5 tips on how to run a family business by industry veteran Sanjeev Aga


A society that was rigid and procedural, 20 to 30 years ago, is today following a pattern that is pretty welcoming. Looking back, when one considers the days where family-run businesses were the norm, to today, where every family nurtures an entrepreneur, be it in the form of a startup or a hierarchical family-run idea, leaders are everywhere. One such leader, entrepreneur, and someone who easily carries the tag of ‘been there done that’, is Mr. Sanjeev Aga.

Business leader, organisation builder, adviser and mentor, Sanjeev spoke at the recently held SP Jain Institute of Management and Research Alumni Network meet at the Ritz-Carlton in Bengaluru.

Image credit: Vikas Khot/Forbes India

In a career that has spanned four decades, across sectors such as consumer and services, entertainment, light engineering, and telecommunications, Sanjeev has held several key positions such as CEO and Managing Director, Blow Plast/VIP Industries, Aditya Birla Nuvo, and Idea Cellular. He now engages in advisory and board roles for corporates and non-profit organisations. Sharing his vast experience on family business management, he shared five key takeaways.

1. Class distinction

Our country has always followed the tradition of ‘master and employee’. It is so Indian that even today it is near sacred in many workplaces. According to his experience, capable people work for causes and not for the owner. Companies will remain handicapped if this gap is not filled. It’s human behavior to invest your emotions at a place that gives you an emotional return, so why not use this human attribute to your best advantage and break the ice over a cup of coffee, as you bridge archaic class divides.

2. Group behaviour

Mahatma Gandhi once said, ‘A man is known by the company he keeps’. So much so that today we are what and who we surround ourselves with. Our social geometry at work defines our contribution to the company. ‘Group behavior is not a vector sum of individual performances’, every individual together empowers a group and vice versa. The dominant culture at any work place decides its future.

3. Second-best is never an option

So much is said about winners and whistle-blowers that no one even remembers who the runner-up was. And the same applies even in a market that always looks to the top of the ladder. With the increasing competition are newer ways to stand apart and survive. And in this battle of survival, standing apart is standing strong!

4. Taking proprietorship

One doesn’t need to own shares in any company to be proprietorial or to take ownership. Every employee has to consider every role important and gather his strengths to bring out his best. When a job is done with a sense of belonging, monetary benefits are secondary. Collective value-adds by each and every employee elevate the company to new heights.

5. Work culture

Creating an ecosystem of employees who believe in your idea and working towards building it is very crucial. A leader who leads by example rather than one who micro-manages sets up a base to any culture. A positive and rewarding environment sustains it in the longer run. As much as people respond to responsibilities, they respond to the way these responsibilities are held close.

With the varied experience that Sanjeev has had, he has evolved into one of the most sought-after business entrepreneurs. His insights on family-led businesses and the initial hurdles that those scaling up business models face is inspiring.

And a good way to wrap up how the audience felt at the end of the event would be, ‘What an idea, sirji!’


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