Sonu Bhasin, the founder of Families and Business (FAB), a platform for family-owned businesses, believes that Family Businesses are the unsung heroes of the Indian economy. Her recently published book, The Inheritors, offers a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the inner-workings of companies like Marico, Dabur, Keventers, Berger Paints, Select Group, Antara, Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas, Luxor and Motilal Oswal. From culture to family politics, ego battles and business rivalries, this book is a testament to how a story can often depict a journey better than data and numbers.
Bhasin points out how we are all surrounded by family businesses but haven’t quite gotten around to acknowledging their contribution to the economy. It is not because we don’t want to; rather we are not aware of the quantum of their contribution.
The former group president at Yes Bank says, “Data shows that approximately 90 percent of world commerce is in the hands of Family Owned Businesses. Family businesses contribute between 60 to 90 percent of the GDP in their respective economies, are the largest employers outside of the government and deliver better profitability, consistently, when compared to their non-family-owned counterparts.
“It is a common perception that the inheritors of business families have life handed over to them on a platter and that the inheritors have not had to work hard.”
It is a common perception that the inheritors of business families have life handed over to them on a platter and that the inheritors have not had to work hard. Having dealt with many Family Business Owners in my banker-avatar I realized that each Family Business had a story. I wanted to tell the inspirational stories of some of the well-known family businesses in India. Stories that give the readers an insight into the grit and ambition of the protagonists; of their refusal to be cowed down by early failures; their adherence to family values.”
She also wanted to bring to the fore the fact that a successful business is not simply inherited. Each inheritor has to display a spirit of entrepreneurship to keep the business successful. One of the biggest challenges in putting this together was obviously getting time from the very busy people she had set out to feature in this book. Having said that, Bhasin puts on record that once fixed, “there was not even a single meeting that was cancelled nor re-scheduled by any of the protagonists. It speaks highly of the professionalism that each of them display.”
Bhasin asserts that women are considerably under-represented in all businesses – family or otherwise. However, a recent EY study showed that the large and old Family Businesses in the world are showing the way for others to follow. These businesses are moving their women up the hierarchy within their own businesses and are doing so at a rate faster than their non-family counterparts.
“Patriarchs who enable their daughters to take charge of their businesses need to be celebrated and be shown as an example for others to follow. Global studies have also shown that when there is a woman in the C-Suite the rise of other women in the organisation is faster!”
“This is an important development because Family Businesses are the foundation for any economy, India included. The trend of letting the daughters take charge of the family businesses is being seen in our country as well. Priya and Priti Paul, the Reddy sisters, Tara Singh Vachani, Pooja Jain are all examples of women leading the Family Businesses. Societal trends cannot be changed overnight nor in one generation alone. However, a change effected in one generation acts as a catalyst for successive generations. Thus, Patriarchs who enable their daughters to take charge of their businesses need to be celebrated and be shown as an example for others to follow. Global studies have also shown that when there is a woman in the C-Suite the rise of other women in the organization is faster!”
I ask her how are family led businesses ushering the country into a new-age of entrepreneurship? She answers it in two parts. The first is from the point of view of the Patriarchs – the leaders running their businesses currently – and the second from the perspective of the inheritors.
Bhasin informs, “For the current patriarchs the environment of doing business shifted noticeably twenty years ago. Their fathers may have grown their businesses using the License -Raj to their advantage but with the opening of the Indian economy, the current generation has had to fall back on their spirit of entrepreneurship to expand their businesses. Data of the Indian companies shows that many of the old, Family-Owned Businesses died a slow death as they were unable to compete in the era of entrepreneurship. Thus, India is growing today because of businesses which are growing because their owners understand that in the new India it is only entrepreneurship that will take them higher.
The inheritors of family led businesses are world-educated. They are well-travelled and have a broader world view than their fathers and uncles.
The inheritors are the leaders waiting in the wings to take over from the previous generation. The inheritors of family led businesses are world-educated. They are well-travelled and have a broader world view than their fathers and uncles. When these young men and women come back to work in their own Family Businesses, they bring with them a fresh perspective of doing business. Further, they also look at technology that is a key to success.”
Sonu Bhasin’s platform helps the Family Businesses in the small and medium enterprise (SME) segment to be aware of, and then address, the issues within their families that may prevent them for building multigenerational businesses.
Also, a director on the board of several well-known companies, Sonu Bhasin is all deeply committed to her own venture FAB – Families And Business. She feels it is a shame that more than two-thirds of Family Businesses in India will not make it to the second generation. As these are also the largest employers outside of the government sector, the failure of a business to perpetuate leads to more people joining the unemployment group. So, her platform helps the Family Businesses in the small and medium enterprise (SME) segment to be aware of, and then address, the issues within their families that may prevent them for building multigenerational businesses. Her quarterly publication – Families & Business magazine – is also a vehicle to disseminate the message both in India and overseas.
Also, acutely aware of women having to work harder in the corporate world, the author’s advice to any young woman who aspires to be a leader in a family run or other corporate is to not think of herself as a woman but as a professional in every work that she does.
“In the corporate world, every talented woman stands out because there are so few of them that rise in the corporate hierarchy. If there is a woman who is keen to occupy positions of leadership (and I hope there are many of them who are reading this) please remember that there is no substitute to hard work and diligence. Further, there are no short-cuts because of your gender.”
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