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Ardeshir Godrej ?
he occasion was the release of B.K. Karanjia’s fifth book on Godrej ____ Vijitatma. A monograph on pioneer-founder Ardeshir Godrej, the book was launched at Godrej Bhavan in Mumbai on 10 January, 2004, Ardeshir’s 68th death anniversary. The event was as unique as the subject it dealt with ____ instead of inviting a dignitary to release the book, the function was, in the words of compere Vijay M. Crishna, Director, Lawkim Limited, an internal one, more in the nature of thanksgiving by today’s generation of Godrejs to the pioneer-founder.
Logically, Vijitatma should have been the first book on Godrej, dealing as it does with the visionary who started it all! But rare insights into the character and mind of the pioneer only came to light through letters and papers discovered after the death of former Chairman Sohrab Godrej. This account is not a biography, since it has no details of Ardeshir’s childhood, but offers an understanding of Ardeshir for the unique person he was and the legacy he left for future generations.
Adi Godrej, Chairman, Godrej Group of Companies, in his welcome speech said, “Ardeshir Godrej was a lawyer by training, but an inventor by desire …” Giving due credit to the pioneer, he added: “All our technology was internally developed for decades. We have dozens of patents to our credit. We are financially self-reliant. None of our companies were publicly listed for a long time. Today, only 25 per cent of our Group’s turnover comes from publicly listed companies ?We were one of the few groups started in the 19th century that weren’t based on textiles. We developed our own brand; consumer products were the basis of the Group. I’m sure all of you will enjoy reading this remarkable book about a great man, or I should say, a great mind.?/p>
The compere then called upon the author to address the gathering. Emphasizing that this was not a sponsored book, but published on a direct author-publisher basis, B.K. Karanjia went on to give examples of the uniqueness of the man who had inspired the book: “An impossible man, you would say? Not impossible, really, but certainly a riddle of a man. Ardeshir Godrej’s was a quick-change, quietly tumultuous life. He carried an aura about him, a radiance, and his life bore the scars of his greatness. To try and understand and capture that radiance in words, I sought inspiration in the wisest and among the oldest of our texts, the Bhagvad Gita. I read that the distinguishing characteristics of greatness are a rigid self-discipline and a quite extraordinary self-control ____ implying the virtues of patience, forbearance, modesty, humility, self-sacrifice and self-effacement. When a man has acquired all these virtues he becomes a Vijitatma or victorious soul, a man who has conquered himself.?
Referring to the author’s comment that this was probably his last book, Thomas Abraham, CEO of Penguin Books, stated that Penguin certainly expected more books from Karanjia. He cherished the happy association of Penguin with Godrej and Karanjia in publishing all the Godrej books covering “four generations of the Godrej family? and “the towering figures who made Godrej a household name?
Delshad Kumana, who edited the book for Penguin, read extracts from the book with deep feeling. She also read extracts from Nadir Godrej’s poem, Victorious Soul, which captured the book’s very essence and is featured as its Introduction.
Jamshyd Godrej, Chairman, Godrej & Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd., reminisced: “My uncle Sohrab, before he passed away, used to constantly talk to me and other family members about the influence Ardeshir had on him. We, as a family, as a Company, owe an enormous debt to our founder. This year Godrej completes 100 years of safe-making. It is a real tribute to Ardeshir that the original design which he made was far superior to anything that was available at that time, and the product is today made more or less to the same design with patented security features. Clearly, our reputation has been built on the foundation Ardeshir laid.
“It is also very interesting that this book, in many ways, talks about the era in which Ardeshir lived. Karanjia has captured that era so well, it would be really wonderful for all our youngsters to read and derive inspiration from the book. We as a family have learnt enormously from rdeshir’s example.
“These days newspapers are full of how Indian companies have become a strong economic force in this region. Ardeshir was fighting against products which at that time were all British. He is a fine example of how an entrepreneur could develop products which were better than those that were available. He was the original globaliser and was able to come out with products which won enormous acceptance. The book talks about his struggle to get loans from banks which were owned by foreign interests, and he had to go about holding public demonstrations to prove the superior quality of his safes. We have been recently struggling to develop a high-tech product and have been finding it difficult to sell it in India. But we fought for that order and ultimately bagged it ?Ardeshir fought for acceptance in his own country and this still continues. This book is an encouragement for entrepreneurs, young people and policy-makers to understand, appreciate and follow Ardeshir’s example.
“I want to end by telling you about our corporate film made during our centenary year. Dr. Kasturi Ranjan, Chairman, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said, ‘What is really amazing about Ardeshir’s beginnings is the way the Company has progressed, from law to lock-making to launchers, which are landmarks in our corporate journey.’”
Jamshyd Godrej then released Vijitatma.
Nadir Godrej, Managing Director, Godrej Industries, proposed the vote of thanks with characteristic flair ____ in verse. The poem, reproduced below, not only brought the house down, but also ended the evening on a high note:
wish Ardeshir could have known
playing chess and leads two
Deciphering it is tough, I fancy,