“We never had any strike, any lockout..."

Sray Agarwal and Sayan Ghosh | January, 2011

Way back in mid seventies, two childhood friends left their high profile jobs to chase their dream of forming a company. Today, it is the country’s leading medicine and cosmetic brand. The Emami group is a classic tale of everlasting friendship between Mr. R.S. Agarwal and Mr. R.S. Goenka and their respective families. These two childhood friends, after completing their school and college joined the same company (Birla group of Companies). Both of them reached respectable position in that company – but they were not satisfied with it– as their inherent entrepreneurship instincts were enthusing them for spawning more! This was the time when the genesis of Emami actually cropped and eventually their dream destiny unfolded with the forming of the company in 1975. The rest was success, growth, accolades, recognitions and rewards.

The time you started the company, the situation in Bengal was quite disturbing. There were companies who were going out of the state. What motivated you to start your venture in Bengal?
R.S. Agarwal:
I am born and brought up in Kolkata and we were quite young at that time, so there was no question of moving out. It was quite convenient to reside in Kolkata where we had been living before. Bengalis are quite emotional, they wouldn’t cause losses to him. That is why in last 40 years we never had any strike, lockout, or demonstrations in any of the factories. So much so that there has not been a single case of 'employee retrenchment' till date.
R.S. Goenka: Our schooling was in Kolkata. And our parents used to live in Kolkata only. So, we had no other choice but to start in West Bengal. Moreover, Mr. Agarwal had a wholesale store in the city. So, we thought of starting the business there only.

When we talk about family run business, research says it does not run for more than 3-4 generations. How do you plan to avoid any probable family feuds?
R.S. Agarwal:
I have bought many books from abroad and have studied them very carefully, then I have put many experts on the job too, like Barkley, Anand Rathi et al. So, I don’t fear that. We also conduct ‘family council meeting’. So, there is a lot of mandatory, obligatory and recommendatory rules made by us.
R.S. Goenka: It is very difficult to speculate what will happen after 3-4 generations. But till now, the relationship with the second generation or even third generation seems to be quite alright. So, we don’t foresee any kind of problem with second or third generation.

Amidst all the new initiatives that Emami Group have taken in recent times, which one do you think has enhanced the brand equity?
R.S. Agarwal:
The edible oil venture and the Palm plantation in South Asia. Today, it is one of the leading brands with sales of around Rs 3,500 crores. My daughter is taking care of the R&D department.
R.S. Goenka: It is the introduction of our Fair & Handsome team. When we launched the product, nobody was present in that segment.

What are the future plans for Emami Group?
R.S. Agarwal:
We have big plans regarding edible oil, paper, FMCG. We have also plans for realty. In realty, we are the biggest player in the eastern part of India.
R.S. Goenka: We are planning for major expansions and diversifications. We are foraying into hospital business in another two years. Then, we are expanding our paper mills to the tune of Rs 1,500 crores. We are also setting up a cement plant in Raipur (Chhattishgarh).