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July 15, 2013

Gautam Thapar- Success Behind Avantha Group

The Prediction of a Sage


Moinak Mitra of The Economic Times narrates an interesting story about Gautam Thapar’s childhood.  It was a winter morning in the industrially buzzing city of Kolkata (Calcutta, at the time) in 1960.  Karam Chand Thapar, the founder of Thapar Group, who was also popularly known as KCT, was sipping tea along with his wife Mohini in his grand villa.  Swami Satyanand, a sage and the head of the Ram Ashram Network was also present there, along with Mr I P Anand, the CEO of Thapar Group.  Suddenly Thapar Senior asked his maid to bring the newborn baby in the family to seek the blessings of the sage.


The baby was in Swami’s lap the next moment; he stared at the face of the newborn and gave his blessings.  He told KCT that the child was destined to carry the legacy of Thapar Senior to glorious heights.  Swami was aware that Thapar Senior or KCT was not very happy with his son B M Thapar, who was also the father of the newborn.  So, he told him that the baby would also compensate for the mediocre performance and detachment of his father B M Thapar.  This newborn child was none other than Gautam Thapar, the successful Chairman and CEO of Avantha Group, which has a turnover of the Rs  24,000 crore (US$ 4 billion) according to the current dollar value.


Schooling Gautam Thapar was born on December 7, 1960 in Kolkata.  He joined famous Doon School, where he received education with an essence of equality, discipline and secularism.  Then, he went to the US and joined Pratt Institute in NYC and studied chemical engineering. 


Career


His struggle for survival


Gautam Thapar was not provided with the leadership of the Thapar Group on a silver platter.  He proved himself starting from the ranks of a junior manager.  He was never considered to be a part of the Group, as his father had already stepped out of the Group.  Some of the family members also went on to the extent of saying that his lineage through his father had become a dead branch of the big family business tree, but the tree was so big that it was able to support it.  This was the reason he didn’t want to come back to India, when he finished his engineering studies in the Pratt Institute in US.  But the fate had other plans.


Call of Destiny


Gautam Thapar was called up by his uncle LM Thapar, in 1980, when he was still struggling to find a decent job in US post his engineering studies.  It is worth noting that he was not on talking terms with his uncle at the time, because of his father’s estranged relationships with the rest of the family members.  It was Vikram Thapar, his nephew, who was being groomed and trained to run the Group.  Gautam hesitatingly agreed to take charge of the ailing pulp company AP Rayons. 


Gautam started his career as a humble factory assistant.  Soon, his dedication, devotion and vision caught his uncle’s attention and he was picked up for the top jobs.  He began by revamping Andhra Pradesh Rayons; then he switched to BILT and setup the export oriented businesses with entirely new product ranges comprising of leather, shoes and foods. 


During this time, he also learnt from his senior colleagues in the Group, on how to attain flying color success, but still be humble and grounded.  In 2006, he became the chairman of the entire Group. 


Senior mangers told him that you cannot run a company simply by making regular visits to the factory site. You need to know the ground realties, while preparing for an ambitious flight.       


From Rs 200 crore in the year 2000 to Rs 20,000 crore in 2013


Gautam Thapar seems to be the “chosen” avatar, who is determined to revivify the Group back to its glorious days, when it used to figure among the top five industrial houses of the country.   You can reckon the intensity of his efforts by the fact that just 13 years ago by the turn of the millennium, the market cap of the Group was mere Rs. 200 crore, which has grown into whopping Rs. 20,000 crore.  This is an amazing success story of a corporate house led by a visionary leader.   


Gautam Thapar and his Industrial Empire


At present, Gautam Thapar is managing a group of diverse companies including Avantha Power & Infrastructure, Crompton Greaves (now CG), BILT (paper) and The Global Green Company.  All of these companies are renowned brands in India.  Crompton Greaves is known for quality engineering and electrical products and BILT is known for quality paper. Though, he is not actively handling the tasks of a CEO for the Group, he is more of an advisor at the moment.  The 50 year young smart business leader maintains holdings in many flagship companies of Avantha Group.  In CG (Crompton Greaves), he has 41% share and in BILT, he has almost half.  


His Achievements and Thought Leadership


Gautam was instrumental in the strategic turnaround of Thapar Group through vision and restructuring.  Many ailing units of the Group were turned into leading profit making entities under his leadership.  He is on board of many leading companies in India and abroad.  


He is also the recipient of the prestigious Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Award for Manufacturing.  He received many laurels because of his thought leadership.  The government of India also appointed him on the National Security Advisory Board, which takes care of the policy making in the areas of politics, economy, energy and strategic security. 


A Man of Style


Gautam Thapar is known for style and his white cotton shirt has cufflinks inscribed with the initials of his name-- GT.  He is an avid reader and his room is a proof.  His office gives a look of head quarters described in science fiction stories with five clocks indicating the local time of five global cities such as London, Brussels, Mumbai and Delhi, where Avantha operates.  A reverse clock is also there named as “patal.”  


Carrying on the Legacy of his Grandfather


KCT, the grandpa of Gautam was not even remotely mediocre or complacent about his role as the founder of the Thapar Group; rather he knew that his businesses had a positive and progressive outlook.  Gautam also shares his grandpa’s philosophy and gave an entirely new name to the family business—“Avantha.”  Gautam’s outlook is completely futuristic and his approach is rather non-personal.


Giving Back


Gautam is also active in fulfilling his social responsibilities and giving back to the society in the areas of education, sports and leadership development.  Apart from heading Thapar University, the leading technical institute in India, he also supervises National Institute of Industrial Engineering (NITIE).  The Aspen Institute India is also busy internationalizing the leadership in India, under his chairmanship. In partnership with Confederation of Indian Industries, he has launched the CII-Avantha Center for Competitiveness for SMEs to make Indian small scale industries competitive and global.  Apart from being the ex-chairperson of AIMA, the leading body for management education in India, he also promotes golf.  At present, he is also heading the Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI).

Tags : Gautam Thapar, Avantha, Avantha Power & Infrastructure, Crompton Greaves, CG, BILT, The Global Green Company, thought leadership

About Nashaat Quadri

Freelance Content Writer (Compare Infobase, New Delhi.) Ex Sr Content Writer, Western Software, New Delhi. Ex Relationship Manager, Mashreq Bank, Dubai.