Standing ovations, flowers, gifts and rosy farewell speeches — Keshub Mahindra’s last annual general meeting (AGM) as chairman of Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) had all this, and more.
On Wednesday, the Birla Matoshree auditorium in south Mumbai was packed, as everyone connected with M&M didn’t want to miss the opportunity to bid farewell to India Inc’s most senior board member, one who held the post of chairman for 48 years, during which the conglomerate expanded from the automobile segment to areas like information technology, real estate, financial services and hospitality. After all resolutions were put to vote and passed, Mahindra said, “With the end of the AGM, I give you the new chairman (Anand Mahindra).”
In his opening speech, Mahindra thanked M&M shareholders, employees and directors for their continuous support over the years. “My innings as your chairman concludes at the end of this meeting. I am deeply moved by the sentiments expressed by the board and the management in requesting me to accept the position of chairman-emeritus, which I do with humility,” he said.
Mahindra also stressed the need to be better prepared for the challenging economic environment ahead. He, however, hoped for a mild recovery later in the year. “I do want to stress it has been a very difficult year and a challenging one. There have been problems stemming from many circumstances abroad like the state of the sovereign debts of many advanced economies, turmoil in the Middle East, the weakening global economic environment and our rising fiscal and current account deficits,” he said.
The proceedings saw a rough start, with Mahindra saying board members had turned down shareholder Pandya’s offer to join the board. Pandya, a former junior officer in M&M, was interested in joining the board as a representative of minority shareholders. He claimed he had sent letters to the company, stating the provision for this under the Company’s Act, 1956.
After Pandya’s offer was rejected by the board, he accused the M&M management of allegedly sacking him for raising the issue of promotion. Such was the resentment that the chairman was forced to put the resolution to vote.