THE TYCOON WITH A MIS­SION

Marwar - - Contents - Fac­ing page: Sanjay Dalmia, Chair­man, Dalmia Group of Com­pa­nies Text Priyanka Agar­wal

The best way to learn is through lead­er­ship, and there’s no bet­ter ex­am­ple of this than Sanjay Dalmia, the 74-year-old chair­man of the Dalmia Group of Com­pa­nies. The sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian takes us through his jour­ney, busi­ness mantras and what he feels our econ­omy needs most.

The best way to learn is through lead­er­ship, and there’s no bet­ter ex­am­ple of this than Sanjay Dalmia, the 74-year-old chair­man of the Dalmia Group of Com­pa­nies. Un­der Dalmia, the group has seen ma­jor growth, even as he con­stantly pre­pares it to face the dy­namic, tech­no­log­i­cally driven world ahead. The sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian takes us through his jour­ney, busi­ness mantras and what he feels our econ­omy needs most.

TO COM­MEM­O­RATE 50 YEARS OF IN­DIA’S IN­DE­PEN­DENCE, IN 1997, the Par­lia­ment had in­vited the Speaker of UK’s House of Com­mons to ad­dress a ses­sion. One MP, how­ever, ob­jected to the idea. “How can a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from a country re­spon­si­ble for the mass loot and mas­sacre of our country cel­e­brate free­dom from the atroc­i­ties they com­mit­ted?” he thun­dered. Sev­eral fel­low MPs sec­onded him, and ul­ti­mately the Bri­tish Speaker was only per­mit­ted to be present on the dais, but not ad­dress the ses­sion. The MP in ques­tion was Sanjay Dalmia.

Pa­tri­o­tism is what drives Dalmia’s mis­sion and vi­sion, and apart from busi­ness in­ter­ests, he is in­volved in sev­eral so­cial and eco­nomic causes. His jour­ney of suc­cess and en­ter­prise has helped our econ­omy in more ways than one, while also in­spir­ing bud­ding en­trepreneurs.

Early years

Dalmia was born in La­hore on 17 March, 1944, when it was a part of Bri­tish In­dia. With roots in Chi­rawa, a town in the Jhun­jhunu district of Ra­jasthan, his large, joint fam­ily had been in busi­ness for years, ever since broth­ers Ram Kr­ishna and Jai­dayal Dalmia (Sanjay Dalmia is Jai­dayal Dalmia's grand­son) started a con­glom­er­ate in east­ern In­dia, in the first half of the 20th cen­tury. Broth­ers Ram Kr­ishna and Jai­dayal were to later join hands with Shanti Prasad Jain of the Sahu Jain fam­ily to form the mam­moth Dalmia-Jain Group.

When he was still very young, Sanjay Dalmia’s fam­ily moved from La­hore to Delhi, where he was ad­mit­ted to the pre­mier Mod­ern School. The for­ma­tion of a newly lib­er­ated In­dia in 1947 in­stilled the seeds of progress and free­dom of thought in a young Sanjay, who took part in de­bates, sem­i­nars and con­fer­ences, on sub­jects rang­ing from pol­i­tics to econ­omy.

Af­ter Mod­ern School, Sanjay Dalmia pro­ceeded to St Stephen’s Col­lege, where he grad­u­ated with Eco­nom­ics (Hons). In 1965, he joined the fam­ily busi­ness, in Odisha (then Orissa), which traced its ori­gin to the Dalmia-Jain Group. Sanjay Dalmia ex­plains, “In 1948, the two fam­i­lies de­cided to split the busi­nesses. The Dalmia busi­nesses were fur­ther di­vided be­tween Ram Kr­ishna and Jai­dayal. To­day, a num­ber of com­pa­nies and con­glom­er­ates trace their ori­gin to the orig­i­nal Dalmia busi­nesses. These in­clude Dalmia Bros, Dalmia Bharat Group, Orissa Ce­ment, Re­nais­sance Group and their sub­sidiaries.”

As a bud­ding in­dus­tri­al­ist, Sanjay Dalmia de­vel­oped interest for bank­ing, fi­nance, tax­a­tion and ap­pli­ca­bil­ity of in­dus­trial de­vel­op­ments to the In­dian en­vi­ron­ment. “Within a year [of join­ing the fam­ily busi­ness], I took charge of the ce­ment prod­uct di­vi­sion with PCC poles for elec­tri­fi­ca­tion and spun pipes for san­i­ta­tion,” he rem­i­nisces. Un­der his lead­er­ship, the PCC di­vi­sion bagged a ten­der of the Bi­har elec­tric­ity board, which was a firstof-its-kind achieve­ment for the fam­ily. Af­ter his stint in the ce­ment prod­ucts di­vi­sion, Sanjay Dalmia moved to Ram­pur, Ut­tar Pradesh, and as­sumed charge of the fam­ily’s dis­tillery busi­ness, which sup­plied in­dus­trial al­co­hol to the army. How­ever, as the fam­ily wasn’t keen on this busi­ness, the Dalmias sold it.

Group com­pa­nies

In­cor­po­rated in 1983, GHCL Ltd is the flag­ship com­pany of the Dalmia Group, whose core busi­nesses com­prise chem­i­cals, tex­tiles and con­sumer prod­ucts. GHCL has a 7,000-strong work­force, with of­fices in In­dia, Asia, USA, UK and East­ern Europe. With state-of-the-art man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ties in In­dia and Ro­ma­nia, the chem­i­cal di­vi­sion’s main prod­uct is high- grade soda ash (an­hy­drous sodium car­bon­ate), a key raw ma­te­rial in soaps, de­ter­gents, dyes, glass and bak­ing soda. The tex­tiles di­vi­sion, on the other hand, is in­volved in spin­ning of fi­bre (yarn), weav­ing, dye­ing and print­ing of sheets and du­vets, which, be­sides be­ing sold in In­dian mar­kets, are ex­ported world­wide. The di­vi­sion, lo­cated in Tamil Nadu, has seen its rev­enue base grow from ap­prox­i­mately US$50 mil­lion to around US$615 mil­lion in 18 months. The com­pany has also ex­panded into con­sumer prod­ucts such as ed­i­ble and in­dus­trial-grade salts, as well as honey.

The Dalmia Group’s other com­pa­nies in­clude Bharat Ex­plo­sives Ltd, Care­tel In­fotech Ltd and Golden To­bacco Ltd. Bharat Ex­plo­sives spe­cialises in in­dus­trial- and mil­i­tary-grade ex­plo­sives and fu­els, while Care­tel In­fotech Ltd is in­volved in busi­ness process out­sourc­ing. Golden To­bacco Ltd, of which Dalmia was the chair­man till Fe­bru­ary 2014, man­u­fac­tures cig­a­rettes.

These apart, Dalmia claims ex­per­tise in sev­eral other in­dus­tries, in­clud­ing IT, telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions, fi­nance and in­vest­ment, con­cept mar­ket­ing and hol­i­day re­sorts, etc. He has even been on the board (of di­rec­tors) of the Union Bank of In­dia and a mem­ber of the North­ern Com­mit­tee of In­dus­trial De­vel­op­ment Bank of In­dia.

Be­yond the board­room

Be­sides busi­ness, Dalmia is keenly in­ter­ested in In­dia’s

over­all in­dus­trial and eco­nomic growth. He’s as­so­ci­ated with trade or­gan­i­sa­tions such as the PHD Cham­ber of Com­merce and In­dus­try and has been as­so­ci­ated with FICCI and is also the founder-di­rec­tor of the Europe-In­dia Cham­ber of Com­merce (EICC). “I think it is im­por­tant to dis­cuss, de­lib­er­ate, de­bate and even lobby for the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and growth of a nation. It is with this be­lief that I have founded EICC, and it is for this that I never lose an op­por­tu­nity to talk at fo­rums such as CII and FICCI,” he says.

Head­quar­tered in Brussels, EICC works to­wards fos­ter­ing trade, com­merce and in­vest­ment be­tween In­dia and Europe. Dalmia feels that there is so much that In­dia can gain from Europe. “Europe is the heart of global cul­ture, and some of the world’s old­est democ­ra­cies have emerged from its nations,” he says. “The con­ti­nent is also the hub of fair trade prac­tices and so­cio-eco­nomic growth. I think In­dia, as the most an­cient cul­ture, and Europe, as the finest ex­am­ple of de­vel­op­ment, can ben­e­fit from each other im­mensely.”

And, of course, he’s a for­mer mem­ber of the Ra­jya Sabha, where, be­sides rais­ing sev­eral rel­e­vant is­sues in the fields of fi­nance and econ­omy, he has moved a pri­vate mem­bers’ bill, press­ing for the rechris­ten­ing of An­daman and Ni­co­bar Is­lands to ‘Sha­heed and Swaraj Is­lands’, as a to­ken of hon­our for Sub­hash Chan­dra Bose and other free­dom fight­ers.

Dalmia is ac­tively in­volved in so­cial causes too. He runs Ma­soom, a school for special chil­dren from eco­nom­i­cally chal­lenged back­grounds. “Since the in­cep­tion of Ma­soom, I’ve been cel­e­brat­ing ev­ery birth­day with these kids,” he beams. Then there’s the Dalmia Sewa Trust, whose ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude pro­vid­ing safe drink­ing wa­ter to the pop­u­lace of Chi­rawa and or­gan­is­ing free health camps in Ra­jasthan for un­der­priv­i­leged peo­ple suf­fer­ing from asthma and eye ail­ments. The trust has also been in­volved in con­struct­ing lava­to­ries in around 100 houses in Chi­rawa and build­ing homes for about 100 home­less fam­i­lies in the town. All these projects func­tion with the trust’s own re­sources, with­out any aid from the gov­ern­ment or out­side agen­cies.

Dalmia’s pa­tri­otic fer­vour is also ev­i­dent from his foun­da­tion of the Bharat Maa Sha­heed Sam­man Trust, which hon­ours free­dom fight­ers who

died for the country and pro­vides fi­nan­cial sup­port to the de­pen­dants of free­dom fight­ers. The Trust is also in the process of fil­ing a pe­ti­tion in the Bri­tish High Court for com­pen­sa­tion against the atroc­i­ties and crimes com­mit­ted by the Bri­tish in In­dia, on the lines of Kenya’s Mau Mau vic­tims, who, on win­ning their case against the Bri­tish, were di­rected com­pen­sa­tion upon the court’s or­ders. Fur­ther, it or­gan­ises the Bharat Maa Gau­rav Sand­hya, a mu­si­cal pro­gramme themed on pa­tri­otic songs, in var­i­ous parts of In­dia.

On the do­mes­tic front

“I’m an early riser,” says Dalmia. “In the morn­ing, I do yoga, read news­pa­pers to keep my­self up­dated with the hap­pen­ings around the world, I plan my busi­ness meet­ings and dis­cuss com­pany growth.” Dalmia con­sid­ers his wife, Indu, as his big­gest sup­port. Though the cou­ple don’t have chil­dren of their own, they are very at­tached to Dalmia’s brother’s chil­dren. “I al­ways tell the kids to fol­low my vi­sion and their hearts and be de­ter­mined. How­ever, it’s not reg­i­mented. I leave it up to them, what they wish to im­bibe and prac­tise.”

When it comes to leisure, he loves trav­el­ling, es­pe­cially to places with moun­tains and green­ery, the Black For­est range be­ing his favourite.

Blue­print for the future

“I want to re­gain the same legacy of the group as it was in 1940,” says Dalmia. “And my vi­sion is to get off the beaten track and cre­ate in­sti­tu­tions through risk, vi­sion and ini­tia­tive, which will in­flu­ence not only the im­me­di­ate com­mu­nity but also the country at large.”

Asked about his per­sonal at­tributes that have con­trib­uted to his growth, he says, “I be­lieve one should have faith in one­self and a pos­i­tive at­ti­tude to­wards life. In a world of ad­vanced glob­al­i­sa­tion and tech­no­log­i­cal volatil­ity, it be­comes im­per­a­tive to en­hance your skill sets. It is key to boost­ing the ef­fi­ciency and qual­ity of labour to en­sure pro­duc­tiv­ity and eco­nomic growth.”

Dalmia also ex­presses his fas­ci­na­tion for in­vest­ing in var­i­ous start-ups, as in­vest­ing in them is like in­vest­ing in the future of In­dia. In­dia, he con­cludes on an op­ti­mistic note, is blessed with am­ple en­tre­pre­neur­ial skills and enough tal­ent to run en­ter­prises all over the world.

I think it is im­por­tant to dis­cuss, de­lib­er­ate, de­bate and even lobby for the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and growth of a nation. It is with this be­lief I have founded EICC

Top: The GHCL fac­tory in Gu­jarat; Be­low: A bot­tle of honey from the group's con­sumer prod­ucts di­vi­sion

Clock­wise from top left: Sanjay Dalmia with wife Indu Dalmia; Bed­sheets and cov­ers from the group's tex­tile di­vi­son; Chil­dren at Ma­soom, a school run by the Dalmia Group for special chil­dren from eco­nom­i­cally chal­lenged back­grounds

Top (from left): The GHCL of­fice in Noida, Ut­tar Pradesh; Raw spices from the con­sumer prod­ucts di­vi­sion

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