At a time when populist anger against crony capitalism threatens to grow into a more general backlash against business, Anand Mahindra has been an outstanding example of the social value of business. He has patiently built businesses, funded new ideas, made global acquisitions and kept his companies away from controversy. “2012 was a good year for the Mahindra Group as we moved ahead by venturing into new geographies and businesses,” says Mahindra.
This has indeed been a remarkable year for 57-year-old Mahindra, who once studied film-making at Harvard. He became chairperson of the eponymous group in August, after the retirement of his uncle Keshub. The succession was inevitable, but there were other laurels as well. In the same month that Mahindra became chairperson, Ratan Tata (who stepped down as chairman of Tata Sons on Friday) was all praise for what flagship Mahindra and Mahindra (M&M) had done in the car market. Tata told shareholders of Tata Motors that he was “saddened” and “shamed” at how their company was left behind. Mahindra quickly tweeted about this “pat on the back from a big brother” and said his comment was “extraordinarily generous and humble”.
M&M overtook Tata Motors as the third largest passenger car maker by market share this year. M&M saw phenomenal success with its new sports utility vehicle (SUV) XUV 500, which was launched in September 2011. The XUV 500 recorded robust sales during the year. “The XUV 500 made its debut in Europe and Australia post its success in the Indian market,” Mahindra says.
Mahindra has always been known to take long bets, while giving his managers operational freedom. In this, his approach is akin to that of a good private equity investor. Few can forget his decision more than 20 years ago to back a young money market broker called Uday Kotak, vice-chairman and managing director of Kotak Mahindra Bank. He acquired Punjab Tractors, electric car maker Reva Electric Car Co Ltd, two-wheeler maker Kinetic, SsangYong Motor Company (its SUV Rexton was launched in India this year) and, most famously, the scam-hit Satyam Computer Services. Mahindra continues to look for next-gen opportunities such as aeronautics. In the coming year, the company will introduce its electric car, the Mahindra Reva E20, which will be the first electric vehicle launch from the company after it acquired a controlling stake in Bangalore-based Reva in 2010. Has India found its next Ratan Tata?