How Dabur's Burmans Segregated Family and Business
Image: Amit Verma
Name: Anand Burman
Designation: Chairman, Dabur India Ltd
The Challenge: To professionalise the company by giving up executive positions to professionals and thereby ensuring growth and unity of family
How The Family Did It: Get the right people to manage the company. Second, align family members on the same page
I joined Dabur in 1980 after completing my PhD in pharmaceutical chemistry in the US. Dabur’s revenue at that time was about Rs 20 crore. I was groomed by my uncle, the late GC Burman, and gradually learnt the ropes. By the 1990s, we had grown to more than Rs 100 crore in revenue. We realised that the company was now in a position from where it could grow exponentially. We roped in McKinsey to help devise a strategy for the future.
There were two motives in strategising for the future. One was to grow the company and attract good talent. The second was to avoid conflict within the family. The easiest way to bring in conflict is to bring in a bunch of family members to work together, especially when there are uncles and cousins. For these two motives, if we needed to bring in systems and processes, we were ready for it. And if this needed ‘professionalisation’ of the company—the consulting company said the family members should give up executive roles—we were ready for that too.
You need to understand that we were a family-run company with a heritage that is now 128 years old. I belong to the fifth generation of the family. Dabur’s operations were completely hands-on. I remember the first time we ever made a budget was when we had revenues of about Rs 25 crore. In the 1990s, we realised that to scale up the business, we needed to change. And this kind of a change doesn’t happen overnight but over 10 years. Luckily, there was a lot of maturity in the family, led by my father AC Burman and uncles, and we were ready for it.
We were not a very big company. In professionalising a company of our size, we had to keep in mind two things. One was to get the right people. While we were open to recruiting from outside, mostly we looked into our own talent pool as it was important to maintain the culture within the company. If you try to get someone from a multinational, very often they come with an attitude of “in my earlier company, we used to do like this”. We were ready to learn from their experience and also make changes. But first, a company’s culture should be understood. Also, if one is used to working in large companies, then you tend to go strictly by processes and systems.
You have a manual for everything. But, in a small company like ours in the 1990s, we needed people who had multiple talents and could bring in changes within the company culture. In the process, there were a few incompatibilities and some executives left us. We have had a great success in nurturing talent from within the company. Most of the seniormost executives in the company today, including wholetime directors PD Narang and Sunil Duggal (also the CEO), have been with us for almost 20 years. Mohit Malhotra, who joined us as a management trainee, is today the CEO of Dabur International.