Whatever business we pursue, for me it is key to have an open mind to embrace change either ahead of time or at least with the times. Let me take you back to 1890 New York to illustrate what I mean. Guess what was bothering New Yorkers, town planners and analysts at that time? Horse manure. In those days, there were no cars. As the city grew, there were more people, more houses, more horses and more horse manure. In 1890, some bright analyst made a forecast that by 1930 horse manure would be up to the third floor of buildings. The analyst obviously forgot that there is something known as change. In 1910, the automobile came into being and it was welcomed as an anti-pollution device, besides other things. Now, exactly 100 years later, the world looks at it differently — cars are today perceived to be among the most polluting devices. The point I am making is when you are sitting where we are today, we are thinking about many things in a manner similar to how the city of New York thought about horse manure in 1890.
Right from my early days of bill discounting to what we are today, we embraced change and evolved our strategy accordingly. We built our business bottom-up, piece by piece, thinking through the nitty-gritty at the grassroot level. Fortunately, we did this in a sector that also offered a great top-down opportunity.
After I passed out of Jamnalal Bajaj, I joined the family business, but then took a different path because I understood that while a family business teaches you to work with people as partners, the downside is that merit at times runs the risk of getting second-class treatment. While you can empathise with the family for the way they deal with business, I believed at the workplace meritocracy and professionalism is the key to success. So I branched out on my own.
I received a lot of help in my journey from Sidney Pinto and Anand Mahindra. I first met Mr Pinto at the office of HL Ficom, a firm then owned by Pradip Dalal. After our meeting, we couldn’t get a taxi back to our respective offices at Flora Fountain and so we walked back from the Ficom office at Nariman Point. As we walked, he told me, “Uday, think about doing stuff on your own. It’s a brave new world out there.” That sense of direction from him gave me the courage to move forward. As our association deepened, I r