From beginning his career as a small trader in Delhi to building Havells, the largest Indian electrical goods company, Qimat Rai Gupta’s story makes for an inspiring read. Told rivetingly by his son Anil Rai Gupta, this is the account of how QRG, as he was fondly known, poverty, ill heath, ill health, competition, corruption and bureaucracy to turn his dreams into reality.
Havells faced stiff competition from companies that couldn’t tolerate a modest trader challenging them. Despite legal battles, family feuds and severe shortage of funds, QRG never gave up.
During his last years, Havells acquired German giants Sylvania, which was twice its size. When Sylvania’s losses pushed Havells to the bring QRG fearlessly decided to keep the company, It was under his mentorship that Anil Rai Gupta, present chairman of Havells, turned Sylvania around. In this candid biography, Anil gives you an inside view into his father’s life and shows how, with hard work, faith and determination, QRG shaped his destiny.
Anil Rai Gupta is the chairman and managing director of Havells India Ltd. He joined Havells in 1992 and rose through the ranks under the tutelage of his father, Qimat Rai Gupta. Anil led the acquisition of German lightings- system company Sylvania in 2007, and was also instrumental in its turnaround after the economic meltdown of 2008. He studied economics at Shri Ram College of Commerce, University of Delhi, and has an MBA from Wake Forest University, North Carolina, USA. Anil lives in Delhi with his mother, Vinod Gupta, wife, Sangeeta, and children, Aradhana and Abhinav.
Sometime in November 2014, I moved into the corner office at QRG Towers-a large office complex located near the expressway that runs from Noida to Greater Noida. The office was big and could comfortably accommodate over ten people. Until recently, the occupant of this room was my father, Qimat Rai Gupta, chairman and managing director of Havells and chairman of Sylvania. He was Bhaisahib to older employees and QRG to the rest of the world.
He had recently passed away after a brief illness. It was now my job to helm the business he had built from scratch. We had operations across continents and products across various categories, including electrical goods-consumer durables, switchgear, cable and wires, and lighting and fixtures. Then there were business associates, employees, vendors, dealers, bankers and investors to manage.
As I sat on the swivel chair behind the heavy wooden desk and looked over the busy highway to Greater Noida, memories of QRG’s extraordinary life and sterling character flashed through my mind. I had very big shoes to fill.
He was not trained as an engineer but was a master in human engineering. He had no MBA degree but he knew what it took for a business to succeed. He may not have been a numerical wizard but he was one of the best wealth creators I have known. He may not have understood the whims and fancies of the stock market but he sure knew how to take care of shareholders.
Born into a household of modest means, QRG left his family with a net worth of $2 billion. Yet, he always remained humble and grounded. He could have afforded all the luxuries money can but chose to live simply. Our house was comfortable, never ostentatious. His cars were never extravagant. It was almost as if he knew that fortune can be fickle. That is why he chose to stay away from the limelight, and always focused on the job at hand.
QRG was not highly educated but his sharp and incisive intellect was second to no one’s. He was not beholden to any guru and seldom found time for management books, yet he understood the value of brands, carried out several financial innovations made stellar strategic acquisitions. He never took notes at meetings but could rattle off all the details without missing a single fact. Business, he often used to say, is done with conviction and not with a calculator.
He conducted business the old-fashioned way-with trust and empowerment. He detested corruption and unfair trade practices. He was flexible in his approach and was always open to new ideas. He had a childlike enthusiasm for innovation. Not once did he let his ego the better of his business instincts.
Perhaps QRG’s greatest skill was in man-managements. There was some innate wisdom that gave him great insights into human behaviour. He was fond films and soaps, and the morning after watching them, he would relate those stories to management practices.
His enthusiasm and confidence were contagious. Once, Naresh Gupta, his younger sister Sarla’s husband, came with an acquaintance who wanted to start a business. QRG promised to help, only if Nareshji would also take the plunge. The meeting had a profound effect on Nareshji-both he and his friend quit their jobs and became business partners in on time!
To the world outside, he embodied every quality Dale Carnegie recommended in his path-breaking 1936 book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. He was lavish in his praise and slow to blame. Even if he did not like a person-and his instincts were mostly correct-he wouldn’t be rude to him. ‘What do I gain by being blunt with him?’ he would ask. ‘Criticism is futile’.
His empathy for the weak was evident. One his fiftieth wedding anniversary, he got fifty poor couples married-without any pomp or show. Human values were important for him. QRG would often tell our engineers to be ‘good human engineers’.
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