The Outperformers 2017

Turnaround wizard

Vivek Chaand Sehgal turned Motherson Sumi from nothing to a $9.1 billion group in less than 20 years

Photograph by Vishal Koul

There are no uncles and aunts here. If you are related to me, you aren’t allowed in this company,” Vivek Chaand Sehgal declares categorically. Which is kind of ironical, when you recall that his company started back in 1975 as a silver trading outfit in partnership with his mother and was even named after that Motherson. But considering that the $9.1-billion Motherson Group of today bears no resemblance to that tiny enterprise of 40-odd years ago, it’s clear that separating management and ownership is just a tiny aspect of the kind of transformation the Delhi-based group has undergone. 

That’s underlined when you try to fix a meeting with Sehgal. As dates are tossed around and changed repeatedly, Sehgal’s communication team explains wryly that the founder and chairman of the auto ancillary conglomerate is out of the head office in Noida for as many as 300 days in a year. He’s raking up frequent flier miles visiting Motherson’s 230 facilities in 33 countries and, probably, hunting for prospective acquisition targets. Finally, a long discussion with Sehgal and top management later, it emerges that it’s hardly a hunt.  

Motherson Sumi assembaly line

“We don’t go after companies. Carmakers themselves have asked us in the past to solve the problems in component companies by acquiring them. That’s how we keep growing,” says 60-year-old Sehgal. In simple terms, Motherson has acquired troubled (and the occasional not-so-troubled) overseas companies at the behest of its customers (in this case, auto OEMs). Now, 87% of revenue comes from overseas operations, up from zero at the turn of the century. In the past 16 years, the group has acquired 18 companies and signed 26 joint venture agreements, helping it grow from revenue of barely Rs.150 crore in 2000. Motherson is now the largest auto component maker from India (in value and volume), and it has these successful foreign acquisitions to thank. 

The last deal was struck just six mo

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