The Bhagavad Gita is omnipresent on the 10th floor of Piramal House, the corporate headquarters of Piramal Enterprises, at Mumbai’s Peninsula Corporate Park. There are inscriptions from the Gita on the walls. All around are brilliant 100-year-old sculptures made out of granite that were sourced from a place close to the ancient city of Hampi by sculptor Adwaita Gadnayak, meant to represent different interpretations of the Gita.
All the conference rooms bear the different names of Arjuna — Dhananjaya, Partha, Kapidhwaj and Parantapa, among others. The main conference room — which is where the all-important board meetings and monthly review meetings are held — aptly bears the name Arjuna. This is also where the Piramals, their friends and senior leaders from the company would get together for their weekly Gita classes, till the venue was shifted to the ballroom on the ground floor.
All this seems completely natural when you consider the fact that the Bhagavad Gita is the rule book Ajay Piramal, chairman of the eponymous group, swears by. It is what defines him as a leader and, more importantly, as a person. In fact, Piramal calls the Bhagavad Gita the greatest management book ever written, with his family even having put out a book on the 18 verses of the Gita and their relevance to corporate life.
It is from the Gita that Piramal derives the concept of trusteeship, as part of which he believes that he is the trustee of his stakeholders’ wealth and it is his responsibility to manage that wealth in a way that creates maximum value for them. The Gita’s teachings of focusing on action without expectation of the outcome, fearlessness and courage gave him the confidence to be a contrarian: to foray into pharmaceuticals from textiles, be an early entrant in contract manufacturing and, now, bet big on financial services. It is also the force behind the equanimity with which he takes both successes and abject failure —be it with respect to people or deals — in his stride.
But the single most defining lesson from the Gita for him has been the one that advises being fair and doing the right thing even in difficult situ