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We will never pay bribe to get an order, says Meher Pudumjee

Meher Pudumjee, chairperson, Thermax Limited on the ethics, essence, and culture of her family’s five-decade plus old company.

pune Updated: Aug 12, 2018 17:24 IST
Anjali Shetty
Anjali Shetty
Hindustan Times, Pune
Pune,bribe,order
Meher Pudumjee (left), chairperson, Thermax Limited at the Senate talk show on Friday.(Sanket Wankhade/HT PHOTO)

Meher Pudumjee, chairperson, Thermax Limited on the ethics, essence, and culture of her family’s five-decade plus old company.

In terms of integrity, we decided we wanted to sleep well. We will not bribe to get an order,” said Meher Pudumjee, chairperson, Thermax Limited, on Friday, during a candid public interview in which she shared numerous anecdotes about the engineering company founded by her grandfather 52 years ago.

Speaking at the 19th Senate Talk Show, Pride of Pune series, Meher said that the strong foundation of ethics and values in the company setup by her parents and grandfather meant that the onus is on the company to make products that the market wants. “My father always said, ‘Profit is not a set of figures. but of values,” she said, during the interview conducted by Vikrant Vartak, founder of Mavens, a chief executive officers’ peer group.

A chemical engineer, Pudumjee joined Thermax as a trainee engineer in August 1990. She noted that her grandfather Adi Bhathena; father Rohinton Aga, and mother Anu Aga were not engineers. However, they built a very strong and successful engineering company because they believed in hiring people who were better than them and more competent than them in the particular field.

Empowering professionals and allowing them to make mistakes has been a strong aspect of the culture at Thermax. This is what helped the company improve its engineering products and processes and enter into new businesses. Employees too, developed a strong feeling of ownership and intrapreneurship, she said.

While sharing anecdotes, Meher expressed deep gratitude towards a senior former employee of the company, ND Joshi, whom she lovingly and respectfully described as her “mentor and tormentor”.

She recalled an anecdote on how during a training session, all the trainee engineers were asked to go out and earn ten rupees. She knocked various doors of bungalows in Aundh, and finally, earned the ten rupees by helping a gardener cut grass. “I didn’t know what the agenda was, but it was a powerful experience. This was to make us leave arrogance behind and learn from anybody,” she said. She spoke of her days as a trainee in Thermax, when fellow trainees didn’t know that she was Rohington Aga’s daughter.

When asked about the essence of the company, she said, “The best way to understand the culture or DNA is to observe the people in it.” Meher pointed out that Thermax and Enron, when it existed, had the exact same values on paper. “However, it is how we practice them that makes the difference,” she said.

Meher said that her father genuinely believed that there should be a very strong line between family and organisation. She recalled how Rohington Aga would pay for the personal international calls that he made to her from the company’s telephone in the UK.

One of her top three learnings while handling Thermax UK between 1992 and 1996 was on how to prioritise her time. She continues to tell her people “to leave office on time, go back to your family, have a hobby, and don’t linger at work when not required”.

When there is work to be completed, we will work 24x7, but on a routine day, don’t linger in office till 9 pm, she said, and asked her employees to devote quality time to themselves and their family to lead a full and meaningful live.

First Published: Aug 12, 2018 16:42 IST