Oct – Dec 2020
Who will be his successor?
Mukesh Ambani has evolved a perfect plan to divide his empire among three children. Each one gets what she or he desired, and each fiefdom is as large as that of the others. But has India’s richest billionaire got it right? Alam Srinivas reports
The best solution for business family succession is for the patriarch or matriarch to consciously and deliberately decide to shun management, and transform into mere investors. In such cases, the owners are only worried about the returns on their investments, and pass on the operational baton to the professional managers. Globally, several founder families, including renowned names with centuries-old traditions and legacy, have managed this change. In recent times, we see this successively and successfully in start-ups and technology companies, where the founders, co-founders, and original investors retain their designations, but give up control to professionals.
However, it isn’t easy. In fact, it is almost-impossible for the second, third, and fourth generations to adhere to such succession, even if the founders are able to take such tough decisions. In India, the general norm is for the family members to not let go, or bounce back at the expense of the professionals, who are booted out with contempt. So, for every example of Azim Premji, who transferred his ownership in the Wipro Group into a trust and saved a miniscule part for his family, there are scores of other examples, where the family just wouldn’t give up. In India, the majority of listed and unlisted companies are still family-run, with a few exceptions like ITC and L&T.
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