If all goes as planned, A.M. Naik will start writing his book "V to W: Village to the World" from October 2017, for which he has 10-15 offers. The larger than life chairman who started 65 out of L&T’s 82 businesses, has decided to hang-up his boots. He tells HT that he has been mentoring his successor, S.N. Subrahmanyan for the past one decade.
Have you finally decided that you will retire?
I have already announced my successor...
So it is Mr. Subrahmanyan?
The name is already out. Do you have doubts? I have been mentoring him for the past 10 years from the time I spotted him. Last four years since he came on the board he got six promotions. I thought that he has something in him, so I have personally mentored him. L&T has 82 business and maybe about 65 of them I started from clean slate. I have been a startup man. Therefore it is easy for me to spot what’s going wrong. For a new person it takes a lot more time. I got 15 days to take over L&T, I have given him 6 years. At that time the company was 6% of what it is today – the company has expanded 20 times in 16-17 years, and its very very complex. I am trying to simplify the company – a few businesses have been sold and a few more will be sold.
How difficult is it for you to let go of a company that you built from scratch?
Naik: How difficult is it for you to let your son or daughter go to college.
Of course its difficult…
Naik: It is difficult but an essential part of life. So only thing you should be associated with is the progress of your son and daughter. So they important thing is to see how well the company you founded is doing. And seeing that itself, is a great pleasure. Its like father feels that his son or daughter should do better than his father. I also think that without me the company should perform much better.
Since you grew the company from 6% to 100%. How difficult has it been for you to find a successor?
Everything in life has its challenges. Fortunately, the one I chose is the smartest among the lot. He ran 45% of L&T much faster than the rest of L&T. So he has enough knowledge about the 45% remaining 55%; IT, Technology services, ship building are very tough but he is getting into it. With hydrocarbon, we have brought a new CEO and one day like we are doing with Infotech it will also go to the market in 2019, that is our target. He was the managing director of a company for more than 4-5 years and was outside of India for 20 years running a business and the best Indian you could possibly get from the market. And he will work towards lightening the load of my successors by making standalone companies like Infotech. Restructure some, do some IPOs with the idea to simplify the complexities I faced in my time is somewhat less.
You say that L&T has a complex structure, but didn’t you create that?
Some of it I inherited. Some of it got created due to some structural reason and some personality reason, few mistakes I made – sum total is that it is complex.