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Some saviours of Indian economy
Corporations are responsible for generating majority of world economic activity. So corporate governance is at the forefront of international cogitation. Here are some better-corporate chieftains of recent times.
Indian corporate and financial giants are making rapid strides towards global expansion. So we can expect lots of cheering up in the offing.
Azim H. Premji
He is India’s richest man and the 25th richest man on the planet (He’s worth an estimated $6.7 billion). But a better introduction to Azim Premji would be as one of India’s most successful entrepreneurs who got hooked to a small company three and a half decades back and turned it into a global corporation, Bangalore-based Wipro, India’s third largest software exporter, is now listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
Faced with the untimely death of his father, Premji was forced to discontinue his engineering studies at Stanford and come back to India to look after their $2 million vegetable oil company only to take it to dizzying heights of a $1.8bn IT services organization. Over the years, Premji diversified into sectors like computer hardware and lighting, disregarding marketing laws that extolled the virtues of core competence and catapulted it to unprecedented heights.
A hands-on manager that he is, Premji is famous for his frugality at office and home. Unlike other high-flying conglomerates’ top men, Premji flies economy class. There are no limos awaiting Premji or Wipro staffers when they arrive at an airport. They take taxis or trains. Premji often takes a three-wheeled auto rickshaw from the Bangalore airport when returning from his travels. It is his ideal that ordinary people are capable of extraordinary things that motivates Premji and Wipro’s teams and energizes them to strive harder. As such he is venerated by Indian businesspeople for insisting that Wipro will not pay bribes.
Dhirubhai Ambani
Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Dhirubhai Ambani’s death: “The country has lost an iconic proof of what an ordinary Indian fired by the spirit of enterprise and driven by determination, can achieve in his own lifetime. Not only did Ambani build a large and diversified business conglomerate but also inspired many first generation entrepreneurs with his success.”
Think big, think fast and think ahead- was the motto of Dhirajlal Hirachand Ambani famously called Dhirubhai Ambani. The transmutation from selling hot snacks to pilgrims outside a temple in his native village in Gujarat to leading Rs 620 million Reliance Empire happened in a short span of 25 years. And all this happened because he did not stop dreaming big despite obstacles and a few initial debacles. He did not stop dreaming big even when he went to Aden, Yemen as a petrol pump attendant at the age of 17 to help support his family only to come back to Mumbai and start the Reliance Commercial Corporation with a borrowed capital of Rs 15000. Starting with a small textile mill in Naroda, in 1966, Dhirubhai took Reliance into various areas like petrochemicals, polyester filament yarn, oil and gas exploration and production, refining and marketing of petroleum, textiles, power, telecom services, information management and financial services.
In a nation where few take risks, his is a risk-taking classic rags-to-riches story. Full of dauntless entrepreneurial spirit, Dhirubhai never followed the textbook style of functioning. Despite his Midas touch, Ambani has known to have conciliatory values. Many observers attribute his phenomenal rise to his close contacts with the Congress leadership in the 1970s and 1980s. He has also been known to have links with the VP Singh government and later the BJP government. Nevertheless Reliance rode to success because it was anchored in a set of outstanding competencies. Its project management skills are unsurpassed in India, and among the best anywhere in the world. Not only this, common man also showed immense trust in the company under his visionary leadership and invested by the billions in his Bombay listed company. Though his sons have carried on from where he left and quite successfully at that this is no overstatement that there was only one Dhirubhai- a matchless businessman. Haven’t you seen Guru!
N R Narayana Murthy 
Chief mentor of Infosys Technologies Ltd, the bellwether of information technology in India, he founded the company in 1981 with $250 and a few friends in a two-bedroom Pune apartment. Without any seed money and borrowing Rs 10,000 from his engineer wife Sudha who worked as an engineer with Tatas back then, Murthy began Infosys. Until 1991 when the liberalization doors flung open, Infosys struggled somewhat. And then there was no looking back. Today the scene is Infosys is the only company listed on the United States Nasdaq.
Simplicity and humility are the trademarks of this Banglorean who for all his wealth and fame does not know how to drive a car! It is a famous fact about him that he still lives a very simple life, travels to and fro in office bus and lives a very principled life, and it only goes on to show that he is made of a sterner material. As such this wealth of principles percolates down to the office as a culture. He said in one of the interviews “entrepreneurship is a marathon. I believe that the key to a successful corporation is longevity- my heroes are companies like GE, IBM and Levers.” His uncanny knack of thinking years ahead has turned Infosys a global competitor. So way to go!
Ratan Tata
‘I’ve never had the desire to own a yacht, to flaunt.’ The statement describes simple mindedness of Ratan Tata, more precisely Ratan Naval Tata. Fresh from the victory of Corus deal, Tata chairman Ratan Tata, non-executive director of $22 billion Tata group which has core interests in steel, cars, telecommunications, software consulting, hotels, and consumer goods is seen as arrived on the global arena. Ratan, 69, is not among the Forbes’ list of 40 richest Indians around the world. Neither is he considered the most powerful businessman in India but the leap is quite a big one and will take Tatas to the global map.
The Cornell-educated architect who succeeded his uncle JRD Tata and stepped up as chairman in 1991 remains one of Asia’s most influential businessmen. And with the Corus buyout that has made Tata Steel world’s fifth largest steelmaker, the prestige is only going to go up. As of now the Tata group includes 96 companies under its flagship including world’s second largest tea business Tata Tea; Asia’s largest software firm Tata Consultancy Services and of course the steel giant Tata Steel.
Rahul Bajaj
 Listed 20th on the Forbes India’s richest forty and being awarded with Padam Bhushan in 2002 has gone into the his head. An alumnus of Harvard and St Stephens, Rahul Bajaj, chairman of the $1.5 billion Bajaj Group, holds major contribution in stewarding the company to being India’s largest and the world’s fourth largest two- and three-wheeler maker.
The recession and stock market collapse of 2001 hit the company hard and it was predicted that the days of Bajaj Auto were numbered. However, the suave and sophisticated leader re-invented the company, established a world-class factory in Chakan and invested in research and development and came up with Bajaj Pulsar Motorcycle in 2002. Bajaj Pulsar is a clear leader in its segment. In the words of Rajiv Bajaj, his elder son- “When we started, we asked ourselves if Chetak was the largest selling two-wheeler for 35 years, and Splendor for the next 10 years, what will it take to make the largest selling two-wheeler for the next 10 years.” He surely has way to go.
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