The Boss

Adi Godrej

The Godrej group chairman is a wizened stalwart who judges his children and professionals equally

Photographs by Soumik Kar

Education: Completed his Bachelors and Masters degrees in management from the Sloan School, MIT, in 1963

Career: Joined the family business in 1963 when the group had two companies and a turnover of Rs.10 crore. Today, the Godrej Group has revenue of $4.1 billion

If you live and work in Mumbai, you probably set your watch to the Mumbai local train network time, but if you work at Godrej, you can probably set your watch to the time Adi Godrej arrives for a meeting or an appointment. This trait is something he is universally admired for by everyone. On the rare occasion that he is not able to reach on time, he will get his secretary to postpone the appointment and be the first one to apologise. In the late 1970s, Kersi Dastur was the manager of Godrej’s London office. The company was importing vegetable oil from Europe and America and Adi Godrej would often travel to London to meet the brokers and exporters.

The now 74-year-old Dastur, a classmate of Godrej’s who has spent over three decades with the group, recollects, “When Adi came to London, he wanted his day to be packed with meetings from 9 am to 5 pm, with probably a half-hour break for lunch somewhere in between. So, I would fix around six meetings a day on an average when he was here.” The company’s office was near the Tower Bridge in London and the meetings would be held in the city of London, where the brokers and bankers had their offices. 

“Since the meetings were back-to-back, if we got delayed at one meeting, it would have a cascading effect on the others, and Godrej is a stickler for time,” recollects Dastur. “During one such meeting-filled day, we were trying to catch a cab to the next appointment. Despite several tries, we were unable to flag down a cab. So, Godrej turns to me and says, ‘Do you mind running to the next meeting?’ I said I don’t. He says, ‘Okay, let’s run.’ So, we ran for about 10 minutes, reaching the next meeting on time.”

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