Arun Bharat Ram, Chairman of SRF, knows the downside of family businesses well. The one he was originally part of, Delhi Cloth Mills, now called just DCM, has split twice - in 1989 and again in 1999. The first time it broke into four: DCM, DCM Shriram Industries, DCM Shriram Consolidated and Shriram Industrial Enterprises; the second time, SRF - a DCM subsidiary since 1970 - broke away. Even at 70, he is totally hands on, keeping a strict vigil to ensure conflicts are nipped early.
SRF too has formulated a constitution to guide family members. "A constitution does help in reducing conflicts to some extent," says Ram. But he is aware of its limitations. "Even a constitution cannot guarantee protection against splits," he adds.
|Size: Rs 3,391 crore|
No. of generations in business: 3
Key measures in place: Family constitution
Goal: Ensuring family lives in harmony and continues to serve the business
Mantra for success: Managing the family is as important as managing the business
Ram acknowledges that in the past Indian business families, including his own, may not have given family issues the attention they deserved. "Managing the family is as important as managing the business," he says. "In India, in the past, we neglected our families and concentrated on managing the business."
Ram ensures frequent family lunches, outings and even vacations so that the bonding between family members remains strong. Though their businesses are now entirely separate, he keeps in close touch with other members of the DCM parivar as well. "We meet at least twice a month and share a great relationship with our cousins," says Kartikeya Bharat Ram, Arun's younger son and Deputy Managing Director of SRF.
Values too are changing, albeit slowly. Unlike in the past, the once arch-conservative SRF family now allows daughters to play an active role in the business, though daughters-in-law are still barred.