The Rise of the Professional Managers…

My latest article in the March 27th Issue of Business India, (article appended below) speaks about the rise of professionals in family businesses.

I would love to hear from you!


Next Generation Succession

Notes from Cebu

I was invited to be a speaker on family business for the family business owners at Cebu last weekend. My topic was legacies in family business and what families need to do, to ensure that they can sustain their legacies.

While the talk was well received, I was fascinated at the cultural similarities in the ways families behave. I found remarkable parallels that one could derive between Indian families and those in the South East Asia region. It was an honour to be speaking in the same forum as Her Excellency Leni Robredo, The Vice President of the Philippines and Joni Aboitiz, a fifth generation family member.

Was touched by the warm reception and the fascinating experience of addressing a packed hall of entrepreneurs from all over South East Asia!

Business Planning Next Generation Succession

My comments on the Visionary Cipla One vote

Ok I must confess that this piece in BusinessLine was somewhat not quite recent, but highly overdue.

This took some time to get the research, but I consider this as a fascinating story of how one family patriarch, Y Hamied of Cipla has shown vision in ensuring the longevity of his firm.

This is not new, and the Japanese have been doing this already for centuries, resulting in perhaps some of the oldest firms in the world still being Japanese. But the fact that this has been done in India within the purview of the law, to secure the single largest shareholder is a first.


Conflicts Succession

The Tata Sons – Cyrus Mistry affair is just another day in business….family business

Apologies for the late response, was terribly tied up with a lot of stuff, and lots to write about, so let’s get started!

I maintain that the Tata sons-Cyrus Mistry matter is a family issue and my opinions in the Economic Times. I have given my reasons why this matter is all about values in this article.

I have co-authored a case on this matter, which I have used jointly in the 2 year MBA program with fascinating results. The students were expected to understand the viewpoints and pressures of all the stakeholders! Very valuable learnings and a whole lot of fun…. especially when the Students representing the community decided to move away from the script, and staged a walkout from class…. We had to go running after them to continue the rest of the class!

Going further on this, my other article in Forbes Online (in the thought leadership Section) talks about the learnings from this, for family businesses. After all, if this can happen in the most reputed family firm in the country, amongst probably the most qualified and competent people around, what have you done to prevent this from happening in your family firm?

Business Planning Next Generation Succession

Out of the closet..LGBT in Business Families

The issue of LGBT in Business Families has never been discussed. My take on the issues that business families may have to face, in today’s Economic Times. I  have addressed implications on marriage, employment, family dynamics, succession planning, level of comfort for the family members and social relationships.

Business Planning Next Generation Succession

When the next generation does not want to join,,

Two related articles in the FT, “Tears in Tokyo” and “Dealmakers salivate over succession survey” caught my eye. The articles deal with the lack of succession planning, and the first article speaks about how small and mid sized organisations are being sold to other buyers.  The second article describes how the M&A firms are awaiting the results of a survey, which the listed companies have been asked to fill in, by the Govt. of Japan seeking responses for their succession plans. the lack of which, indicates suitable M&A targets.

In a traditional economy like in Japan, large number of businesses are still family owned and family run. The lack of successors and/or succession plans have led to the existing generation seeking to sell these off, with the co-operation of the next gen who would prefer the sale proceeds to start their own new business with, rather than take over the headaches of the family business.

This is a sign of things to come, and if the current trends are any indication, then it is a matter of time before we start seeing similar scenarios playing out in india too. Families will have to overcome their long held beliefs that the family firm is a long term family wealth, and maybe, this would also influence successor traits in the long term as each successor would be expected to operate like an investor rather than as a family business owner. This would have repercussions on the training and expectations of the next gen. This would also need a separate skill sets for these next generation family members are expected to continue in the longer term.

this would mean that families would have to consider including these skills in the training of the next get. are we ready?

Business Planning Succession

When the patriarch just can’t leave…..

I read an article of the Emperor of Japan,  Emperor Akhihito planning to address the nation today. The article states that he may indicate , ” that it’s time for him to step down from the world’s longest-running hereditary monarchy. Taking that step may not be easy, however. No Japanese monarch has abdicated in nearly 200 years, no law governs such cases, and the popular 82-year-old monarch’s retirement could raise delicate questions about a ban on female succession and the imperial family’s place in society.” 

(EDIT: FT reported that he had mentioned that the Emperor did indicate a desire to abdicate, the first Japanese emperor to stand down since 1817)

I am in no position to and hence will not comment on the above article in any manner at all.

But this article triggered some thoughts  on a different context. i was thinking of cases in family businesses, where during my discussions with the patriarch or the operating head of the family business, have admitted in a moment of candour, that they feel helpless, and stuck in the family business and cannot leave. This causes them to remain even though they would leave, given a choice.

I think that this is a phenomena that I have heard from one of the successors, in a top 10 Indian Industrial house make!

This brings us to consider a point, what if the head of the family business wants to exit? do we have rules which allow him to do so, or is the rules in the society, family or business, prevent him from doing so?

Usually, patriarchs design the processes and systems which revolve around them, so as to consolidate their position, and to maintain a control over the different aspects of the business, but this also results that the business cannot run without them! This may be great for the patriarch’s self esteem, but could be disastrous for all the stakeholders, if the patriarch was not able to operate for some reason. In fact, I have met many small scale entrepreneurs who claim that they are so busy that they did not have time for a holiday, or even if they did take one, they were too busy on the phone all the time! and then they want me to advise them on why they are not growing!

While there are usually emotional and personal individual reasons for most patriarchs not retiring, which have been exhaustively covered, it is interesting to note that there are other reasons, which compel a member to remain at the helm. Family traditions of primogeniture, have been the norm in societies, royalty or in family firms.

Which brings me to the fact that every family member needs to examine the social, family and business reasons surrounding the family firm, to be aware of such circumstances.

While a work life balance is definitely suggested for every individual (What’s the use of all the money, if you are not able to enjoy it? How much is enough? What are your goals and what are you exactly hoping to achieve? Is there a finish line or does the bar just keep on getting higher and higher? are questions that may help to determine the answers..)

Given the fact that the youth today are becoming more assertive and independent, seeking opportunities outside that of the family business, it becomes imperative that the the patriarch seek options to professionalise or sell the business. Furthermore, the rules binding him in the family business can be re-examined with all the stakeholders to update these with the current environmental realities. There is no reason, that while we talk about stepping into the next century, we, our families and family businesses  still continue to adhere to norms which may be hindering family relationships and family well-being. It may be a time to do a re-think.

The question is, are we ready to take the first step?





Next Generation Succession

Getting the next generation interested in the family business…

The FT talks about the need for inviting the nextgen into family businesses. It has some interesting feedback on how to invite the nextgen in, the need for not having competition and egos, and the need for getting these next generation on your side.

Faced with the great opportunities that this new generation has, and the fact that the legacy businesses may not offer the same level of opportunities, it makes it even more important to consider this very very carefully.

EY has shown in its report last year, in a global study that less than 7% want to join the family business. This is an alarming figure and the founder generations need to pay attention to this if they want to see perpetuity of the family business, or make alternate plans, like sell off or hand it over to professionals to run. But having the next generation on your side, becomes imperative.

Conflicts Succession

Oswal family imbroglio rakes up an old issue again…

The Business Standard in an article has covered the Oswal family story.  It states that after the untimely death of Abhey Oswal in Moscow, his wife Aruna Oswal took over the reins of the two family companies, Oswal Agro Mills and Oswal Greentech, as she was the nominee. This has been disputed by the eldest son, Pankaj who claims that he had been appointed as the family heir, in a family function where he was made to wear the traditional pagdi of the family. This has raised a difference of opinion between the mother and son.

While not going into the specifics of the case, let us examine one fact in this case, which brings forth an issue which is pretty common with business families. It is stated in another article on where Pankaj states that his father did not leave behind a will.

This brings forth a subject which is very touchy but is also responsible for wrecking family relationships, that of not having a will. The article states that the “spin doctors, advisors and lawyers have been hired and consulted” and it appears that both sides are readying their respective sides for a battle.

Which brings us to the following facts, which family patriarchs have to consider, in the absence of wills.

Battles do not help families:  If these are long drawn, (and they usually are), they extract a great price from each one, in terms of mental bandwidth and financial losses.  The results may come out eventually, but this could be at a cost of wounded relationships. Any success if at all, could prove to be just a pyrrhic victory.

They don’t help businesses either: The businesses are also the victims of this fight as they are forced to hold and wait, until clarity is apparent. On the other hand, professionally run businesses may be forced into the battle, which may be purely a family matter, and this could soak up funds from the business. The management could be distracted from running the business and more involved in what is happening to the family dispute.


Relationships get affected: As most of the family and business is forced to take sides, sometimes with incomplete information thus affecting the social environment. Given the fact, that most families operate in very socially connected environments, this could become tricky.

We plan our lives but hold back, when it comes to planning our businesses and family relationships: Let us understand this, a family will actually gives clarity to the family members on the intentions of the patriarch (or matriarch) and helps resolve situations. Sure, there are disputes on the wills also, but this is in some cases, but most times, the wishes are taken and executed. This ensures that the family relationships are maintained.


Business Planning Succession

FFI Certificate in Family Business and Wealth Advising

I am happy to announce that I have just received my FFI Certificate in Family Business and Wealth Advising by the Family Firm Institute, USA. The press release is here( CFBA.CFWA Press Release.). 

The certificates are presented to individuals who have achieved comprehensive professional knowledge and gained significant expertise that can be used as value to family business owners and family wealth clients.

“Through completion of the certificate programs, Rajiv Agarwal has gained a deeper understanding of the needs of family-owned enterprises and the many roles family business and non-family members play, “ said Judy Green, President of the Family Firm Institute. The Family Firm Institute (, an international professional membership organization of over 1800 individuals and organizations across 88 countries, is dedicated to providing interdisciplinary education and networking opportunities for family business and family wealth advisors, consultants, educators and researchers.

It is particularly a proud moment as I become the first Indian to get this dual certificate. Thank you all, for your support and good wishes which helped me reach this milestone.

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