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BW Businessworld

Book Review: Electric Dreams

Anil Rai Gupta, who is the current CMD of Havells India, brings a personal touch to the tale, writes Vinu Syriac

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When does a biography become a hagiography? When it treats its subjects with undue reverence? What if a son writes a biography of his father? In most cases, wouldn’t reverence be natural, and not undue? Can a son

Be objective about his father? At least, in the eyes of the reader? Anil Rai Gupta, son of Qimat Rai Gupta — founder of Havells — addresses this conundrum right at the beginning of this book by making it clear that he is telling a life story, one that affected him and that he feels needs to be told, and not making any attempt to bring multiple viewpoints to it.

Most of us first heard of the electrical goods company Havells via the ‘Shock laga’ ad, an extremely over-the-top attempt at telling you that all switches are bound to give you a shock, and thus one needs to invariably switch to Havells. More recently there was the social message-laden ‘Wires that don’t catch fire’ ads. But Havells was there for much longer. The story of Havells is intertwined with that of the man who made the brand what it is now – Qimat Rai Gupta, also known as QRG.

It was not exactly a rags-to-riches story, but there is still an element of excitement when reading about how a common trader refused to be content with his lot and chased his dreams right to the end of his days. It is the story of how a man could aspire, how ambition is what separates one from one’s peers, how the best managers are born and not trained. It also tells us there is always a personal cost for success. Coincidentally, the name Qimat translates to ‘price’.

The story of Havells also finds depth and character especially in the part that talks about the Sylvania acquisition in 2009 and QRG’s struggle in turning it around. It is a different version of the David and Goliath story in which a small Indian company takes over a much bigger, but troubled, international giant and, after a lot of challenges, turns it around. The legend of QRG reached its peak with this turnaround.

Anil Rai Gupta, who is the current CMD of Havells India, brings a personal touch to the tale. He sheds light on one of the lesser-known figures in Indian business. But a business lesson, it is not.