While some industrialists take pride in calling themselves serial entrepreneurs, Mahindra group chairman Anand Mahindra (64) prefers to call himself an ‘accidental entrepreneur’. From filmmaking to jazz blues, from high sea sailing to running his $21 billion (revenue) business conglomerate, Mahindra ensures everything is shipshape and Bristol fashion! The savvy businessman, with a net worth of $1.7 billion in 2018, religiously keeps up with the latest trends on social media. His quirky tweets and innovative posts on Twitter are legendary. No wonder Mahindra has over 7.2 million Twitter followers and is known as social media star. In fact, the Harvard Business School (1981) MBA holder quips that Twitter is his cockpit. “When you have a federation like ours, with a number of companies and a massive geographical spread, it is almost impossible to figure out what is going on where,” says Mahindra.
He narrates a decade old incident, when he had asked Microsoft and SAP to give him a dashboard that would help him drill down anywhere. For example, the shop floor of his Detroit Assembly line to see which machine isn’t working. “They were humming and hawing saying we need video, IoT, and all this stuff. Suddenly, I got a tweet and picture from Assam. Someone in Guwahati had taken a picture at one of our (FirstCry) stores and said the MRP of a baby talcum powder was scratched out and they had put some wrong amount,” says Mahindra, who called the CEO at that time and forwarded the tweet to him. Almost 24 hours later, the CEO came back sheepishly saying the franchise had screwed up. He once got a tweet from a young man that his girlfriend fell sick after drinking too much at a concert in Nashik. “She was throwing up outside our factory there. Our watchman got her some water and helped them find an auto. I called up the plant and asked them to thank him on my behalf with a garland. Now think about what this does to company culture. I can give 10 workshops to my staff on empathy but one tweet recognising that watchman is way more powerful,” Mahindra says.
Mahindra is not on Twitter because he lonely. “I have a very nice life and I am very happy. This is not Tinder for me. I am on Twitter because this is a business tool. Any CEO who is not on it is probably ignorant,” he says. Under Mahindra’s dynamic leadership, Mahindra and Mahindra, the automobile major, and India’s biggest utility vehicle maker and tractors, has grown into one of India’s leading companies, employing more than 2,40,000 people across 100 countries.
In fact, armed with an MBA from Harvard, he returned to Mumbai in 1981 and joined the Mahindra Ugine Steel Company as Executive assistant to finance director. After eight years in 1989, he climbed up to the post of the President and Deputy Managing Director, and diversified the company into new business areas of real estate development and hospitality. Mahindra’s efforts paid off, when he was appointed Deputy Managing director of Mahindra and Mahindra in 1991, Managing Director in 1997 and Vice chairman in 2003. He was also a co-promoter of Kotak Mahindra Finance Ltd, which was converted into a bank in 2003, and rose up to the position of leading private sector banks.
In August 2012, Mahindra took on the role of chairman of the board and managing director of the Mahindra Group from his uncle, Keshub Mahindra. His tenure has seen the Group expand domestically and internationally.
Work Hard, Party harder
Mahindra enjoys sailing, tennis, world cinema, and reading. He studied filmmaking at Harvard and remains a keen photographer with a strong interest in films. He also enjoys listening to the blues and set up the Mahindra Blues Festival held annually in Mumbai since 2011. He describes himself as an “accidental entrepreneur” who simply joined the family business rather than starting up his own business. “I am third generation in Mahindra family. That is actually the generation meant to destroy everything. So frankly I am delighted that I am still around and have my job,” he says.
A strong believer in the power of liberal arts, he gave an $10 million to the Harvard Humanities Centre in 2010 now known as the Mahindra Humanities Centre. He married Anuradha, a seasoned journalist, who later launched the magazines, Verve and Man’s World. They have two daughters Divya and Aalika, who live in the US.
Mahindra recently took to Twitter to talk about the Howdy Modi event in Houston and how proud he was to see the development of new bonds between India and the US.
Talking about his success mantra, Mahindra says, “Jump at every opportunity. How can you tell when opportunity knocks? You cannot…you have to keep jumping. It sounds like a pretty burdensome piece of advice, but how can it hurt? If anything else, you stay fit! I will keep jumping.”