Gen-Next in the saddle to tread fresh ground, keep family businesses going


Mumbai: The young scion of JSW Group, Parth Jindal, was inducted into the group’s new businesses a couple of years ago. It was a planned induction that saw his father, Sajjan Jindal, giving him responsibility for the group’s new businesses—cement and paints—instead of a role in the group’s flagship steel business.

As managing director of JSW Cement and JSW Paints, Parth’s scorecard is impressive, but new challenges have surfaced as consolidation within the industry will gain pace after Adani snared the Indian business of Holcim-Lafarge.

Not just that, two other cement makers —Aditya Birla Group’s Grasim and JK Group—have entered the paints business, exploring the benefits of adjacencies. Thus, how Parth navigates his nascent businesses will be keenly watched.

The planned exercise to secure long-term legacies is gathering speed within Indian business families. The Ambanis and the Adanis, too, have anointed their scions to leadership positions.

Mukesh Ambani, in his address to shareholders at an annual meeting last August, revealed his family’s much-speculated succession plan. In June, Akash Ambani, 30, took over as the chair of the telecoms unit Reliance Jio Infocomm, a subsidiary of Jio Platforms. Isha, Akash’s twin sister, will lead the retail business, and Anant, the youngest sibling, will head the ambitious new energy business.

“They are part of a young team of leaders and professionals who are already doing amazing things at Reliance. All of them are being mentored on a daily basis by RIL’s senior leaders, including the chairman and the board of directors,” the chairman of Reliance Industries told shareholders.

The Adani Group, meanwhile, saw the rise of both sons of Gautam Adani—Karan and Jeet—on the boards of group companies. The group enlisted Karan, 34, as chairman of ACC Ltd, part of the two trophy assets the group acquired this year.

He had already earned his spurs as the chief executive of Adani Ports & Logistics. His younger brother Jeet, 25, is now being groomed in the finance functions within the group and also playing a senior role in Adani Digital Labs.

“We are still in the entrepreneur’s phase (in India.) It is a different story (business) house by house. The NextGen is extremely well trained, but whether they have the drive is to be seen. The opportunity is there for everyone to make a mark,” said Raamdeo Agrawal, chairman of Motilal Oswal Financial Services.

Coming to the Tatas, Noel Tata’s three children were inducted on the board of a Tata Trust. Leah, Neville, and Maya were appointed to Tata Medical Centre Trust’s board, a Tata Trusts affiliate, in what is seen as a move to develop the next generation of leaders within the Tata family.

And at the privately held SP Group, the untimely death of Cyrus Mistry has prompted his two children to move into the business.

The Aditya Birla group, too, is in the process of inducting its sixth-generation scions into responsible roles.

Not just diversified business groups, but companies such as Infosys and Parle also saw family patriarchs mull over roles for children interested in running the business.

Infosys Ltd’s co-founder N.R. Narayana Murthy earlier this month said he was “completely wrong” in not allowing the founders’ children to take up roles in the company.

“I was depriving this organization of legitimate talent,” Murthy said in an interaction with the media as Infosys held an event to celebrate its 40th anniversary. “I take back whatever I said. I think that every individual must have the same opportunity as every other individual if he or she is considered the best person for the role.”

A third of the 30-share Sensex firms are family-run. Since these companies have historically created some of the biggest wealth, a lot is riding on the next generation’s success.

So, even if Gen-Next plays the role of consolidators and custodians, history will be kind to them.

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