In a country like India where business is still dominated by family-run enterprises, succession questions about the next generation of tycoons are sure to emerge.
Today, across the boardrooms of family-owned businesses in India, young leaders – most of whom are armed with a very high quality of education, from outside India – are playing a proactive role in transforming some of the legendary enterprises in India that over the years have defined Indian entrepreneurship.
These young lads and lasses – born with a silver spoon in their mouth – are highly spirited to do something meaningful and different.
While some from this younger generation are scratching new surfaces to take conglomerates into uncharted territories, others are redefining processes and operations to keep the business integrity intact but making them future-ready.
Here’s a list of the new generation of scions of top industrialist families who are making their presence felt in today’s retail environment with their new ideas, approach and direction:
Ashni Biyani, daughter of Kishore Biyani, one of India’s organized retail pioneers, is Chief Ideator, Future Ideas, the insights and design arm of Future Group and was the first woman in the family to enter the business.
She joined her father’s Future Group in 2007 as design manager in the innovation and incubation cell. In 2011, the unit was turned into a separate entity—Future Ideas.
At Future Ideas, Ashni leads a team that understands nuances of Indian consumers and maps behavioural shifts of consumers and communities. Future Ideas under her leadership works on various government initiatives, retail and consumer projects internationally and with other transformational ideas.
Born and brought up in Mumbai, Ashni graduated as a textile designer at Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology in Bangalore, Ashni has attended courses on scenario planning at New York’s Parsons School of Design and the Summer Institute of General Management at Graduate School of Business, Stanford University.
Along with Future Ideas, Ashni has been instrumental in bringing in design-led thinking within the Future Group’s business decision making. She serves as a Director on the board of Future Consumer Enterprises Limited, an integrated Food and FMCG Company which is into building food parks, creating Indian insight inspired FMCG brands and products and also convenience store chains as well as other distribution models.
She has also played a lead role in mentoring and co-founding ‘Holii’ a fashion accessories brand in partnership with ‘Hidesign’ and has spearheaded the large formats like Big Bazaar Family Center stores as its Concept Head.
In 2011, Avni Biyani, the younger daughter of Future Group founder Kishore Biyani, took her own take on food through Foodhall, which unlike the Biyani offerings, is India’s premium lifestyle gourmet store.
Having spent most of her growing years in retail stores, Biyani feels that it’s crucial to understand your consumers to run a successful business.
“It’s important to understand the business very well. Whether you have exposure outside of the family business or not, what really matters is that you understand your customer. And that happens only after spending a lot of time in the stores,” Biyani said, in an earlier interview with Indiaretailing.
A graduate of New York University’s College of Art & Science, Avni has specialised in sociology and politics. Apart from her interest in liberal arts and humanities, she is a connoisseur of food and global cuisine. She also enjoys travelling and exploring new places and has travelled extensively across the world, which translated into her vision for Foodhall.
33 Isha Ambani, Director at Reliance Jio Infocomm and Reliance Retail Ventures
The 24-year-old Ambani, daughter of Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani, is a Director at Reliance Jio Infocomm and Reliance Retail Ventures.
One of three children of India’s richest person and chairman of the $75 billion in revenue Reliance Industries, she was named to the telecom and retail units’ boards in October last year, to ensure an early grooming.
Graduated from the Yale University with majors in psychology and South Asian studies in 2013, Ambani, worked with global consultancy firm McKinsey in US briefly.
She was featured in the Forbes list of Asia’s Power Businesswomen, 2015 and ranked second on the Forbes’ Youngest Billionaire Heiresses list in 2008.
Both Isha and her twin, Akash Ambani – who was also inducted in the Board of Directors in 2015 – are touted as the future of RIL.
The Ambani’s daughter is also the person behind the launch of Reliance e-commerce venture AJIO.com in April this year.
Ananya Birla, the 22-year-old daughter of Kumar Mangalam Birla, the country’s eighth richest man (according to Forbes), announced the launch of her second venture CuroCarte, an inventory-based global luxury ecommerce platform, in September this year.
The website that curates and sells over 1,500 decorative and utility-based products like wall décor, crockery, jewellery boxes sourced from nine countries currently, including India, Spain, Portugal, Vietnam, Thailand, Morocco and France is Birla’s way organising the unorganised market through technology.
Along with CuroCarte, the University of Oxford alumnus also heads Svatantra Microfinance, an organization that offers financial stimulus to women entrepreneurs in areas in India which otherwise do not have access to finances.
In addition, Ananya has also co-founded Mpower, an awareness initiative that works towards eliminating the stigma associated with mental health illnesses.
According to CuroCarte’s website, Birla’s management style revolves around strength identification, thought building, nurturing ideas and empowering people.
Son of business tycoon Sanjiv Goenka, Chairman RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group – which includes the 166-year-old power utility giant CESC and its subsidiary, the Kolkata-based supermarket chain Spencer’s Retail – Shashwant is Wharton-educated and has worked with KPMG and Nestle before joining the family business in 2012 working across various group companies.
In 2013, Goenka was given the responsibility to take over Spencer’s Retail by his father, who ranks 97 on the 2015 Forbes India Rich List with a net worth of $1.17 billion. The supermarket chain had been acquired in 1989 by the erstwhile RPG Group and despite being one of the first movers in the Indian retail space, it had been bleeding money for several years. And Goenka’s mandate was clear: To make it profitable.
Although the retail chain that reported losses of R164.5 crore in FY 2013-14 is yet to turn profitable, its losses have narrowed.
According to a report in Forbes: The retail major’s net loss shrunk to around Rs 151.6 crore in FY2015 from Rs 209.1 crore in FY2013, when Shashwat took over. Revenues, meanwhile, have grown to Rs 1,671.9 crore in FY2015 from Rs 1,347 crore in FY2013.