Adityaji was an ardent advocate of professional management, which he equated with
"good management". To him, it was the key driver of "progress, prosperity and
economic health". At a function organised by the Madras Management Association
to confer upon Adityaji "The Business Leadership Award for 1990", he voiced his
views, lacing them with his experiences of Indian management and the present
business environment. This speech will be long remembered, for Adityaji's
management wisdom had a prophetic ring.
In the management of corporations there are a gamut of
activities that have to be taken care of and I would like to touch briefly on
those aspects which are important. To start with, I think the most important
lesson in management that I have learnt from my grandfather is that major
investments should be made in the selection, training and building up of
people. He also taught me to repose full trust and confidence in people. Your
men will be as loyal to you, as you are to them.
He taught me that ordinary people can give extraordinary results, given an
opportunity. You have to train people by delegating authority to them. When you
delegate, people will make mistakes, but it is through the making of these
mistakes that you build up people. You must have the forbearance, fortitude,
patience and large heart to bear the losses in the training of people.
Opportunity must be given to people to perform. Don't hesitate in giving away
authority. When I came back from USA, my father gave to me an industrial mill,
all by myself, with no help from the Group. He had the vision and the guts to
delegate responsibility. I must have made innumerable mistakes, but the
training was worth all the mistakes I made.
Good leadership is one of the very important factors for success. Gone are the
days, when the boss was automatically the leader, and the cardinal rules while
dealing with the boss were: Rule No. 1 - The Boss is always right and Rule No.
2 - If the Boss is wrong, refer to Rule No. 1!
I have found times without number, when good leadership has made all the
difference. Loss making units have been turned into profit spinners by a mere
change of leadership.
I have tried to analyse what goes into the making of a good leader. Why do some
men become good leaders? Here again, there are several qualities and several
routes to attain excellence in leadership. Some people attain leadership
through financial management, some through good management of labour and good
human relations. Again, some attain leadership through marketing — Lee Iaccoca
is a fine example. Some go through the route of administrative controls and
some through quality controls and some through quality control and technical
management of production. Like the Chairman of Honda.
So there are several routes that people take to leadership, but there is one
thing common in all these, and that is hard work and commitment. There is no
substitute for hard work and commitment. When talking of commitment, I am
reminded of the story of a shop owner who, on his deathbed, enquired about the
whereabouts of his wife and three sons. When he was assured that all four were
at his bedside, he yelled in alarm, "Then who the hell is minding the shop?"
This is commitment for you!
Good leadership can make all the difference between success and failure. With
you I share one thought. Sometimes in adversities, when all efforts are made
and you don't find results, one loses heart and in such times, the famous verse
from the Bhagvad Gita: "Thy business is with the action only, never with its
fruits", has given me great solace. Then again when times are uncertain, gloom
looms large. I recall the doha (couplet) from the Ramayana, "Gain or loss,
life or death, credit or discredit, they are all in the hands of God." This doha
gives me equanimity and strength in times of distress. I hope you as leaders
will also derive strength from this thought.
From men and leaders, I now come to an exciting subject — innovation. This is
both challenging and rewarding and essential for excellence in management. I
have learnt that a corporation has to face new challenges all the time. We have
to keep changing strategies, goals, and our approach to meet the changing
scenario constantly. For instance, environment and ecology were unknown words
till a decade back. Today, they are encompassing. A new factor has been thrown
in. Similarly, constantly to face up to these challenges, one has to innovate
to survive and excel.
I must stress however that innovation also faces impediments from the inertia
of status quo, which inhibits people from making innovations. Yet, corporations
need to break status quo all the time. Established norms and methods of doing
business must be questioned, if we want to progress. Innovation is questioning
and challenging the existing for something better, more exciting and more
Let us now talk about productivity. Constant efforts have to be put in for
improving productivity of men and machines all the time. We have to improve on
our existing systems, however good they maybe. The norms that are excellent
today will become outdated tomorrow. What seems unachievable today, becomes a
matter of fact tomorrow and the day after, becomes obsolete. A corporation
cannot remain static. It cannot maintain its position. It either improves or
deteriorates. Therefore, if you do not constantly strive to remain a step ahead
of competition, by improving productivity all the time, you will be left
The world is fast changing. It is a dynamic, ruthless and constantly changing
environment. Those who innovate, those who constantly strive for higher
productivity, will survive and prosper. Those who do not will fade into
oblivion. Don't forget that there is also tremendous fulfilment and job
satisfaction if you achieve something.
If you are successful in your efforts, the corporate world is full of dreams,
full of joy and pleasure. But if you do not keep progressing, industry can be a
nightmare. You have to strive constantly for survival and progress.
My grandfather used to say: "Industry is a jealous mistress! She requires
In productivity of machines, I have found that there is always room for
improvement. What is lacking is the will, the vision and the commitment to
exploit the machines to get the best out of them. We build most of the times
our own mental barriers, which are the most difficult to overcome, than the
actual problem of increasing productivity.
As Eric Hoffer, the great American philosopher, said, "In a time of change, it
is the learners who inherit the future. The learned find themselves equipped to
live only in a world that no longer exists."
We must have an open mind; we must be open to new ideas, to new perspectives
and to new technology and should not create our own mental barriers and
It was thought that the four-minute mile record could not be broken. It was.
There is nothing which cannot be achieved, provided you have an open mind, the
will, the devotion, determination, enthusiasm and vision to achieve the
Talking of open mindness, the Rig Veda says: "Let noble thoughts come to us from
all over the universe."
Quality is extremely important in the competitive environment of a shrinking
world. Myopic managers not conscious of quality will lose in a world without
If you are quality conscious, you actually cut down on your cost of production
and marketing. The notion that to maintain your quality,
your costs go up is totally wrong. The natural question that arises is, how do
your costs go down if your emphasis is on quality.
The answer is:
the wear and tear of your machines comes down
machine productivity improves
you save on costs of maintenance
you achieve higher productivity of labour
you get a better realisation for your product
there are no claims from customers
selling to the best customers whose credit rating is good, results in reduction
of bad debts
All in all, the cost savings are incalculable because of quality. Therefore, I
would strongly advocate that any and every enterprise must keep quality as its
foremost goal. We have done so, and we have benefited from this. Dr. J.M Juran
voices similar views, packaged differently. He says, "While quality costs, poor
quality costs more".
For any enterprise, the foundation should be solid. For this, when putting up
projects, three very important areas need to be fully taken care of: firstly,
to adopt the best know-how that is available in the world; secondly, buy the
best equipment. Do not compromise on the quality of the equipment for marginal
extra costs. The cheaper machine normally turns out to be the most expensive
ultimately. Thirdly, whilst putting up the plant, the minimum economic world
sized plant should always be borne in mind. One should not compromise on these
three basic criteria. This ensures a strong foundation.
Suggested management system
I would like to share with you the management system which I feel is
effective. We follow a style, which I term as "participative management by
consensus". In this system, reviews and decisions are taken in groups. A group
of people get together to review the working of the company periodically. They
go into the various aspects and problems and prepare action plans. In the
taking of a decision, instead of one man taking a decision, it is done as a
consensus decision, which emerges out of the discussions in the group.
A course of action is suggested by one of them, others pick holes in it,
corrections or alternatives are explored, and when finally a decision is
reached, it is mature, balanced and well thought out. It represents the wisdom
and commitment of many heads. The chances of the correctness of such a decision
are far greater than if one person were to have taken it in isolation. I am
reminded of Alfred Sloan, former Chairman of General Motors, who once adjourned
a meeting when everybody quickly agreed with his proposal. He remarked, "
Gentlemen, I do not think you have studied the proposals in depth. Let us meet
again, when I can hear some negative points about my proposal."
Management: A science or an art?
I have often been asked whether management is a science or an art. I do not
know what the textbooks say. My own perception is that at the basic roots,
management is a science. If one is inducted as an accounts assistant, one
doesn't have to practise an art. He has to follow a science. The science of the
double entry book-keeping. But, as you climb up the ladder you move into a
realm where the science gradually turns into an art, where there are no clearly
defined action plans or basic theories.
There is no set method of taking a decision. Sometimes, the intuitive faculty
takes precedence over the analytical mind. At the top, one of the foremost
things is to deal with people. How do you deal with people? This is not a
science. Each person had to be dealt with in a different manner. It is an art.
You have to develop your own art of dealing with each situation. This art is
something which is peculiar to each individual, and one has to develop his own
Indian industry has come of age. This has been possible because of its
entrepreneurs. I have the experience of working in eight countries and I find
that as far as entrepreneurship goes, we Indians are second to none — in number
or in quality. This is something that India can really be proud of. However, we
have to nurture this, we have to create a business environment, where
entrepreneurship can flourish.
Need for more executives
One last observation: While we have no dearth of entrepreneurs, we have to
develop further on managerial cadres. We have excellent managerial talent, but
it is not available in the numbers that is required. This is an area where we
have to concentrate and work on. We have seen times without number that
enterprising Indians have put up industries, yet come to grief because of lack
of managerial acumen. We have to create more professional managers and we also
need more executive entrepreneurs, those who combine the talent of an executive
and an entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurs can dream, but of what use is that dream, if there is no manager
or executive to convert those dreams into reality. We need both. We need the
vision of the entrepreneurs as well as the good management of the executives. I
am reminded of Shri Krishna and Arjuna. "Wherever there is Krishna, the
Yogeshwar, the thinker, the visionary and Arjuna, the archer, the executor,
there you have happiness, victory and prosperity."
Entrepreneurs are born. Executives are made.