We are living in an era of Million Dollar Investor Funding, Billion Dollar valuations and an idea of creating, expanding and exiting out of a business within a span of 8 to 10 years. Brands grow and brands fall. Every year, New brands take birth and unfortunately, many die every year.
In those times, it is shocking and mind-boggling to realize that an Indian brand has an unbelievably long journey as old as 122 years and which has faced a test of times and passed every one of them to become one of the rarest trust-worthy business houses it is today. Today, we celebrate Godrej and span its journey from a one-man’s effort to produce quality locks to a global conglomerate it is today.
Much before the modern, expansive brand that we know Godrej to be, there was a man named Ardeshir Burjorji Sorabji Godrej. Ardeshir was born in 1868 in an affluent Parsi-Zoroastrian family as the first of six children.
In 1894, Ardeshir, a young law graduate refused to base a case he had been entrusted to argue. It required him to assume that he could not, with a good conscience make and would thus be wrong. He gave up law and returned to Bombay. He started working as an apprentice at a pharmacy which paved the way for the first step towards making surgical equipment.
On May 7, 1897, He created a template for locks that were cheaper and far sturdier than the imported versions and laid the foundation for the success story we know today, Godrej
Then came other successful products. He began to manufacture safes and patented his design for door frames and double-plate doors.
Introduction of Soaps – Endorsement of Swadeshi and Non-Violence
Ardeshir did not cease to be the inventor. When his attention was drawn to the fact that all soaps in the world contained tallow and other animal fats (inappropriate to many stringently vegetarian Hindus), he found a method to manufacture soap from vegetable oils, a procedure that everyone told him was impossible. Godrej soap was a gesture of gentle defiance and an endorsement of the ideals of Swadeshi and non-violence.
The philosophy of ‘Made in India” remained a lifelong obsession with him and he followed the ideals of political and social leader Dadabhai Naoroji. He believed that rejecting foreign-made goods was not enough and India had to compete with world markets with products of superlative quality.
When Ardeshir’s younger brother Pirojsha also joined the business, it truly became a family enterprise.
Ardeshir passed away in January 1936. This was a momentous year as Godrej & Boyce (locks and equipment business) had posted Rs 12 lakh as revenue and Godrej soaps had chalked up ₹6 lakh worth of revenue.
The Godrej Group was already an iconic presence on the Indian business landscape when Adi Burjorji Godrej joined the company in the sixties. However, compared to where it is today, the Godrej brand was a contained success, relying on the tried and trusted products like locks, safes, wardrobes, and soaps. Adi received his MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management and was the first management graduate to join the family business.
His first steps after joining the company were towards the modernization of inflexible management procedures. The group had two companies then—Godrej Soaps and Godrej & Boyce that manufactured furniture, safes, and locks etc.
Adi decided to understand the company that was not making profits and joined Godrej Soaps.
His focus was upon cutting costs and on human resources management. He also brought in young guns in the management ranks and emphasized upon branding, marketing and creating a performance-oriented work culture.
Along with his brother Nadir Godrej, and his cousin, Jamshyd Godrej, he steered the company towards international expansion in Asia, Africa, Latin America and beyond.
Liberalization and New economic climate in India after 1991
Godrej began to partner with global players like Procter & Gamble and with GE Appliances in the nineties.
Around 2000, Adi split Godrej Soaps into two halves—its consumer products company, Godrej Consumer Products Ltd (GCPL), and Godrej Industries.
Subsequently, GCPL bought over 11 companies across various countries and true to its pioneering spirit, the company’s unassuming hair color impertinently challenges global players like L’Oreal till date. The company has also diversified in areas such as vegetable oils, chemicals, animal feed, palm oil plantations and more.
The Giant as of Today
Today, the Godrej group employs around 28,000 people and operates in sectors as diverse as real estate, consumer products, industrial engineering, appliances, furniture, security and agricultural products.
Subsidiaries and affiliated companies include Godrej Industries and its subsidiaries Godrej Consumer Products, Godrej Agrovet, and Godrej Properties, as well as the private holding company Godrej & Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd.
Strong Ethics and Morals
In keeping with its founder’s ideals and the remarkably level-headed leadership of Adi Godrej, the house of Godrej has maintained a remarkably dignified public persona. One of the ways in which Adi has preserved the corruption-free image of the company is by steering clear of areas where the interaction with the government is intensive.
The amount of integrity the house of Godrej demonstrates while dealing with real estate projects and defense equipment is exceptional.
The company touches over millions of Indian lives every day with home appliances, security solutions, storage solutions, precision engineering, food processing, refrigerators, washing machines, microwave ovens, aerospace equipment, air fresheners, car perfumes, forklift trucks, sweeping machines, bobcats and more.
As of 2018, the group’s average turnover has crossed $4.1 billion with products spread across 60 countries and with such a strong brand image and products, it is only going to touch new heights in times to come.