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How Partition created the Mahindra & Mahindra Group

Created on 03 Dec 2021

Wraps up in 7 Min

Read by 7k people

Updated on 10 Oct 2022

7 decades ago, a steel trading company, Mahindra and Muhammad, was incorporated by a group of three people. Two were the Mahindra Brothers, and the third was Muhammad.Fate had something else in store, and Muhammad moved across the border after the India-Pakistan partition. It then became Mahindra and Mahindra. The Mahindra and Mahindra we know of today. 

Imagine what would have our country lost if the company dissolved when Muhammad left India? Mahindra and Mahindra, there is something patriotic about this brand that draws it irresistibly close to our hearts. Whenever and wherever I hear a ‘Mahindra’, the first image that pops up in front of my eyes is a happy face of a farmer in his Mahindra tractor, driving it across the fields. 

Well, that is in-part marketing-gone-right and in-part actual customer satisfaction

The beginning of Mera Bharat Mahan

Our today’s story starts with two brothers and a friend in a pre-independent India. Jagdish Chandra Mahindra and Kailash Chandra Mahindra, with their friend Malik Ghulam Muhammad, were very much inspired by the vision of Jawahar Lal Nehru. The vision was a modern independent India. 

With riots and movements going on around them, there had to be something that sustained India on its own. They wanted to prove that Indians were second to none.

The First Titan

JC Mahindra was the first chairman of Mahindra and Mahindra, followed by Keshub Mahindra, his son. And then successor to Keshub, Anand Mahindra, grandson of JC Mahindra. JC Mahindra lost his parents at a very early age. But he was a man of steel. They were eight siblings and JC Mahindra had shouldered the responsibility of all of them. 

He arranged for the education of all his siblings and did his engineering in an era when technical education was Greek to the common public.He then sold his property to start the steel business. The company took off, and there was no turning back. 

The second king in the era of Licence Raj - Keshub Mahindra

After JC Mahindra's death in 1951, his son, Keshub Mahindra, got into the driving seat and steered M&M in an era of Licence Raj.

“Dream the impossible.”- Keshub Mahindra.

Keshub joined M&M in 1947 and was made the chairman in 1963. He headed the company for nearly five decades. And it was in 1963 itself, that M&M started producing its world-famous tractors. He is respected for his philanthropy. He believes in giving back to society and is known for his humility.

He is a graduate of Wharton, University of Pennsylvania. When he graduated from Penn, he had a job offer from a company in Brazil, and he decided to go there. But before he left, his father asked him to come home for some time as he had not been home for nearly six years. 

“Foolishly, it didn’t strike me what it would mean to go back to India”, Keshub said. He came back with the intention of going back but never returned. He stayed. Saw the plight of people. And decided to give back to the people. 

In the 1950s and 60s, everything was regulated and licenced. In the licencing system, the government even cap the number of tractors to be produced.  And this number was not based on the demand and supply of the country but just on the government’s need to control businesses. It was challenging to sustain, let alone earn profits. 

The labour laws, too, were very rigid. It basically meant that they couldn’t lay off people in any condition. This went on for a while, and it was only in the 1990s that some real changes began to show up under the P.V. Narasimha government. 

In his own words, he is a great believer in people. To connect with what was going on around was very important to him. Keshub Mahindra has been on the board of directors of various public and private institutes. On one such occasion, he was asked to set up India’s first housing finance scheme for the poor. He visited many lowly slums in this time period. “I would come home and wonder how people could live like this. That had a huge influence on my life.”

"What was the most joyous moment he had in this group" was once asked to Keshub Mahindra. To which he replied, “I get a great joy in creation.”

And rightly so, he created products, jobs, and the Mahindra Group’s reputation that it is today. 

What products? What jobs? What reputation? 

Keshub Mahindra was the chairman of Mahindra Group for 48 years. The company expanded from being just an automobile manufacturer to IT, real estate, financial services and hospitality. 

The People’s Person - Anand Mahindra

The next is my personal favourite, Anand Mahindra, nephew of Keshub Mahindra.

Anand Mahindra is an alumnus of Harvard University. A fun fact that almost everyone knows but is worth mentioning is that he was friends with Bill Gates at Harvard. Apart from taking M&M forward, he was also the co-founder of Kotak Mahindra Finance Ltd., the leading Kotak Mahindra Bank. So which story would you like to hear first? The Mahindra and Mahindra story or the Kotak and Mahindra story? 

Let’s take up M&M first. 

Anand Mahindra got in easily in Mahindra Ugine Steel Company (MUSCO) in 1981. He was an Executive Assistant—an advantage of the ‘Mahindra’ title but completely deserving. MUSCO expanded into the real estate and hospitality sector under his leadership. He was soon promoted to the position of President of the company. Fast forward to 2003, Anand Mahindra was made the Vice Chairman of the Mahindra Group. 

Ford Escort’s fall, Scorpio’s rise

Anand Mahindra wished to manufacture cars from scratch in India. But his company lacked technology and expertise in management. He decided to enter in Joint Venture with Ford, and they built the Escort. It was a phuss! in the Indian market. 

Anand Mahindra didn’t give up. He decided to build another vehicle after the failure, only this time, without Ford’s help, or any other company for that matter. It seemed like a self-destruction mission back then, but can you guess what was the end result?

Scorpio. Yeah, right I know! The project cost was ₹550 crore, one-tenth of the cost that any other manufacturer would have required. (Prakash Raj saying Shock laga, shock laga, shock laga, IN. YOUR. FACE!)

After Escort’s failure, the comeback was essential for M&M. This was the biggest bet Mahindra had ever made in its history. Project Scorpio could not fail at any cost, since, in Mahindra’s words, “..all of us, including me, had our careers at risk.”

The three things that made Scorpio successful are —its design, powertrain (100 HP engine ) and pricing (Rs6 lakh in 2002). The comfort, space luxury, fuel efficiency, design, engine power, every damn thing was on point. 

And guess who brought in on roads from a mere concept? Yes, Anand Mahindra. 

Anand Mahindra received the Rajiv Gandhi Award for his contribution in the business field back in 2004. It’s been 16 years and he received the third-highest civilian honour, the Padma Bhushan Award in 2020. 

Where were we last with the expansion scene? Apart from automobiles, they were in four other sectors. And now, they are in aerospace, finance, insurance, agribusiness, components, defence, energy, construction equipment, farm equipment, leisure, hospitality, industrial equipment, information technology, logistics, real estate, and retail. Now, THAT, was a long list. 

In 1991, the revenue of the company was ₹1,520 crores and it grew to ₹96,241 crores by 2020, aptly 60 times. 

To top it all up with cherry, Anand Mahindra announced that he would donate 100 per cent of his salary for Covid-relief. I am not going to insult the word ‘charity' by further mentioning what all things he did in this biggest humanitarian crisis.

Moving on, The Kotak-Mahindra Alliance

The Kotak-Mahindra bank is among the fastest-growing bank in India. When Uday Kotak was just starting, Anand Mahindra lent him ₹1 lakh and promoted his finance firm. Mahindra was smitten by Uday Kotak and saw real potential. I think the tweet below would suffice to exhibit their friendship. 

"An investment of ₹ 1,00,000 made in Kotak Group in November 1985, is worth ₹ 1,400 crores today - a compounded growth rate of 40 per cent over the past 32 years," Uday Kotak said in an interview in 2017. Guess it really was Anand Mahindra’s best decision.

Remember when I told you Anand Mahindra is our favourite hero. Apart from everything I have mentioned above, here is a reason to love and respect him a little more than before. 

My favourite tweet of all time. 

“Doing more with less” - Anand Mahindra

I could do this all day but I’ll stop with one. This is just the gist of it. If you are someone who has followed Anand Mahindra’s story for some time now, you truly know what a great visionary and a human being he is. While the numbers are just enough to prove Anand Mahindra’s successful succession, there is one (of many) other thing(s) that absolutely made the Indians fall in love with him. 

The Nanhi Kali Project. A project for underprivileged girls to complete their schooling. It has approximately helped 3,50,000 girls since it was founded. 

The Mahindras, right from the first generation, believed in serving the people more than putting money in their pockets. They believe in humility, brevity, self-knowledge. And it shows. It truly shows. It truly shows.

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Rishika Mukherjee

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Mukherjee is an avid reader and loves to write as much as read. She is the youngest of all but handles chores like a 50-year-old woman. She takes a lot on her plate and somehow, eerily manages to get the job done. As Hazel Grace stated, she could read a good author's grocery list, and so would Miss Mukherjee. 

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