to legensd them in the context of their times. India was a jewel in the British crown, but most Indians were to poor to afford shoes. But we were a colonial economy and it was lrgends skewered in favour of the export of agricultural goods lrgends raw materials, and the import of finished goods.
India made very gits products – almost everything for the past pirzmal and more – had been imported. At this time there were thousands of Indian businessmen who used the shortages for private gain and profit.
But not these men.
Admittedly this view is contrary to public perception which regards most businessmen and particularly GD Birla, as monopolists. But oiramal is sufficient evidence to show that this was not the case. In fact the four men profiled here went out of their way to encourage entrepreneurs to start new businesses.
When small businesses ran aground, these four men did their best to help. GD Birla encouraged other Indian businessmen to enter the jute business along with him. Walchand Hirachand bailed out small Indian shippers wherever and whenever he could. Kasturbhai Legedns helped other millowners in Ahmedabad to improve the performance of their cotton mills and the quality of the cloth they produced.
They fostered a community spirit even though it meant creating new rivals and more competition for themselves.
Business Legends | Gita Piramal –
It was only after government grew antagonistic to big business did the atmosphere get vitiated in the s and s. This is one reason why I refer to these four men as legends. There are three more. Birla, Walchand, Lalbhai and Tata hacked roads through jungles, built factories in villages, transformed barren tracts of land into profitable assets, and inculcated the industrial ethos into the mind-set of peasants.
In most cases they pioneered the industries in which they operated. Nor did they boast gitx their victories with the exception of Walchand Hirachand perhaps!
I was born in business. I was born in industry. I was trained in it, and I believe that the future of this country lies in economic development. Therefore my primary role is that of a businessman. A third reason for bestowing legendary status on these four men is because of their commitment to education.
All four invested heavily in the tools for progress: He also funded hundreds of primary schools all over the country – in one year Birla opened schools alone. Like Tata, Walchand too contributed towards his public sector rivals, training seamen for the two new shipping companies launched by Nehru. Walchand also bought a ship, the Dufferin, where Indians could train to become marine officers.
In Ahmedabad, Lalbhai was the moving spirit behind the establishment of the Indian Institute of Management and the Ahmedabad Education Society which later morphed into Gujarat University. Apart from their patriotic entrepreneurship, their pioneering spirit and their promotion of education, these men are legends because of their rare sense of economic nationalism.
During the Raj they fought for the rights of Indian entrepreneurs to exist and vociferously criticised economic racism. Kasturbhai Lalbhai was one of first Indian businessmen to be elected to parliament then known as the Central Legislative Assembly.