ISB Updates

8 Simple Truths on how “Values Bring Value” – Ajay Piramal

Ajay Piramal, billionaire businessman and founder of Piramal Group narrated simple guiding principles of his success, linking fundamental moral lessons to real business practices. In a session that lasted for over an hour, he narrated the history of the Piramal Group, from being a family run textile company, to its entry into the pharmaceutical space and growth into a global multinational. Here are eight lessons from the session:

1. Integrity: Are our thoughts and actions aligned with each other? Piramal highlighted the importance integrity not only to individuals, but also to corporations. He spoke about how his company has been able to command greater value due to its integrity. Acquisitions they made came at cheaper costs, divisions they sold commanded higher prices.

2. Courage to take decisions: Piramal spoke of the move that changed the course of the Piramal Group, when they (then a textile business) decided to enter the pharmaceutical industry. The move involved a paradigm shift – from a labour and manufacturing-intensive, family-run business to the intellectual property, research and regulation-driven pharmaceutical industry. He explained that no management research would have indicated compatibility between the two sectors. No data would have supported reasons for the move. However, the courage to make that call and the belief in the idea led the group into this field, in which it is currently a global leader.

3. Perceive Challenges as Opportunities: The Piramal group possessed a sick manufacturing unit in a residential area of South Mumbai. Environmental regulations, a large labour force and increasing costs of real estate were adding more complexities to the situation. It seemed to be a hopeless scenario. Instead of viewing this as inevitable defeat, the group sensed opportunity. With an innovative strategic move, it transformed the aging factory into India's first mall, Crossroads. Citing this example, Piramal highlighted the importance of perceiving challenges as opportunities.

4. Be Passionate in your Actions but remain detached from the outcome: Piramal posed a few questions to the group: “Why are over 70% of the world's mergers and acquisitions unsuccessful? Why then, are 99% of the Piramal Group's M&A's successes?” To answer this, he highlighted the Abbot deal, in which the group sold its domestic healthcare business at 18000 Cr. In the course of the deal, it was the Piramal Group's composure and detachment from the outcome that enabled success. Unlike most M&As where the buyer tends to subdue the disadvantaged seller, in this deal both the parties were on an equal footing. The value it created was equivalent to a tenfold growth in sales and 29 times growth in EBIDTA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization.)

5. Associate yourself with good people:  Despite seeming trivial, associations with upright people can keep the company on the right path. Piramal spoke about how the wrong path can seem right on many occasions and only through right associations can the company stay on course.

6. Compassion: Piramal spoke about the practices and ethics of companies, and how they are largely represented by their contribution to society.

7. Health and Family:  Piramal stressed that we must prioritise based on how we wished to lead our lives and that we cannot take our health for granted.  

8. Exercise Humility: Speaking of arrogance as a barrier that kills learning, Piramal urged students to learn continually from all their interactions.