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Engineering a strategy

When the Great Depression hit in 1930, three Lalbhai brothers from Ahmedabad— Kasturbhai, Narottambhai and Chimanbhai— pooled their money to set up a textile mill.

When the Great Depression hit in 1930, three Lalbhai brothers from Ahmedabad— Kasturbhai, Narottambhai and Chimanbhai— pooled their money to set up a textile mill. Three generations later, when Sanjay was taking over Arvind Mills in the mid-'80s, the textile industry got into its worst-ever crisis. Call it coincidence, when the fourth generation Lalbhai, Kulin, was entering the family business last year, the world feared another depression.

Kulin Lalbhai, 25

  • Electrical engineering, Stanford
  • Work experience: 2 years at McKinsey, less than a year at family business.
  • In family business: Since July 2009.
  • Now: Manager (Retail), Arvind Ltd.
  • Lesson from parents: Develop your own style of management.
  • Fast forward 2020: Transform Arvind from B2B to B2C, scale up new businesses.
  • Best friend/guide in India Inc.: Ireena Vittal, a partner at McKinsey, shares a passion for retail with her.
Kulin plays down the coincidence: "Different generations have had different challenges." With less than a year at the helm, Kulin, an engineering graduate from Stanford, wants to make up for Arvind's lost time. "We have a lot of catching up to do," he says. A two-year stint with McKinsey has taught him to strategise on a larger canvas. Elder brother Punit has gone to the US for higher studies; Kulin also plans an MBA from Harvard.

"I'm kind of creating a strategy for the next three years," explains Kulin. What he is enjoying the most is the freedom. "My father always tells us to follow our own style of management," he says. "We are putting together our energies in building a B2C model," says Kulin, who aims to build scale in the new business in 3-5 years. As for the future, he says: "I'm still young. I still need to mature in the business."