Vinay Bharat-Ram has for long had a ringside seat in matters concerning Indian industry. Grandson of the legendary Lala Shri Ram, he grew up in one of Delhi’s oldest business families. Today, he heads the DCM Group.
In From the Brink of Bankruptcy, Bharat-Ram recalls the charismatic Shri Ram, the beneficial influence of his parents, his privileged upbringing, watching Jawaharlal Nehru unfurl the tricolor at India Gate on 15 August 1947, the upheaval of Partition, the charm (now gone) of the Delhi of his childhood, his college days in the US, the loss of a clear school friend and finding his feet in the world of business.
He recollected the umpteen challenges DCM faced over the years: labour unrest, the insufferable Emergency years, Swraj Paul’s hostile takeover bid, a drop in the company’s share prices and huge debts. Having overcome most obstacles, a resurgent DCM group is now active in fields like software, engineering, textiles and real estate.
Bharat-Ram writes about other facets of his life, like his love of classical music and abiding interest in economics. Distinguished kpersonalities-among them, the economist Amartya Sen, musicians such as Baba Allauddin Khan, Ali Akbar Khan, Ravi Shankar and George Harrison, and politicians such as Rajiv Gandhi, Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh-make cameo appearances in the book.
In telling the story of his remarkable life, Bharat-Ram also manages to give fascinating insights into how big business survive, how family conflicts are resolved, and how luck plays a part in the achievement of corporate objectives.
Vinay Bharat-Ram hails from an old industrial family. Educated at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi and at Ann Arbor, Michigan and Harvard in the US, he holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Delhi. He started his career in DCM Limited, of which he become chairman in 1990.
Among his other interests, music is his passion and he loves to read and teach economics. He has many articles to his credit in both economics and management topics. He has published two books in economic theory and a translation of Kalidasa’s epic Meghadootam in Hindi verse.
Why Did I Think Of Writing This Book? Perhaps Because DCM has been the bedrock of my working life and it did not seem out of place to weave my own story around it. In consequence, I journeyed down memory lane and rediscovered a fund of episodes that lay buried in time, almost waiting to be articulated.
The book is divided into two parts: the story of my ancestors and their associates whose efforts brought the company into existence in 1889; and what I witnessed first-hand after joining it, as also the direction in which I influenced its course. Six generations of the family have been associated with DCM, four of which I have known personally. Then, there are numerous other characters-many of whom are, I am sure, familiar to the people of Delhi.
In addition there are experiences from my childhood and growing up years that give the book an authobiographical flavor. Running through it in parallel are political and cultural developments over the years that serve as a backdrop to the company’s evolution. For example, there is the pre-Independence period when India’s industrial policy was dominated by British interests and the post-Independence era of Nehru’s socialism, which only became more onerous during Indira Gandhi’s time. Then came hope with Rajiv Gandhi, which materialized into economic liberalism under P.V. Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh. On the cultural front, too, there was a kind of renaissance after Independence-in languages, theatre, music and the visual arts. For Delhi, this was specially significant as Partition brought about an amalgam of the cultures of Punjab and Delhi.
The process of writing this book in itself was a learning experience. I gained cognizance of myself as only the vantage point of time gone by can provide: my timidity, my bursts of courage, an occasional flash of insight and a missed opportunity all melded into making me what I am. On the other hand, the people associated with the company and whom I had known for years fell into perspective in the mosaic of corporate life. There was also the consciousness of changing values as the decision-making process shifted to new generations of managers. This applied as much to me in my youth as it does to my sons’ generation now taking charge of the future. It can only be hoped that they will set the course of the company on a trajectory that will combine growth and sustainability with abiding ethical values.
There are many whom I would like to thank for encouraging me to write this story. Once I began writing, the narrative widened to include the preceding generations as well as aspects of my personal life. Much credit goes to Arun Joshi, whose biography of my grandfather, Lala Shri Ram: A Study in Entrepreneurial and Industrial Management, contains a wealth of information not only about Shri Ram, who took DCM to iconic heights, but also about his ancestors. Then, of course, there is Meenakshi Nayar, who helped me with the composition of different chapters; D.R. Sen, who helped in digging out relevant information; Om Prakash Gupta, Ashwani Singhal and Sumant Bharat Ram, who checked the facts; and N.V. Raman and P.G. Pillai, who typed and retyped numerous revisions of the narrative. Nasreen Rehman, or Cheanie as we call her, my adopted sister from Pakistan, though often brutal in her criticism, was forthcoming with her suggestions, which eventually helped me in improving the draft.
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