15x in 15 years

Kumar Mangalam Birla        Print Edition: Jan 9, 2011

The world has witnessed phenomenal changes over the last 15 years and India has been no exception. It has been a defining period for India in many ways. The most notable achievement has been the acceleration of growth from five per cent plus to nearly nine per cent today. India has emerged as one of the world's new economic success stories in the last 10 years, as the impact of the liberalisation process begun in 1991 achieved a critical mass and made it one of the world's fastest growing economies.

These years have been marked with some macroeconomic shocks as well: the East Asian crisis, the economic sanctions that India attracted when it carried out nuclear tests, the collapse of the dotcom bubble followed by 9/11, the super commodity cycle of 2006, and the subprime lending crisis ending with a deep recession in 2009.

The world's view of business and capitalism has taken a beating because of the economic meltdown of 2008. Governments have moved dramatically to the left of centre in the past couple of years. Almost without exception, governments will now be vigilant in taxing anything that they could define as 'super normal profits'.

So running a business will only get more challenging, in every way. That is the transformed context in which businesses will have to operate in the near future. The financial crisis has triggered more regulations and monitoring processes, and businesses need to prepare for a more regulated environment.

Fortunately, over the years, the Aditya Birla Group has developed a strong shield against precisely such adversities. We have always lived by a strong moral compass. Today our efforts stand vindicated. In the 15 years since I took over, we have transformed ourselves in some very fundamental ways. First, every organisation, at some point, needs to import skills from the outside. We too have changed, from a very homogeneous group of people with a striking similarity in backgrounds, to a heterogeneous and diverse entity. From barely 10 nationalities in 1995, today our workforce spans 40 nationalities. In many ways then, the group is a melting pot of cultures. We have done this even whilst retaining our values and our distinct identity. Our values - integrity, commitment, passion and speed - provide the organisational glue that binds us together seamlessly.

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