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Monthly Archives: December 2015

When you come from a notable family, the public’s expectations can be a blessing and a curse. In the case of Rahul Bajaj, being the descendant of Jamnalal Bajaj, a noted Indian industrialist, philanthropist, and independence fighter as well as founder of the Bajaj Group, is a blessing, indeed.

Rahul is the current chairman of the Bajaj Group, among the oldest and largest conglomerates in India with its headquarters in Mumbai, Maharashtra. The conglomerate currently has 36 companies as well as Bajaj Auto, its flagship company considered as among the world’s largest manufacturer of two- and three-wheeler vehicles.

Other major companies include Bajaj Finance Ltd and Bajaj Finserv Ltd (financial services including financing and leasing); Bajaj Holdings & Investment Ltd (investments in new business opportunities); Bajaj Ventures Ltd (manufacture and trade of power tools, house ware, and parts); Mukand Ltd (manufacture of stainless steel, special steels, and steel alloys); Bajaj Electricals Ltd (manufacture of electric fans, lattice closed towers, and high masts); Maharashtra Scooters Ltd (scooters production); Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance Co Ltd (life insurance); Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Company Ltd. (services in general insurance); Bajaj Financial Solutions Ltd and Bajaj Allianz Financial Distributors (financial products and services distribution); and Rahul Securities Pvt. Ltd, among others.

While Rahul may have followed in Jamnalal’s footsteps, he has also made new paths for himself. He is a well-educated man with degrees from the Harvard Business School, Government Law College in Mumbai, and Cathedral and John Connon School. He has also been featured in several industry publications including the Harvard Business School’s Creating Emerging Markets project, which includes interviews with industry global leaders.

Rahul took over the leadership of the Bajaj Group in 1965 and continues to be the man behind its global success. Aside from Asia, the Indian conglomerate also maintains a robust presence in Europe.

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Shekhar Chatterjee, a Bengali actor and director, is well-known for his extraordinary acting skills as well as for his political views. He began his acting career in the 1950s in the Bengali theater with his leftist views already evident by then. He was, for example, closely associated with several leftist theater groups, such as the Communist Party’s Indian People’s Theatre Association, the Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop, and the Utpal Dutt’s Little Theatre Group, as well as Theater Unit, his own theater group.

His stage career is characterized by his brilliant portrayals of Shakespearean roles, which are considered the most challenging in the acting world, and for his role as Shardul Singh in Kallol. He is also a director with a wide range of works most notably by Bertold Brecht, Peter Handke, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, and Franz Xaver Kroetz, all of whom are famous German-language playwrights.

He preferred to be true to his Brecht productions (i.e., not adapted to the local setting). This means that while his productions were deemed authentic, others criticized him for his failure to communicate the political symbolisms of Brecht’s work to his Indian audience.

Gautam Thapar, a successful Indian businessman, comes from a family of businessmen with his grandfather, Karam Chand Thapar, being the founder and owner of Thapar Group. He followed in his grandfather’s footsteps by becoming one of India’s most successful entrepreneurs via the Avanta Group. He was awarded the 2008 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Manufacturing for his achievements in the industry.

After his graduation from the Pratt Institute in the United States with a degree in chemical engineering, he returned to India after failing to find a suitable job especially with his US visa expiring. He first started working as a factory assistant at the Thapar Group where he rapidly rose through the ranks, which gained the attention of Lalit Mohan, the company’s then-head honcho.

His first success was when he turned around Andhra Pradesh Rayons (APR), one of Thapar Group’s ailing companies. He soon followed it with his success at BILT’s new export business, which dealt in shoes, leather goods, and food items; he turned its chemical division from net loss to net profits within a year of taking on the job.

In July 2004, Gautam became Crompton Greaves’ Chairman. He was given the reins of the family’s business empire in 2005 when Lalit Mohan retired; Gautam inherited Lalit Mohan’s shares and voting rights as well as most of the latter’s personal effects.

By 1 July 2006, Gautam became the Group’s Chairman. He is also currently on the board of several companies both in India and abroad.

Aside from his business ventures, Gautam is also active in other aspects of life including education, golf and philanthropy. He has held various education-related positions including President of Thapar University, member of the Board of Governors of the Doon School, and chairman of the board of governors of NITE. He is also a strong golf advocate especially as President of the Professional Golf Tour of India.

Robert “Bob” Falkenburg has led many careers in his lifetime. He is not just a champion tennis player but he is also a savvy soft ice cream and fast-food entrepreneur and a champion golfer, too.

Born to a family of champion tennis players, Falkenburg followed in his parents and siblings’ footsteps by becoming a champion in several tennis tournaments, too. He won the several championships in the 1940s including the National Interscholastic singles title, the national doubles title, the Los Angeles city singles title holder, the United States doubles crown, and the NCAA singles and doubles champion. At the peak of his career, he won the Wimbledon doubles title with Jack Kramer in 1947 and the Wimbledon singles championship in 1948.

He was also the first person to introduce soft ice cream in Brazil and the first person to establish a fast-food restaurant in South America, which he called Bob’s. The restaurant offered traditional American fare, which quickly became popular. While he sold Bob’s to Libby of Brazil, his legacy lives on since the fast-food chain now has over 1,000 stores in Brazil.

Falkenburg is also a champion golfer with three Brazilian amateur championship titles under his belt.

Edmond J. Safra (6 August 1932 – 3 December 1999) was one of the most influential bankers of his time but his most enduring legacy lies in his philanthropic activities in the promotion of his Jewish faith, basic and higher education, and medical research.

In 1956, Safra set up Trade Development Bank in Geneva with a US$1 million capital and grew it to become a US$5 billion company in the 1980s. In 1966, he also established the Republic National Bank of New York in the United States and then the Republic National Bank of New York (Suisse) in Switzerland.

He is also the founder of Safra Republic Holdings S.A., a Luxembourg-based bank holding company in 1988. He also co-founded Hermitage Capital Management, one of the most influential investment companies in Russia in 1996. Indeed, Safra’s personal wealth was estimated at US$2.5 billion by the early 1990s because of his savvy business skills.

Safra’s philanthropic legacy continues with the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation, the beneficiary of his enormous wealth, which also supports hundreds of programs in over 50 countries. During his lifetime, Safra was committed to the following philanthropic activities:

• Construction and renovation of synagogues in several cities (e.g., Manila, Kinshasa, Amsterdam, Budapest, Rhodes, Istanbul, Naples, and Vienna) worldwide especially in areas where he believed Jewish communities can flourish
• Support of synagogues in Israel as well as the tombs of two influential rabbis
• Donations for the treatment of the sick in various hospitals worldwide including the Hôpitaux de France and Hôpital Cantonal de Genève as well as numerous institutions across the United States
• Founding of the Albert Einstein Hospital in São Paulo, the Edmond and Lily Safra Children’s Hospital at Tel Hashomer, and the Edmond and Lily Safra Chair in Breast Cancer Research at Tulane University
• Donations to medical research facilities including the Institut Pasteur, the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, and the Weizmann Institute, among others

For his philanthropic activities, he was named Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres and Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, Commandeur de l’Ordre de Mérite, and Commandeur de l’Ordre de Rio Branco.

Taddy Blecher, a South African actuary, educational entrepreneur, and management consultant, has been recognized multiple times for his leadership achievements including the 2002 and 2005 World Economic Forum’s Global Leader for Tomorrow Award. His success does not come as a surprise to people who know him starting with his academic achievements in actuarial science; he has been recognized with several awards including the Liberty Life Golf Medal.

In 1999, he started working with city businesses and rural schools to recruit students and solicit donations for the Community and Individual Development City Campus, known as the CIDA City Campus. The school provides students with a low-cost educational opportunity, a welcome one especially in areas with a high poverty rate and low job skills incidence, which was also touted as a nearly-free business university.

He also founded the Maharishi Institute, a free educational body, as well as Invincible Outsourcing, a call center and data capture facility. The latter allowed students to earn an income for their education.

Ela Ramesh Bhatt, a lawyer by education, is among the world’s most prominent champions of the global labor, cooperative and microfinance as well as women’s movements. She is a noted cooperative organizer and activist whose Gandhian philosophy continues to guide her admirable work in these areas. She has been recognized worldwide for her achievements in these areas, including the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1977, the Right Livelihood Award in 1984, and the Padma Bhushan in 1986, among others.

Bhatt has a bachelor’s degree in English from the South Gujarat University and a law degree from the Sir L. A. Shah Law College where she received a Gold Medal. For a short time, she taught English at the SNDT Women’s University before she joined the Textile Labour Association (TLA) in its legal department in 1968. She received her International Diploma of Labor and Cooperatives ay the Afro-Asian Institute of Labor and Cooperatives in 1971 under TLA’s auspices.

She then organized the self-employed women in the textile sector into a union with the approval of Arvind Buch, then-president of TLA, and under TLA’s Women’s Wing auspices. In 1972, the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) was founded with Buch as president and Bhatt as general-secretary until 1996.

On July 2007, Bhatt became a member of The Elders, a group of world leaders dedicated to contributing their integrity, wisdom and leadership toward addressing many of the world’s most challenging and pressing issues. The Elders work on a global scale on both thematic and specific subjects based on local areas, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, sustainable development, the Korean Peninsula, and equality for women and girls. Bhatt works on the various issues of equality for women and girls, such as education, child marriage, and domestic rights.

She is also a co-founder of the Women’s World Banking where she served as its chairman from 1980 to 1998. She has also served as the Chairman of the SEWA Cooperative Bank, the International Alliance of Street Vendors, and HomeNet, as well as a Rockefeller Foundation trustee.

Bülent Eczacibasi is the current chairman of Eczacibasi Holding, an industrial conglomerate with diverse interests and investments in various sectors including consumer products, personal care products, financial services, building products, and pharmaceuticals. Eczacibasi Holding is one of the most prominent corporations in Turkey, too.

Born as eldest of two sons to Nejat Eczacibasi, the founder and past leader of the Eczacibasi group of companies, and Fatma Beyhan, Bülent enjoyed a privileged upbringing. He obtained his bachelor’s degree from the University of London (Imperial College of Science and Technology) and his master’s degree in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He has served in a variety of executive management positions in the family-run business, the Eczacibasi Group. His net worth is estimated to be US$1.1 billion as of 2006 (Forbes).

Bülent is also an active member of many of Turkey’s prominent social organizations including the Turkish Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association, the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation, and Turkish Pharmaceuticals Manufacturers’ Association.

Ferit Sahenk is considered as Turkey’s richest person whose personal fortune is estimated at US$3.4 billion. His wealth largely comes from his position as Chairman of the Board of the Dogus Holding conglomerate.

Like many of Turkey’s elite, Sahenk has a degree from a foreign university specifically a Marketing and Human Resources degree from Boston College in Boston, Massachusetts. He is also a graduate of Harvard University’s Owner/President Management Program.

After his graduation in 1989 from Boston College, he returned to Istanbul where he became an apprentice at the Dogus’ Garanti Bank for eight years. In 1998, he moved to Dogus Holding where he racked up several accomplishments, such as the acquisition of two food retail chains and the expansion of NTV’s operations.

Sahenk also established Humanitas, a recruitment division designed to recruit top talents essential in running the diverse companies of the Dogus Holding. He established centralized back-office operations for the multiple banks and auto dealerships of the holding company, thus, streamlining operations, reducing costs, and maximizing profits.

He also added insurance, leasing and cashback reward schemes to the banking business. This was an innovative move in the banking industry in Turkey at the time since the practice was uncommon then.

Sahenk became Dogus Holding’s head in April 2001 when he was just 37 years old. He was appointed to the post after the death of his father, Ayhan Sahenk. His innovative principles and practices in the conglomerates continue to make Dogus Holding one of Turkey’s largest and, thus, most influential corporations.

As of 2005, the Sahenk conglomerate has a net worth of US$2.5 billion with an annual turnover of US$6 billion with approximately 18,000 people on the payroll. While the conglomerate has relinquished a certain degree of control of Garanti Bank, it is still considered an important part of the Turkish economy; the selling of the bank to General Electric in 2004 for a reported US$1.6 billion was instrumental in the greater liberalization in the banking sector.