An in-depth survey of family businesses in India conducted recently has some interesting insights into how such businesses plan to grow in future. The PwC India Family Business Survey 2019 shows that nearly 60% of companies with a turnover of more than $20 million were present in multiple countries in one sector (35%) or multiple sectors (24%), reinforcing the belief that as companies increase in size, a key facilitator of growth is expansion into new markets or territories. The survey points out that this, perhaps, is why 78% of family businesses in India currently export their goods or services and 89% plan to do so over the next five years. “On an average, foreign sales account for 25% of the turnover for companies in India (26% globally) and in five years, this is expected to rise to 34% (33% globally),” it notes.

These findings assume particular significance when seen in the context of Bajaj Auto—the world’s third-largest motorcycle company with a top line of ₹30,000-crore—which is helmed by Rajiv Bajaj, the older son of group patriarch Rahul Bajaj. Bajaj Auto currently exports as much as 40% of its products and, consequently, likes to call itself “The World’s Favourite Indian”, a tagline it chose after decades of using the iconic earlier one, “Hamara Bajaj”. The new tagline reinforces the company’s strategy of exports being a key element of its growth strategy. Rajiv Bajaj tells deputy editor Aveek Datta, who travelled to Pune to piece together the cover story for this issue, that the origins of this export-driven strategy lay in what Rahul Bajaj told him: “Do what you think is best, but be the best in what you do.”

In other words, Bajaj Auto should be world-class and that could happen when the company exports 20% of its products. “It became very clear to me that as we broaden the range of markets we want to address, we need to narrow down our range of products and specialise in a few things,” Rajiv Bajaj says. Today, as much as 80%-85% of the company’s export revenues come from markets where it is either No. 1 or No. 2. Exports apart, product differentiation, specialisation, diversification, and partnerships form the other pillars of Bajaj Auto’s game plan for the future even as the Indian automobiles sector goes through what is arguably one of the worst phases it has ever seen.

Automobiles apart, financial services is another sector which is currently reeling in the throes of a crisis, thanks in good measure to the irregularities at one of the best-known non-banking finance companies (NBFCs), Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services (IL&FS). Today, a year after the IL&FS scam broke, and the government stepped in to appoint a team led by billionaire banker Uday Kotak to set things right, the NBFC sector is still feeling the aftershocks of that event. However, there have been positive fallouts as well, both regulatory and otherwise, as deputy editor Ashish Gupta argues elsewhere in this issue.

As the Indian financial sector begins picking up the pieces and attempting a return to normalcy, the coming days will prove what kind of lessons were learnt by stakeholders at large—regulators, independent directors, rating agencies, and auditors—from the IL&FS story. There’s still a very long way to go.

This was originally published in the November 2019 issue of the magazine.

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