Hyderabad: During a recent interaction at the Deccan Chronicle, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu’s son Lokesh showed what a good role model he was for children of powerful politicians.
An alumni of prestigious universities like Stanford and Carnegie Mellon, an understated Lokesh (just one discreet security personnel in the background), came to the office on time and was friendly, approachable, well-informed on politics and current affairs and immensely likeable.
While answering queries on various political issues, Lokesh opened up about his family and how they ensure that each one is always aware of what is happening in the other’s personal and professional lives.
Inspired by the GMR Group, which introduced the concept of a family constitution in corporate India, which deals with various aspects like the important succession plan amongst promoter families, the Naidu family too has drawn up its own charter.
One of the requirements of the charter is that the immediate family Chandrababu Naidu, Bhuvaneshwari, Lokesh and his wife Brahmani have to get together once a week and update each other on what is happening in their professional lives.
“Every Friday the four of us have to sit together for two hours and appraise each other on what we are doing. For example, I have a role and certain responsibilities in the party and the family trust, so I appraise them on that, Brahmani keeps us informed on Heritage Foods, my mum appraises us on certain other aspects of Heritage and our Leader (Chandrababu Naidu) appraises everyone on politics,” he says.
But what made them want to draw a family charter in the first place since Lokesh, an only child, will be the sole inheritor?
Revealing that they are safeguarding the company and its interests for the distant future, Lokesh explains, “What scares me the most is that only 50 per cent of businesses survive from the first to the second generation, and only 30 per cent from second to third.
So from first to third you have only 15 per cent of businesses surviving. Brahmani and I are the second generation so we are already paranoid about the third.”
This is one of the reasons why the couple thinks that a charter is necessary since their company and its 7,000 employees must be protected. Their kids’ interests should not hurt the business. The company is protected, but what about future disgruntled heirs? Wouldn’t they object to curbs on their budget?
“If you want to have a lifestyle then you should sell your equity and live your life. There is first right of refusal among family members. The charter is structured like that,” answers Lokesh.
“In GMR, each of the kids has a mentor, this is what we have failed to do. For example, Kiran Kumar Grandhi has K.V. Kamath, former chairman of ICICI bank, as his mentor. They meet once a quarter. This is where we have to get our act together.”
Unlike the Friday meetings where talk is serious, the rest of the week involves more casual and relaxed evenings where the family bonds over dinner. And it is during these times that Lokesh calls the CM “dad”. Otherwise he is always “our Leader” or “Boss”.
Talking of fathers, Lokesh will soon become one. When asked what he has to say about this new responsibility, he laughs and says, “It’s scary. I have to be a lot more responsible now.” But it’s exciting too, he adds.
One complaint that all children and family members of politicians have is that they are never able to give them much time. How does he plan to tackle this? “My priority has always been family. I have always been very clear. Brahmani may not agree (laughs), but I do give her a lot of time.”
Location: Andhra Pradesh