Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

It's all in the family (business)

Family-owned and -run businesses in India are long-standing and ubiquitous. What is changing is the increasing emphasis on structure, systems and, of course, always growth

Published: Feb 15, 2018 03:14:57 PM IST
Updated: Feb 15, 2018 03:15:53 PM IST

It's all in the family (business)Image: Shutterstock (For illustrative purposes only)

Family-owned businesses have a crucial role to play in turning the wheels of Indian enterprise. Most businesses around the world started off as family-controlled enterprises. But while the better part of these firms in markets like the US have transitioned to becoming widely-held, most of their Indian counterparts are still majority-owned by the family.

While Indian surnames like the Birlas, Ambanis, Godrejs and Goenkas have become synonymous with diversified conglomerates churning billions of dollars of wealth, a significant portion of the economic value and employment creation is also driven by family businesses that are lesser-known. This may be due to the fact that they are unlisted and not in the media limelight, or because they are based in India’s smaller towns and cities, away from large metros like Delhi and Mumbai.

When it comes to numbers, these smaller family businesses, which have mostly stuck to one line of business and expanded only in adjacent areas, may be eclipsed by their larger counterparts. But some of them have successfully created and nurtured famous business-to-consumer brands and some have become globally competitive suppliers of products and services to businesses around the world.

Some of them have reached a critical size and scale, where the induction of a strategic investor or a listing may be the logical next step. But they choose to remain closely held and run by the family, with the help of professionals, channeling the strength of blood ties to help the business grow, through thick and thin. 

(This story appears in the 02 March, 2018 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)