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Birla, Mittal scions break away from family businesses

Starting up something on their own is also an opportunity for the scions to prove themselves

Shivani Shinde Nadhe & Reghu Balakrishnan  |  Pune/Mumbai 

Shruti Shibulal, daughter of S D Shibulal, co-founder and former chief executive officer of India's second largest information technology service provider Infosys, believes she could have done well in the infotech industry, but that was not her passion.

"Entering my father's industry was never something I considered. Although I am quite sure I would have done well in it, I would not have had the same passion as I do for hospitality and hence could have never produced my best work," says the 29-year-old Shibulal, founder and director, Meaning lotus in Malayalam, is part of Shibulal's family office, Innovations Investment Management, and launched its first property in Coorg in 2012.


Shruti is not alone in breaking new ground. Kavin Bharti Mittal, son of Sunil Bharti Mittal, started his entrepreneurial journey by creating AppSpark in 2009. He went on to build 'Foodster', a food recommendation app in 2010. At present he heads Hike, an instant messaging platform that is a joint venture between Bharti Enterprises and SoftBank Corporation.

Kavil Ramachandran, professor specialising in family businesses and succession planning at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, says although these scions do not share the business ideas of their parents, they have the same entrepreneurial zeal.

"Professionalism has increased. Families are realising that they do not need a family person to run day-to-day operations. You have good professional talent available that can take care of operations, hence the pressure on the next generation to join family business has reduced," says Ramachandran.

The other reason is there are simply many more options available nowadays. Starting up something on their own is also an opportunity for the scions to prove themselves. "This works well for the families too. Many people I interact with tell me they do not mind supporting new ideas. If its works, fine. If it does not, the person will have gained invaluable experience that may not be available in a family set-up," adds Ramachandran.

Though young scions are breaking free, it is not a clean break. In all the ventures that have been set up so far, the seed capital or initial push has come from the families.

For instance, the foray of Ananya Birla, daughter of Kumar Mangalam and Neerja Birla, into microfinance has been funded by the family. Her firm started one-and-a-half-years ago and has 18 branches in seven districts in two states.

Though has support from Shibulal's family office, started her journey in the hospitality industry in 2008, when she launched Avant Garde Hospitality, which runs two fine-dining restaurants, Caperberry, focusing on molecular gastronomy, and Fava, a Mediterranean restaurant and lounge bar, in Bengaluru.

"My interest in hospitality was piqued at an early age. My parents took my brother and me to eat out at least once a week, and we explored many styles of hotels during our yearly family vacations. Although I began my career in finance, I had an itch to be entrepreneurial. Naturally, I pursued this into my field of interest and received the complete support of my family in doing so," she says.

Ramachandran adds that this shift is also due to the social trend of individualism vis-à-vis collectivism. Aditya Parekh, son of HDFC Chairman Deepak Parekh, is another example of this trend. An MBA from Wharton in the US, Parekh started his career with DSP Merrill Lynch and founded Faering Capital along with friend Sameer Shroff. The duo have successfully raised their first fund of Rs 830 crore.

First Published: Thu, January 01 2015. 00:48 IST
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