The movie Wake Up Sid is a perfect example of the new phenomenon in India. Just like Sid (Ranbir Kapoor), who chose not to join his father’s lucrative business despite daddy’s numerous attempts, today’s youth prefer to tread new roads in the multinational corporate world. A similar story is unfolding in many of India’s business families.
“I respect my father for the huge business empire he has built. Though I was never too inclined towards joining my family, after acquiring a degree from Oxford, I realised I wanted to get into investment banking abroad,” said a banker whose family is in
the mining and shipping business.
Youngsters, today, have the right credentials. They are educated at Ivy League institutions and prefer to test their mettle beyond the family comfort zone. Vishesh Jayawanth is starting his new venture OnlineGuru, which aims to make education affordable and accessible through online portals. “I chose not to join my family business because it doesn’t give me a kick. I want to be responsible for making my own life,” he said, adding that being the owner’s son would invite differential treatment towards him from employees of the firm. “This will not give me the space to make mistakes and learn the business.”
Most conventional family businesses in India, operating in a traditional space like trading and manufacturing, are seen as unglamorous. “Youngsters today want to see and experience the outside world. Many a time, they do not relate to their family business. They want to work in a field that is more up to date,” said Sangeeta Lala, vice-president, Teamlease.
Nandini Vaidhyanathan, a travelling professor, who teaches entrepreneurship at London School of Economics, Princeton University and IIM-B, said one of the biggest concerns youth are faced with is that of the organisation’s culture in family businesses being feudalistic.
“Youngsters with Ivy league schooling find it difficult to adapt to the situation, having been exposed to the professional culture in multinational companies.” She said these businesses have been running in a particular way for years and are not amenable to change their working models in tune with today’s context, which deters the youth.
For instance, in 2005, Kavita Sabharwal decided to move out of her father’s $600 million company Lupin to set up her first branch of Neev, a popular pre-school in Bangalore. She saw an opportunity in the pre-school segment in the country.
Similar is the case of Arjun Balijee. The 30-year-old got roped into his father’s hotel empire, Royal Orchid, soon after completing his education. However, in time, Balijee noticed the need for more budget hotels.
He branched out to launch Peppermint chain, which bagged the ‘Best Budget and Economy Hotel’ award at this year’s Hotel Investment Conference South-Asia held in Mumbai in April.
“I worked with my dad before starting out on my own. It is very easy to work in a family business as you already have a base. The kick to start you own brand that leaves a lasting impression is more gratifying,” said Arjun.
Closer to home, Infosys founder NR Narayan Murthy’s children have decided to gain experience outside Infosys.
However, there is another group of youngsters who, after gaining work experience, join their family business to take it to the next
With a degree from Harvard, Rishad Premji worked with firms like General Electric and Bain & Co before joining his father at Wipro in 2007.Likewise, Sunil Mittal’s son, Shravin Mittal, has joined as manager at Bharti Airtel International-Netherlands.
“Children of renowned families such as the Godrej, TAFE, Zydus, Dabur, etc, have returned after a few years of experience to join family business. However, they have often driven the growth, introduced new businesses or added new sectors to the conglomerate,” said K Ramachandran from Indian School of Business.
“This rarely happened earlier. Today, even if they are joining their family business, there is a certain level of professionalism that is expected of them,” said Lala.