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(L-R): Delshad Kumana, Jamshyd N. Godrej, Adi B. Godrej, Thomas Abraham, B.K. Karanjia and Nadir Godrej at the release of Vijitatma.

Ardeshir Godrej ?
The Original Globaliser

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.

Vijay M. Crishna, impressive as ever, conducts the proceedings as compere.


Adi B. Godrej extols Ardeshir Godrej in his welcome speech: “Lawyer by training, inventor by desire.?/font>


Thomas Abraham expresses his pleasure at Penguin India’s having published all five of the books on the Company written by B.K. Karanjia.


Jamshyd N. Godrej speaks of Ardeshir’s influence on successive generations of the Godrej family.


Nadir Godrej versifies the vote of thanks with his usual wit and flair.

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.


Delshad Kumana, Jamshyd Godrej and Adi Godrej display the just-released Vijitatma to the audience, while Thomas Abraham applauds.

Sections of the audience: (First row): Kerse Naoroji, who ably handled labour relations in Godrej for several years, with director K.R. Thanewalla, Mr. and Mrs. Burzin J. Wadia and Katy Soonawalla.
(First row): F.T. Khorakiwalla, Smita Godrej Crishna, Rishad Naoroji and B.G. Deshmukh. (Left): Pheroza Godrej, Raika Godrej and Meher Banaji.
(First row): Rashna Ardesher busily taking notes, Mr. and Mrs. Farsi Dastur. (Second row): Dr. and Mrs. A. Joglekar and French Consul-General Jean-Charles Demarquis. (Third row): P.D. Lam. (Fourth row): Subhash Wadekar, Sandeep Kalke and A.C. Patankar. (Fifth row): C.S. Raje and S.D. Puranik.

“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:

Young Hormuz Godrej presents orchids to a delighted Karanjia. Sohrab is seen in the foreground.

I wish Ardeshir could have known
That thanks to seeds that he had sown
The economy has greatly grown
And finally we realise
The importance of enterprise,
The spirit that ensures we rise.
We owe a debt of gratitude
To liberalisation’s latitude
And Ardeshir’s positive attitude.
Burjor has described his life
From the early loss of his wife
To his later joy and strife.
For this great work we owe a debt
And to Delshad who agreed to vet
The book before the type was set.
She made the book come alive
And now I’m sure you’ll want to dive
Right in. Let’s give  Delshad a high five.
For checking the words and commas
Some very special thanks from us
To the Penguin team and Mr. Thomas,
CEO of Penguin Books
Today it seems to me he looks,

Burjis Godrej presents a floral tribute to Delshad Kumana.

He’s playing chess and leads two
His coming here has made our day.
He flew from Delhi to Bombay
And we wish him a pleasant stay.
And kudos to our dear compere.
Though Vijay has this solemn air,
Much wit and jokes are always there.
Burjor provides much food for thought.
For victorious souls no more is sought
But for mere mortals we have brought
Food of a more substantial kind.
And I’m sure that you will find
Dilip Amrute’s food is refined.
My poolside scrawl is often chancy,

Deciphering it is tough, I fancy,
But skilfully done by my Nancy.
For Burjor, Rashna does the same.
For the Godrej book she shares some fame,
For every kind of help she’s game.
I confidently can assure you
That Messrs. Majoo and Billimoria,
In times of need are always for you.
P.R. thanks to Perfect Relations,
J. Walter Thompson for ad creations,
I.P. Singh for media initiations.
Panchal and Samant for sound and
I wrote this travelling on a flight
So please excuse any oversight.
Some general thanks to make amends
And special thanks to you my friends.
This verse of gratitude now ends.




(L-R): Sheryn Mulla, Swiss Consul-General Josef Renggli and Martine Jonathan Lyon.

(Clockwise): Pheroza Godrej chats with Mr. and Mrs. Ajay Kanoria.

(L-R): Nadish Naoroji in conversation with Jehangir Patel.

(Clockwise): Linda Cheatham and Paul Smith with Vijay M. Crishna.
(R-L): Jamshyd Godrej shares a light moment with Adi Unwalla. Adi Godrej with Ashok Advani of Business India.
(L-R): Mrs. and Mr. I.P. Singh with S.K. Ghatak. Smita Godrej Crishna congratulates Delshad Kumana on her readings from Vijitatma. Meher Banaji is in the background.
Catching up with old friends (clockwise): Jamshyd Godrej, Mr. and Mrs. R.M. Lala and Meher Banaji. Dr. Fardoon P. Soonawalla with Ruby and Phiroze Lilaowala.
Time to celebrate (L-R): Veera M. Rao is all ears listening to Abad B. Karanjia. Delshad Kumana and Rutton Bharmal are seated alongside. Jamshyd Godrej with American Consul-General Angus Simmons.
Kersi Gherda and Jamshyd Godrej. Hormuz, Sohrab and Burjis look on while their mother, Dr. Rati Godrej, converses with Mr. and Mrs. Julio Ribeiro.


(L-R): Remu Shah with Mr. and Mrs. Sadashiv Sathe.


Family portraits: Hormuz, Burjis, Sohrab, Rati and Nadir.

Delshad, Burjor, Abad, Rutton and Yuzud.


Photographs by:
Rustom Vazifdar and
Aspy Patel