Business Today

Punctilious Premji

It's no secret that Azim Premji, the 62-year-old Chairman of Wipro, the soaps-to-software company, is painfully shy of public attention and does everything possible to stay out of the limelight.

     Print Edition: Sept 23, 2007

It's no secret that Azim Premji, the 62-year-old Chairman of Wipro, the soaps-to-software company, is painfully shy of public attention and does everything possible to stay out of the limelight. But the last couple of weeks, he's been in the glare of publicity for allegedly encroaching on 23 guntas (little over half-an-acre) of land adjacent to the Belandur Tank, off Bangalore's Airport Road, purportedly to construct a palm grove and guest house. While mum's the word for Premji, his media managers have gone into an overdrive stressing, "Premji bought the land 15 years ago in his private capacity from the government and returned any area that was possibly encroached". In the interim, the guest house compound wall has been demolished and Premji has returned the land back to the state government. Just the sort of no-fuss punctiliousness one has come to expect of Premji.

Global Imprint

If the company's spectacular result for the year wasn't reason enough for HCL Technologies President Vineet Nayar, 46, to smile, here's another: Harvard Business School (HBS) has introduced Nayar's celebrated 'Employee First, Customer Second' philosophy as part of its 'leadership' and 'strategy' curriculum. Students will now study Nayar's corporate strategy and the subsequent transformation of the company in the last two years since he took over. HCL Technologies is also the only Indian company to have featured in the London Business School's annual report on 'Organisational Innovation' across 10 notable global organisations. "Since the HBS report, 10 Fortune 500 companies have come to our premises to understand our strategy," claims Nayar. It is the practical transformation of converting thought leadership into business philosophy, he says. Spoken like a true modern management guru.

Egyptian Odyssey

Rajeev Chaba, 43, has overseen a dramatic transformation of general motors (GM) India's fortunes over the past two years. As the President and Managing Director of the company, he is credited with increasing the marketshare of the company, thanks to the introduction of several new models, including the Spark small car. During his tenure, the company also announced a $300-million (Rs 1,230-crore) investment into a new plant at Talegaon, Maharashtra. The IIM Bangalore grad is now being moved to Egypt, as Managing Director of GM Egypt. "There is still a month to go, and a lot still has to be done," says Chaba, sounding not too excited about the new role. Could it be because India is where all the action is, and Egypt, in any case, is a smaller car market than India? Watch this space.

Candid Talk

It is not very often that Ratan Tata decides to speak his mind. In an interview to Karan Thapar on CNN-IBN recently, the Tata Group Chairman was at his forthright best and spoke about the Indo-us nuclear deal, his interest in Jaguar and Land Rover, and succession at the group. Tata, 69, said the nuclear deal with the US was the best possible thing that has happened to India in a long while. "I'm very very sorry that on various issues this is being beleaguered," he said. The deal to acquire Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford was discussed and Tata said he was keen. "I don't think it will be fair to comment on this, but we certainly have an interest in the deal," he said. On succession, Tata said what he has been saying for a while now: that he's on the lookout, and would want to ensure a two-year transition before he stepped down. But he didn't answer the question everyone's asking: after Ratan who?

Venture Maestro

After blazing a trail first with the cellular services market (Sterling Cellular) and later in the internet with India World (sold later to Sify), R. Ramaraj has now set his sights on the venture capital market. The 56-year-old chemical engineer and IIM-C alumnus has joined VC biggie Sequoia Capital as a Senior Advisor, primarily to focus on investments in the consumer internet market and to help portfolio companies find new growth avenues. "This is a strictly advisory role and I want to leverage my experience as an entrepreneur in new markets and help new companies anchor and grow their business," says Ramaraj. With investments in social networking start-up minglebox.com and local search firm guruji.com (where he was recently appointed a director), he may have his hands full at Sequoia. Says Ramaraj: "Unlike the earlier internet boom (and consequent meltdown), companies seem to have thought up more viable ideas and may of them will require funding and hand-holding to jump to the next level of growth."

Snapping the Ties

The rejig of Madura garments, the country's largest branded apparel vendor and part of the A.V. Birla group, appears to have taken its first casualty in the form of Hemchandra Javeri, the firm's Executive Vice President. While Javeri initially ran the entire business nearly independently, a couple of restructuring moves internally appear to have upset the apple cart. While Vikram Rao was appointed as Executive President of Madura Garments, the business was split up into lifestyle and value brands, with each unit having an independent COO. Javeri, 48, was re-designated in this process. "I am looking for new growth opportunities in this business," was all he would say when asked to comment on his departure. Javeri, who previously ran footwear giant Nike's country operations, is unlikely to remain on the sidelines for long, with Arvind Brands and Pantaloons both tipped as future employers.

(Contributed by Rahul Sachitanand, Krishna Gopalan, Kushan Mitra and Pallavi Srivastava)

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