Author Prince Mathews Thomas narrates stories of successful second-generation entrepreneurs who grew the family businesses they inherited.
The stories in the book titled ‘The Consolidators’ transport you to the world of Bollywood movies like ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’ and ‘Dil Chahta Hai’, where the next-gen privileged elite grapple with a perennial question: “Which is tougher? To start a business or to grow it?”
“The obvious answer is to start a business when the stakes are against you,” the book says.
Author Prince Mathews Thomas narrates the stories of second-generation entrepreneurs who took over the reins of their parents’ empires, consolidated, and stabilised their family businesses — how they turned their silver spoons gold.
The book may be about businesses, but it does inadvertently bring into focus the preponderance of dynasties in India, in almost every sphere: politics and films, especially. To quote Rahul Gandhi, who said in his trademark evasive nonchalance, it is more important for the second generation to build on the successes of their predecessors.
Both the first generation and the second generation have to make sacrifices. As the eldest child, Lalit Khaitan had to let go of his dream to study in favour of pursuing commerce and joining the family business. His son, Abhishek, who ended up revamping his father’s business, had to scrap his plan to do an MBA from the US and marry early. Businesses are often built on forgotten aspirations.
One common strand that connects all these entrepreneurs is their penchant for not cutting their dress according to their cloth. Instead they tend to plunge into expansion plans, effecting a very disruptive transition of their businesses from a feudal setup to a culture of formalised systems and processes.
Rituraj Sinha of SIS Security diversified a Rs 25 crore business into a Rs 5000 crore security firm through a series of acquisitions, and made sure systems were put in place for smooth functioning of the expanding business.
Ajay Bijli, the founder of PVR, also punched above his weight and successfully acquired Cinemax, which was, at the time, accounted for 85% of its business. The deal proved to be path-breaking and made PVR a market leader.
Listening to customers
Successful politicians and businesses have one thing in common: the will to succeed and a keen ear to their voters’ preferences and their customers’ desires.
The examples in this book are not all from mega business empires, where stakes were high since the beginning. In the case of Kalyan Jewellers, the idea of opening a jewellery shop came to T.S. Kalyanraman from the customers at his textile shop in Thrissur. Customers suggested opening a jewellery shop so that their wedding shopping could be completed at one place. This was also reinforced by his decision to not compete directly with his brothers, who too ran textile shops their father bequeathed to them.
The semi-biographies of the seven individuals are definitely a lesson for aspiring entrepreneurs, even if one discounts, for a moment, the head start these persons got from their family businesses. The book covers companies whose products are part of our daily lives: multiplex, alcohol, jewellery, security, real estate, and even electrical appliances.
Notwithstanding the fact that they mostly fought to further expand their families’ clout and businesses, these stories do demonstrate ability, risks and rewards of sticking one’s neck out in a highly competitive arena in Asia’s third largest economy.
‘The Consolidators’ by Prince Mathews Thomas has been published by Penguin Random House India.