There's Really Something About Nisa Godrej

Samar Srivastava
Updated: Nov 5, 2012 03:15:31 PM UTC

After studying law I vectored towards journalism by accident and its the only job I've done since. It's a job that has taken me on a private jet to Jaisalmer - where I wrote India's first feature on fractional ownership of business jets - to the badlands of west UP where India's sugar economy is inextricably new tied to politics. I'm a big fan of new business models and crafty entrepreneurs. Fortunately for me there are plenty of those in Asia at the moment. Bouquets and brickbats are welcome at samar.srivastava@network18online.com

Nisaba Godrej appears to have had her way again. Yet another top level appointment at the Godrej group has gone the way of a loyal confidant.

Vivek Gambhir, chief strategy officer at Godrej Industries will succeed A Mahendran as managing director of Godrej Consumer Products (GCPL), the company announced. The change will take place in June 2013 and Gambhir will work with Mahendran to ensure a smooth transition.

The news comes two days after GCPL announced a weak earnings report. An analyst who declined to be named citing company policy said, “It would be premature to link the two. Mahendran’s departure had been widely spoken about. What’s interesting is that Gambhir who lacks day-to-day operations experience has been chosen to succeed him.”

To long-time Godrej watchers the news is hardly a surprise. As we explained in our story in the 100 Richest Indians special edition, Godrej has in the last couple of years emerged as a likely candidate to succeed father Adi Godrej, 70, when he decides to step down. This despite the fact that at 34 she is ten years younger to sister Tanya Dubash. Brother Pirojsha, who took over as chief executive of Godrej Properties in January is seen as untested.

As president of human capital and innovation Nisa controls the all important human resources function. As a result, a number of senior level appointments in the company have her imprint on them. And importantly she has her father’s ear.

Company watchers say news of Gambhir’s appointment shouldn’t come as a surprise. He’d had a stellar career with Bain and Co. before Nisa wooed him to Godrej three years ago. The two complement each other - Gambhir being numbers driven while Nisa leads more from the gut. And of course they get along famously well.

Gambhir has been a leading force behind GCPL’s internationalization drive in the last three years. The company has made eight acquisitions in places as diverse as South Africa, Nigeria, Indonesia and Chile. All the acquisitions have been a part of the company’s 3x3 strategy of focusing on three products (haircare, home care and personal wash) and regions (Asia, Africa and Latin America).

The acquisitions ensured that GCPL was able to grow both sales and profit at a brisk pace. In the last two years both sales and profits rose two and a half times to Rs 3,100 crore and Rs 604 crore respectively. The stock, which has doubled in the last one year to Rs 721 stuttered today on account of a weak earnings report announced on Saturday. It was down 5 percent to Rs 680.

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