Yesterday, at the release of Dr. Geeta Piramal's second book, I had the opportunity to watch at close quarters the style and functioning of some of our top industrialists. There were three of them, all successful by any standard that you care to apply, and all very presentable and articulate.
Mr. R.P. Goenka was the senior among them and, either the Indian Merchant's Chamber president or Mr. Tittoo Ahluwalia, who was the evening's moderator, described him as a takeover giant. I do not know what it means, but it sounds dashing and devilish.
He made one good opening point, about the lack of dreamers and visionaries in Indian business. The only three he could think of were Tata, Birla and Ambani. A triumvirate, indeed, without which India would have been 120 years behind, industrially and economically.
Mr. Rahul Bajaj of the Hamara Bajaj Scooters, came out very much as a hands down man, a professional who could sit down with the workers and show them who to tighten bolts. He faces the questions squarely and minced few words.
It was my first viewing of Mr. Mukesh Ambani, the third participant. He could pass off for Mr. Murli Deora's brother, and I am not trying to run down either Mr. Deora or Mr. Ambani, and definitely not Mr. Deora's brother.
Mr. Ambani has evidently learnt well at his father's feet, and he is not a second-generation industrialist, he is very much No. 1. He expounded the Amabani philosophy. What they expected from their top men was not pep talk but expertise. That's the way the modern world runs, if you don't know the business, get out of it.
One thing came out clear, all the three headed family business. They had built them, nto bought into them, and the next line of MDI and chief executives were already there in the family. There was no question of promotion any outsider. The fact that all three acknowledged this, and did not shy from the question, speaks for the honesty of the businessman as against that of the politician.
It was an enjoyable evening, it started on time and it ended promptly at 7.30. The release of the book was kept in its place, not overdone. Dr. Piramal did not say a word, it was not necessary, it is all in the book.
Later in the evening, I glanced through the book. The author has dealt with six or seven top businessmen, what she calls business maharajas. She has interviewed and researched them in depth, spending several days with each one. What she has aimed at though without reading I cannot say whether she has succeeded, is to find out what makes these men what they are.
If not the entire book, I would like to read at least one chapter of it. The chapter dealing with Mukesh Ambani's father.