Convocation Speech by Shri G. M. Rao, Group Chairman, GMR Group; Chief Guest for the 15th Convocation of EDI’s Post Graduate Programmes

The EDI Convocation of PGDM 2012-14 batches took place on 19th April, 2014 at the EDI campus. Shri G. M. Rao, Group Chairman of GMR Group was the honorable Chief Guest who addressed the students on the special evening.

He shared some personal learnings & knowledge about the Entrepreneurship field and motivated students to keep their burning passion alive to achieve success.

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An excerpt from his speech:

“I compliment EDI and its Governing Board for conducting these crucial programs. EDI has been spearheading entrepreneurship development movement throughout the nation with a belief that entrepreneurs need not necessarily be born but can be developed. Being an entrepreneur myself, I highly appreciate this noble task amidst a time when globalization and technology are transforming our economy. I feel so proud to be here today and wish I would have got such unique opportunity of learning entrepreneurship in my college time, maybe I was born much earlier.

Dear students, today is your day and a very special one indeed for you and your dear ones. I am truly happy to be with you to share your joy and excitement. As you cross this important milestone in your life and embark on the journey of entrepreneurship, I am sure all of you will contribute significantly in bringing economic prosperity to our beloved country.

The evolutionary process of Indian style of leadership is being studied as a success story in the leading business schools of the west. Entrepreneurship is the only way to alleviate poverty. And, I am so glad that EDI is creating beautiful entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

Well, people see me as a very successful entrepreneur; however they do not know that my last four decades of journey which started from zero base has been full of adversities which threw up challenges all the time. I strived hard to do my best overcoming the situations and turning them into opportunities. Learning’s from those adversities have been phenomenal and has shaped me what I am today. In fact, this helped me build GMR Group what it is today.

I started without any political support, any financial support in a very limited environment. I had a burning desire to do something. If you have Passion, Patience and Perseverance you can create success in your lives.

I always had the burning desire to do something irrespective of the insignificant background; I had no financial support and no political support. It was that fire in me which kept me moving from one success to another. Hence, nothing is impossible, you can achieve whatever you want if you have the burning desire in you.

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During the process of seeking opportunities, I got brewery license…. sugar factory license. I started another Jute Mill after acquiring it, started Ferro Alloys, Rolling Mills and what not. You name it I was there in that business including trading of timber, IT company, ear buds manufacturing. That was a time when I started different businesses simultaneously.

I was able to operate so many businesses simultaneously because I used to go deep into details of the businesses, understand the nuts and bolts, formulate the operational strategy and quickly delegate to the management so that I can work on the bigger picture. I call this as ‘Helicopter View’ because of deep dive into details and quickly moving upwards on the surface for the big picture.

I tried almost 28 businesses and knowingly or unknowingly became the ‘serial entrepreneur’. I call this as an opportunistic phase, where I was just grabbing whatever came my way.

We came across a huge opportunity of Chennai Power Plant requiring investment of Rs. 800 Cr. My team was initially very apprehensive of this, however I was very confident and fearlessly went ahead. Then we signed an agreement for 200 MW of Power Plant to set up in Chennai. I brought the world best technology in the Power Plant and with great difficulty successfully implemented it.

We had several businesses, 28 businesses, spanning jute manufacturing, Ferro-chrome manufacturing, sugar and so many more.

Moving into strategic mode, I divested all the unrelated businesses. Even my most profitable ventures at that time I divested. We were following our vision “we should build entrepreneurial organizations making a difference to the society through creation of value” and whatever was not fitting into it we divested.

Entrepreneurs need to follow their vision and strategy without any emotional attachment.

Also, whatever I do my thinking is that it should not only add economic value but should also contribute towards social value. I think that mindset has tremendously helped me in building the national assets which are contributing significantly for the social and economic growth of the country. For example, according to the economic research wing of government NCAER, Delhi Airport in 2009-10 has contributed more than 13.5% to Delhi State GDP and 0.45% to National GDP. Not only this, Delhi airport contributes 1.6 million direct and indirect jobs which is about 26% of the total Delhi’s employment.

After the foray into Delhi Airport, we entered into creating power plants with gas assets, thermal, solar and recently hydro power plants.

GMR Group, true to its vision of ‘Creating Value to the Society’, ventured into businesses of nation building, it was the first mover – first for the Group, first for the industry, and first for the country.

But sustainable growth cannot be achieved without institution building; hence we are now focusing on four pillars of Institution Building – People, Process, Technology and Governance. Family governance is also part of our Institution Building process. Actually, Corporate Governance and Family Governance are inter-linked blocks completing the cycle of Institution Building.

I strongly believe in the philosophy “Run the business like a family and the family like a business”.

Only running the business has never been my thought process, I always believe that it is my duty to give back to the society in whatever way I could. ‘Inclusive Growth’ has always been my philosophy.

If I look back at my journey and think about what made me successful. I found out few important traits from beginning helped me:

Our seven values and beliefs which are Humility; Teamwork & Relationships; Respect for Individuals; Learning; Deliver the Promise; Entrepreneurship; and Social Responsibility.

Attitude gives altitude. Positive attitude coupled with the seven values helped me, in accomplishing whatever little I could till now, which I thought of sharing with you. Though, my journey is full of adversities but I sailed through it successfully learning from my failures. Always, remember that- ‘Success is a great Motivator and Failure is a great Teacher’

My dear friends, in conclusion I would like to say that India is a perfect place for your entrepreneurial journey. Two decades back, westerners visiting India thought what they could do for this country. Now the attitude has changed. People visiting India are asking, what India can do for them. With great pride, I can say that no multinational company can afford to be absent from India because of its enormous intellectual manpower.

India has become the testing ground for budding entrepreneurs and we are experiencing increasing trend of innovation and creativity thus producing numerous successful entrepreneurs which is growing every passing day. Traditional entrepreneurial practices and systems are fast getting blurred by new knowledge and understanding, and in that sense you are fortunate to have been educated to pursue entrepreneurship from a guided perspective. I am extremely confident that you people will create enterprises bigger than Facebook and Google.

However, my dear friends remember that in this volatile, uncertain and complex environment, anxiety levels are going up rapidly. If you have to lead a sustainable growth, you have to manage yourself first. And to manage yourself physically and emotionally you need spirituality and yoga, which is irrespective of any religion.

My dear friends what truly matters, is how you evolve as successful human being. No matter what business you are engaged in, be it small time trading or a multi-national company, I strongly suggest that it should be purpose-driven and value-led journey. If your means are value-based, the end is always heartening. Always remember, all of you are the authors of your own destinies.

There is a beautiful saying that –

“Managers Preserve Wealth, Leaders Nurtures Wealth and Entrepreneur Multiplies Wealth”

With this, I wish each one of you all the very best in your journey of entrepreneurship.

I am immensely Grateful to you all for giving me this opportunity to share my learnings and experiences with you.

Thank you !

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