Journey of Women Entrepreneurs-Mallika Srinivasan
Of all the eminently successful women entrepreneurs that India has produced since she became independent in 1947, Mallika Srinivasan is a cut above the rest as she has made her mark in a male dominated industry. She has earned the soubriquet ‘tractor woman of India’ and rightfully deserves the appellation. Mallika Srinivasan is the Chief Executive Officer of Tractors and Farm Equipment Ltd (TAFE Motors) and has been at the helm as its CMD since 2011.
As per Fortune’s 2012 listing of the 50 most influential Indian businesswomen, Mallika Srinivasan holds the 2nd rank. She was the first woman to be anointed as the president of the Madras Chamber of Commerce and Industry. She also holds the membership of the executive board of Indian School of Business in Hyderabad. She has been bestowed with many awards and felicitations as recognitions for her role in making TAFE the second biggest tractor producer in India.
There have been some great upheavals in the agricultural front in India which once used to be the primary sector contributing to more than 50% of the nation’s GDP. But with increasing urban migration, marginalization of farm holdings, lower productivity per hectare, and rising labour costs, farmers, farmland owners, and agriculturalists have been facing an acute shortage of farm hands and indentured labourers.
Hence, mechanizing all sorts of farm activities seemed to be the only way out. And that is where TAFE stepped in. Mallika Srinivasan has single-handedly turn around TAFE-which is the flagship company of the Amalgamations Group-from a relatively unknown tractor manufacturing company to a behemoth with an annual revenue pegged at almost 9,000 crores.
Present Company and Designation
Mallika had to work her way up to become the CMD (chairman and managing director) and CEO of TAFE which is the principal concern of the Amalgamations Group founded by her grandfather. Tractors and Farm Equipments have been producing agricultural tractors and other farm equipment since the sixties of the last century. Since Mallika took over, stringent R&D efforts have been made to turn out tractors that are not only cost effective but are suited to work in small farm holdings. Mallika has deftly handled the company’s resources and strengthened its core competencies that saw its revenues spiral to US$ 1.6 billion in 2012 from US$ 20 million in 1985.
Mallika was born in 1959 on 19th November and she’s the eldest daughter of her late father Mr. A Sivasailam who was a noted industrialist. She excelled in her studies as she was a brilliant student. She successfully completed her M.A. in Econometrics from Madras University in 1981. Thereafter, she pursued a MBA degree from Wharton School of Business affiliated to the University of Pennsylvania, USA in 1985.
She received the Kulapathi Gold Medal for securing the first rank on a national basis from the Bhavan’s College of Mass Communication in Marketing and Advertising. She also graduated in Hindi with a gold medal from Hindi Prachar Sabha. Her husband is Venu Srinivasan who holds the reins of TVS Motors as the CMD and between them they have two children.
The emergence of Mallika Srinivasan as an entrepreneur
Her father had wanted her to study literature but she had other plans. She applied for admission in the MBA course of Wharton Business School and secured it. By that time, she was already the mother of a daughter but motherhood did not discourage her from pursuing her MBA degree. She left for Pennsylvania with her newborn baby and her mother.
She came back to India and joined TAFE as the general manager (planning and co-ordination). She readily admits that rather than being compelled she was encouraged to join and contribute to the growth and development of the family run business. After taking up her position as the GM, she never had to look back.
Her rise to prominence to ultimately occupy the coveted and exalted position of CEO and CMD of TAFE has been nothing short of meteoric. She has been associated with the company now for more than 25 years and has remarkably been able to make her presence felt and carve out her niche in an industrial segment that is overly male dominated.
TAFE is now just behind Mahindra Tractors in terms of turnover and revenue in India and comes in a close third after John Deree (the US giant) and Mahindra on a worldwide basis. The company churns out more than 1, 30,000 tractors on a yearly basis. The tractor brands of the firm-Massey-Ferguson and Eicher are very popular with farmers and agriculturalists in India.
But it has not been a smooth sailing throughout for the tractor woman of India. Although it was her family business, she could not recall having received any exclusive treatment when she started out. Her position as a general manager had only nominal significance as she remembers not having a well defined job description but had the liberty to build her own profile.
Since there was already an established team working under her father, she had to take on from there. And being a woman she had her sceptics although she received encouragement and support from many individuals including her father. But she was a strong willed woman and criticisms and condemnations did not keep her from surging ahead. She used to involve herself in the day to day activities of the company and constantly thought of adding value.
Her biggest achievement perhaps was the taking over of Eicher Motors in 2005 which brought TAFE to the forefront of the farm equipment industry. The company was going through a bad patch in the economic downturn of 2000 but Mallika took the setback in her stride by coming out with innovative products through intensive focusing on research and development. The company’s balance reported profits even in that year when other farm implements companies suffered losses and overall business outlook was gloomy.
Today, TAFE is not only a renowned tractor manufacturer but also diversified into related and unrelated commercial segments like engineering plastics, hydraulic pumps, panel instruments, and other farm equipment. The company has effectively discharged its corporate social responsibilities by opening schools, charitable trusts and hospitals in several regions of the country and also donating generously to such institutions.
Recognitions and Awards
She was the first to receive the ‘Business Woman of the Year’ in India from the BBC in 1999. She got the Business Leadership Award in 2005 from India Today. She won the Lakshmipat Singhania National Leadership Award from IIM Lucknow in 2005. She was felicitated with the Business Woman of the Year Award in 2005-06 by Economic Times. She won the Forbes India ‘Women Leader of the Year Award’ in 2012. She has also been honoured with countless other awards and citation throughout her career span.Recently She received Padma Shri for Trade and Industry category from Government of India for the year 2014, for her extra ordinary dedication for designing and developing farm equipment relevant to Indian farmers.
Balancing career and family life
Mallika had originally wanted to take up a job in any small holding company of the Amalgamation Group but it was her father who inspired her to take up the post of GM in TAFE. Since then, TAFE and Mallika have come a long way. She takes pride in her position and glows with a sense of achievement for having taken the company from its modest standing to one of the leading tractor producing establishments in the world.
Her father, Mr Sivasailam who she lost in 2011 was her biggest mentor. She also lost her younger sister to whom she was very close, a few months following her father’s death. But she has been able to take on the mantle from her father and has been able to take the transition in her stride. She dotes on her two children. When her daughter, Lakshmi (who had accompanied her to Wharton) got engaged to Narayana Murthy’s son Rohan Murthy in a glittering ceremony, many of her friends from Wharton had come down.
Last Updated: April 6, 2013