Anand Mahindra, a doyen of corporate India, leaves behind a rich legacy of strong governance, as he eases into the role of a non-executive chairman of Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd, the company he helped transform from a vehicle-maker to a diversified conglomerate.
Though he will not be steering the group actively, Mahindra is likely to continue to gently oversee affairs amid testing times for the automobiles industry and for most businesses in general—a transition that was in the works for a long time.
Subodh Bhargava, former chairman of Eicher Motors and Tata Communications, said the foundation of corporate governance built by Mahindra should ensure that the “empowered professionals should be able to face the challenge" of steering the group, though none of his family members will be on the board.
Bhargava, who worked with Mahindra at the Confederation of Indian Industry, and where both have served as president, described him as ‘very thorough and dynamic with a futuristic vision" and with an ability to articulate thoughts in an appropriate manner with policy makers.
Born in 1955, Anand Mahindra is a third-generation scion and the son of late industrialist Harish Mahindra and Indra Mahindra, the daughter of the late industrialist K.C. Mahindra.
In 1981, Anand Mahindra returned to India after completing his MBA from Harvard, and joined Mahindra Ugine Steel Co. Ltd as an executive assistant to the executive director. Eight years later, he took over the position of president of the same company, leading the group’s diversification into real estate development and hospitality management.
He took over as the chairman of the board and managing director of the Mahindra group from his uncle Keshub Mahindra in 2012. Four years later, he was re-designated as executive chairman of M&M and continued to be the chairman of Mahindra Group.
Mahindra saw through a number of significant acquisitions, including that of Satyam Computer Services in 2009, further consolidating the group’s diversification. But he also strengthened the company’s core vehicles business with the group taking over South Korea’s Ssangyong Motor Co. and Reva Electric Co. in 2010. Reva was one of the country’s first electric vehicles.
At a time when the group’s fortunes were running low, Mahindra’s decision to launch the Scorpio Sports Utility Vehicle in 2002 gave a major boost to the business, and the model remains popular.
Today, the company is no longer the mere truck and jeep maker that it was when Anand Mahindra took over. The Mahindra group has stamped its growing presence across utility vehicles, information technology, tractors, vacation ownership and financial services.
Mahindra’s business acumen and vision was reflected in his foray into electric vehicles nearly a decade ago.
Now, despite the group’s enormous clout, Mahindra’s decision to step down is bound to pose stiff challenges as the bread-and-butter automobile business faces growing competition and low demand.
Once the country’s largest utility vehicle manufacturer, it has not only ceded ground to Maruti Suzuki India Ltd and South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co., but new entrants, such as Kia Motors and MG Motor, are also nipping away at its traditional market.
M&M has also found it tough to make a mark with new products in the compact and mid-size sports utility vehicle segment, the most sought after in the domestic market. Products such as the Scorpio and Bolero remain the mainstay, but are more than a decade old.
Sangeeta Reddy, joint managing director, Apollo Hospitals group, described Mahindra as a person with “the most amazing combination of a fine mind, a fine administrator and a good human being".