The trend of working outside the family business, especially global stints at consulting companies, by business family scions is gaining traction. Consulting companies such McKinsey, Bain, Accenture and Deloitte are a hotbed for grooming the new generation for leadership roles. Top industry executives said the new generation finds it more comfortable to work at companies outside India for real-world experience and boost their learning trajectory.
The new generation is being directly prepared for senior roles with global exposure, said Indian School of Business faculty Kavil Ramachandran. “It enables them with the experience to work with non-family professionals, offers networking benefits and a lot of credibility and respect to their profile when they join the family business.“
Godrej group executives were reticent to comment on Burjis Godrej’s stint at Conservis.
Gita Piramal, business historian and mother of VIP Industries MD Radhika Piramal, cited MBA for triggering the trend. “Through the two years of the MBA course, they go through various subjects and ideas in a digitalised world. Patriarchs at various business houses are aware that the world is changing and they want their children to get the outside view of their organiations. Their stints with consulting companies after their MBA gives them a rounded view of run ning an organisation and an inside-outside perspective,“ she said.“The speed of learning is faster while the tenure of learning gets longer.“
Often the scions get special treatment at their own companies and working outside prevents this.
Anant Goenka, MD of CEAT, worked at Morgan Stanley Hong Kong and Hindustan Unilever and Accenture before joining the family business. At Hindustan Unilever, he went to villages like any other employee to market products. He learnt to work to grassroots and a respect for processes and disciplined approach to work that could be the result of his work in HUL, said Arvind Aggarwal, former HR head of RPG Enterprises.
A stint at McKinsey or another consulting firm or a global bank is fairly common for scions before they are eased into family busines ses. Kulin Lalbhai, son of Lalbhai group Chairman Sanjay Lalbhai, worked at McKinsey before joining the family business. Aditya Mittal of ArcelorMittal started out in investment banking with Credit Suisse. Scions of south-based businesses -Krishna Mahesh (Sundaram Brake Linings), Subbiah Vellayan (Cholamandalam) and Lavanya Nalli (Nalli Group) -also spent some time at consulting firm before joining their respective family businesses.
SV Nathan, senior director and chief talent officer at Deloitte in India, said nothing can get a young family businesses scion to speed up their career progress with more differentiated experience than working outside the family business houses. “Besides, the bias of being unfairly judged is removed.And, global consulting companies and banks are known for quality, speed of work and accelerated learning on assignments,“ he said.
Bhairavi Jani, daughter of Tushar Jani, former Chairman of logistics major Blue Dart, who did a stint at KPMG, said the biggest learning at such organisations is global. As several Indian companies go global, either through joint ventures or acquisitions, or setting up offices outside India, it becomes critical to understand how global organisations are run.
“Compared to picking up the ropes at your own family business, which will be gradual and slow, a stint with consulting companies gives multi-sector exposure and the speed of learning is faster. My stint at KPMG made me understand how global corporations are run. Since these consulting companies also pitch to higher management in other companies, it teaches us management skills and the art of negotiations,“ said Bhairavi, now a director at the SCA group of companies.
Sanjay Aggarwal, head of enterprise practice at KPMG India, said there were cases where the nextgeneration has been sent to a public-private partnership to understand how the government works or in food technology which is the next venture for the family businesses. “Within the company, such opportunities could be rare because in addition to managing the current business, the scions are required to be developed for future growth andor diversification. In consulting firms, they have the opportunity to undergo best in class robust global training frameworks and further benefit from mentorship provided by senior partners,“ he said.