Adi Godrej began learning financial skills early. When he was growing up in India, where his family has owned a major business since 1897, his mother put him on a budget at age 10: he was responsible for buying his own clothes, textbooks, and toys from his allowance. Further, he says, she modeled the value of work, teaching for years in the company-founded school though she could have led a life of ease. Today, Godrej is one of the most influential business leaders in India. As chairman of the Godrej Group, he oversees a collection of companies that earn some $3.3 billion in revenues a year in consumer products, real estate, industrial products, and more.
Godrej joined the family business after graduating from MIT, where he majored in business management and minored in engineering and then earned a master’s in management. He still values the experiences of studying humanities and economics and living in his fraternity, Pi Lambda Phi, but it’s the management education that he uses every day.
“The Godrej Group is a successful conglomerate,” says Godrej, whose 10-year restructuring plan is credited with globalizing the business. “And whilst it operates in many industries, such as chemicals, agribusiness, real estate, and industrial machinery, our major business is still consumer products, both durables and consumables. Around 500 million Indians use one or the other of our company’s[CK] products each day.”
The Godrej enterprises are also active in philanthropy and sustainability. The holding company, Godrej & Boyce, earmarks 25 percent of its stock to fund the Godrej Trust, which invests in the environment, health care, and education. The trust funds local schools and a hospital, programs such as Teach for India and AIDS awareness, as well as nature and wildlife preservation efforts. In 2003, the firm spearheaded the building of the Godrej CII Green Business Centre, which helps promote environmentally friendly business practices in Indian industry.
Godrej has served on numerous company and nonprofit boards and accumulated honors including the Asia Pacific Entrepreneurship Award in 2010. He has just become chairman of the board at the prestigious Indian School of Business, and next year he will become president of the Confederation of Indian Industry—roles that will afford him opportunities to bolster business education and practices nationwide.
Although he still reports to his desk promptly at 8 a.m., he takes time to enjoy sports, especially waterskiing, and traveling with his wife, Parmesh. “My wife and I have been fond of trekking, safaris in Africa, and cruising on our yacht in the Indian Ocean,” he says. “All my three children are actively and passionately involved in the family business and have helped drive it to greater heights.” And his children also learned their business skills early: like him, they grew up living within an allowance.
Become an MIT Technology Review Insider for in-depth analysis and unparalleled perspective.Subscribe today