A builder of businesses

Known to always do things differently, Sanjiv Goenka explains the reason behind most of his decisions.

The 58-year-old Sanjiv Goenka, Chairman of the multi-billion dollar conglomerate RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group and power utility CESC Ltd, commands business interests across diverse sectors, and is constantly looking for ways to expand his empire.

It was a sultry Kolkata afternoon in the eighties. A group of close friends from a nearby college were having an adda session at one of Kolkata’s most sought-after confectionaries in the heart of the city. And there was a sudden power cut (which was a very common thing in Calcutta in those days). But it was hugely embarrassing for one of the friends whose family owned the city’s only power utility.

From then to now, life has come full circle for that embarrassed youngster, Sanjiv Goenka, who is today at the helm of Kolkata’s power utility monopoly — CESC Ltd — thanks to who, Kolkata can rightly claim to have become a load shedding-free city.

Little wonder therefore that so many years down the road, Goenka, Chairman, CESC Ltd and Chairman, RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group, says, “I will never forget that embarrassing moment. But now, I cherish the fact that we have successfully turned the city into a power surplus region that is load shedding-free.” Besides CESC Ltd, Goenka’s group has interests across diverse business verticals — Power & Natural Resources, Carbon Black, IT & Education, Infrastructure, Retail, Media, Entertainment & Sports. RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group, a splinter of the erstwhile RPG Group, seems well set to launch itself into the next league, shelling out more than $3 billion in different business projects.

The driving force
Known to always do things differently, Sanjiv Goenka explains the reason behind most of his decisions. “As a kid, we grew up hearing our mother (the late Sushila Goenka) telling us (brothers Harsh and Sanjiv Goenka), ‘Beta kuchh karo, kuchh naya karo’. These words from my mother keep haunting me day in and day out. In fact, this simple one-liner has been the greatest driving force of my life,” he reveals.

And it is this fire in his belly that has possibly made 58-year-old Sanjiv Goenka what he is today — the Chairman of the Rs 45,000 crore-plus RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group and a billionaire (with real time net worth of $1.7 billion) in his own right.

The business of inheritance
Like most other billionaires, Goenka has also gone through many ups and downs. As part of the succession plan, the then nearly Rs 25,000-crore business empire founded by Rama Prasad Goenka was amicably divided between Harsh (Chairman of RPG Enterprises) and Sanjiv (Chairman of RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group) in 2011. However, RPG, the dhoti-kurta clad gentleman businessman, remained the Chairman Emeritus of both the groups till his death on April 14, 2013 at the age of 83.

Nearly one and half years after the formal split between the two brothers, Sanjiv, the younger son of Rama Prasad Goenka, rolled out a new corporate identity and a new logo of the breakaway group which is now being managed by him, giving up on the RPG Group tag. The new group, called RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group comes with a new logo inspired by Dhanuchakra.

Soon after the formal split, Sanjiv Goenka said, “I discussed everything with my father. In fact, he was actively involved over the last one and half years, particularly over the last six months. And one morning, he gifted me a new book on Tirumala Tirupati as a mark of his blessings as I formally set out on a new journey.”

Their businesses may have got separated but the two brothers still enjoy the best of relationships. In fact, at the wedding of Sanjiv Goenka’s son, Shaswat, the elder brother played a perfect host, standing at the main entrance and receiving all the guests with a never fading smile.

“Ramababu always wanted the division of the business empire between the two brothers to be formalised amicably in his lifetime so that it would not affect their personal relationship,” says a person who has seen the family from close quarters.

An avid sports fan!
An alumnus of Kolkata’s St Xavier’s Collegiate School and St. Xavier’s College, Sanjiv’s interests in sports and games now span from table tennis, lawn tennis, soccer to cricket.

Goenka, who earlier had the 2-year franchise for Indian Premier League cricket team Rising Pune Supergiants, acquired half the stake for IPL team Rajasthan Royals in February 2019. He also owns ATK Football Club in the ISL with Harsh Neotia, Chairman of Ambuja Neotia Group, former Indian skipper Saurav Ganguly and Utsav Parekh.

And trust the younger son of the legendary Rama Prasad Goenka to come up with minutest details of each of his businesses — from who scored (or saved) how many goals playing for ATK in India and outside, the applications and utilities of speciality carbon black, what went wrong with the Saregama-produced movie Jhoota Hi Sahi to how to get entry into the Wimbledon gallery! He has applied for his entry pass into the next Wimbledon Final!

Plans for the future
One of the Goenka family’s close associates says, “At a difficult time, RPG started his brilliant M&A activities and expanded his industrial network across the country and beyond, with interests in tyres (CEAT), power generation and distribution (CESC), infrastructure (KEC International), IT (Zensar), retail (Spencer's), life sciences, chemicals (PCBL), plantation (Harrisons Malayalam) as also media & entertainment (Saregama).” The younger son was possibly bequeathed this acumen from his father. Consider his recent acquisition of Nature’s Basket from the Godrej stable, and expansion plans of his FMCG arm-Guiltfree Industries. If things move the way they have been envisaged, Goenka believes that the FMCG business of the group alone will become a Rs 10,000 crore entity while power distribution and FMCG will account for a major chunk followed by retail, IT/ITeS and carbon black.

Meanwhile, his wife Preeti, an interior designer by training and qualification, besides being the Executive Director of Properties & Projects at Spencer International Hotels Limited (which she joined in August 2008) and non-Executive Director, Saregama India Limited, keeps herself busy in the various activities of Stylefile, a well-known Kolkata movement to promote art in everyday life and support creative talents in diverse fields.

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