At the age of seventeen, a young lad from England landed on the shores of Madras… and went onto found UNITEA. This was Sir Robert Stanes. He dabbled in many an industry – cotton mills, coffee plantations, tea, coffee curing, motor works and tyre retreading. It wasn’t only industry that interested Sir.Stanes, he was a man with a commendable sense of social responsibility. As early as the 1800s he had setup a couple of schools, taken on the chairmanship of the city council of Coimbatore and was soon conferred the title “Kaser-e-Hind”. And in 1960, this company passed into the hands of Mr.Anantharamakrishnan.
Mr. Anantharamakrishnan, Mr.Sivasailam’s father was an astute businessman. He conceptualised things that many could not even imagine. As early as 1949 he made a foray into manufacturing things as diverse as paints on one hand and precision engineering on the other. And success followed on the heels of the risks he took.
Mr. Anantharamakrishnan, fondly known as “J”, is remembered for his successful business practices, efficient management of the labour unions and for triggering the growth of the automobile industry inChennai, which earned the city the epithet “Detroit of India”. From being the first Indian director of the Simpsons Group of Companies, to becoming Managing Director of Amalgamations, the journey took “J” roughly 30 years.
In 1935 young “J”, joined Simpsons, gathered new experiences, perfected his business skills, and sharpened his abilities as leader of men to become the first Indian Director of the Simpsons Group. And soon, in 1945, the emerging industrialist founded the Amalgamations Group of Industries and led it through 1964 as its Managing Director. The structure of the Amalgamations Group was built up through a combination of acquisitions and the promotion of new ventures.
In 1960, when the Stanes family decided to sell UNITEA, they were hesitant to sell it to any which bidder. They worried that the companies would not be run in the open minded, liberal style of the Stanes family. When J bid, Eric Stanes was instantly reassured that his employees would be in good hands and the deal went through without a hitch – a testament to his leadership qualities and how his reputation preceded him.
It was “J” who set the tone for his successors to follow, and Amalgamations still reaps rich rewards because of this.
Mr. Sivasailam – The person who raised Amalgamations Group from a modest profile in the 1960s to one of the country’s major industrial houses to reckon with today. He started small – with a short stint at a Chartered Accountants Firm in London. When he returned to India, Mr.Sivasailam was entrusted with the task of giving shape to a new company – today’s TAFE. And there was no looking back after that. He grew in stature from TAFE’s General Manager in 1961 to Chairman and MD in subsequent years.
From there it was a short step towards becoming the Chairman of the Amalgamations Group in 1968. Under his wise governance, the Group grew exponentially and more than doubled its revenues.
UNITEA was close to Mr.Sivasailam’s heart. It was here that he was able to combine his well-honed business acumen with his genuine desire to make a change in the very fabric of the tea estate. It was during his time that the bold move to Organic tea was made. Mr.Sivasailam was one of those rare individuals who was conferred the degree of Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa) by not one but many universities for his contribution to both agricultural business management and industrial development.
When it came to his beloved workforce, nothing was left to chance. He spearheaded many “firsts” in the tea industry – the first hospital inside an estate which soon opened its doors to the neighbouring villages too, the first higher secondary school benefitting not only the estate children but also 27 surrounding villages, the first, and only pension scheme ever in the history of plantations in India.
Mr.Sivasailam won a place for himself in the business world but he had a bigger place in people’s hearts. He was admired and respected for his compassion, his generosity, and his willingness to go the extra mile. His magnanimity kept the awards pouring in, including the highest Indian Civilian award – The Padma Shri.
Recognized as one of the most powerful women in India Inc., and one of India’s leading entrepreneurs, Ms. Mallika Srinivasan is the current Chairman and CEO of UNITEA. Aptly called “India’s tractor woman”, she is the CEO of TAFE, the flagship company for the Amalgamations Group. She was responsible for the dramatic increase in turnover from a mere Rs.86 crores in 1985, to Rs.8,020 crores in 2012, entering the 1.6B league and making it the second biggest tractor company in India, and the third in the world.
Mallika believes in strong work ethics, and has made a conscious effort to induct more women into the workforce. To quote her, “Diversity is an essential prerequisite for innovation”. Her mantra for success – hands on approach, passion for work, and a firm belief that as a family business, attention has to be paid to sustainability.
It comes as no surprise that the world took notice of her well-rooted principles as a business leader. Some recent awards include her being voted Asia’s 50 Power Businesswomen and ranked India Inc.’s 8th Most Powerful CEO.
Mallika once said, “You don’t need to love money to run a business. You have to have a dream to build an institution, to build centers of excellence, to create a great team. Business has a larger purpose … business can operate well only in the social context of educated and healthy people.”
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