L&T Group Chairman Mr. A.M. Naik has led an extraordinary life and accomplished things quite unlikely to be achieved by anyone else anytime soon. For more than half-a-century, the man has shaped the fortunes of L&T through his work. In a lifetime of unstinting labour he rose from the greasy old shop floors of Powai to the Company’s highest office, to not just save L&T from losing its identity but also to reconstitute it for the new millennia.
Mr. Naik’s ascent, from his humble beginnings in rural Gujarat to the top echelons of the corporate world, is captured beautifully in a biography by celebrated journalist and writer Minhaz Merchant. Titled “The Nationalist” the book paints an intimate portrait of the man – first among all the L&T-ites – and serves to inspire an entire generation to come.
The book, launched at an event in Mumbai on November 18, 2017, amidst a high profile gathering of business titans, top bureaucrats, government officials including the Honourable Chief Minister of Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis and public personalities, offers readers a detailed account of Mr. Naik’s 53 years long journey at L&T and the events that shaped both his and the company’s destiny.
Held in the grand ballroom of the Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai, the event was also witnessed by members of Mr. Naik’s family, including his wife Mrs. Geeta Naik and son Jignesh Naik, old friends, colleagues and a number of senior L&T-ites who had gathered to applaud and celebrate the man.
Penned by Mr. Minhaz Merchant, renowned author & columnist, The Nationalist traverses the life of Mr. Naik, from his upbringing in a tiny village in Gujarat to his formative years at L&T in the 60s and the 70s to his eventual rise in the company ranks and the challenges he faced as a leader during some of L&T’s most difficult times.
Sharing some of his experiences working with Mr. Naik on the biography, Mr. Merchant noted that Mr. Naik’s abiding belief in the national interest is quite remarkable and the manner in which he successfully aligned L&T with the country’s needs in its core areas of infrastructure, power, and defence and built a strong profitable business is truly praiseworthy. The author appeared equally moved by Mr. Naik’s professionalism and integrity and said that L&T’s character in many ways is shaped by his subject’s personal attributes.
A film, commissioned by L&T on Mr. Naik especially for the occasion preceded the formal launch. Made by renowned film-maker Mr. Zafar Hai the film also titled “The Nationalist” perfectly encapsulated the spirit of the book and gave the audience a glimpse into Mr. Naik’s personality and his signature achievements as L&T Chief.
Spiritual Guru, Shri Ramesh Bhai Oza, who had travelled from Gujarat to be at the event, released the book.
Following the launch, Mr. Naik delivered an address in which he said that he considered himself extremely fortunate for having realised his dream of working for L&T and reaching to a stage from where he could reshape that dream. He recalled the teachings of his educationist father and the values he was raised on, of caring for others and serving the nation.
He noted how he tried living up to the nationalistic ideals by building a strong L&T and actively participating in national missions in nuclear power, aerospace, infrastructure and defence.
“I believe that a company’s ethos and orientation is shaped decisively by its leadership and I have always tried to instill in young L&T-ites a feeling of wanting to serve the country and I pray that L&T, which has been and will always remain a part of my life, scales new heights while fulfilling its larger mission of helping build the India of a billion dreams,” said Mr. Naik ending his speech to a rousing ovation.
Speaking next Mr. Mukesh Ambani, Chairman & Managing Director, Reliance Industries, touched on Mr. Naik’s patriotism and his commitment to the national cause and described him as the first and “original make-in-India man”.
He spoke graciously of Mr. Naik and recalled instances from his personal association of over 35 years with him. He noted how every time he at Reliance would speak of importing technology or equipment from other countries, Mr. Naik would find a way to do it locally and without any comprise on quality.
Touching on decades old business relationships between Reliance and L&T, Mr. Ambani said that it’s a relationship based on mutual trust and respect for each other. He also spoke of the future opportunities of growth and said that India stood to grow to from USD 2.26 trillion economy to USD 7 trillion in the coming decade and that it was up to engineers and entrepreneurs to take a lesson from Mr. Naik’s life to capitalise on that opportunity.
Spiritual Guru, Shri Ramesh Bhai Oza said that Mr. Naik’s life can be summarised in three words viz., determination, dedication and devotion, qualities without which success is impossible. Hailing him as a true “karmyogi”, he said that people should take lessons from Mr. Naik’s life. Shri Oza also spoke of Mr. Naik’s charitable work in the areas of health and education, something that’s helping thousands from the disadvantaged sections of the society in his native Gujrat.
Reminiscing about his past interactions with L&T and Mr. Naik in particular Mr. Ajit Doval, National Security Advisor, said that he, in his long career hadn’t come across many people as committed to the nation and as passionate about contributing towards its needs as Mr. Naik. “His work in guiding L&T to cater to India’s defence needs is nothing short of remarkable,” he noted.
Mr. Devendra Fadnavis, Hon’ble Chief Minister of Maharashtra, who presided over the event as Chief Guest also spoke of Mr. Naik’s contribution, both to the industry and the nation in glowing terms. He said that Mr. Naik’s lifetime of work and his accomplishments have turned him into an institution and that the nation owed him a debt of gratitude. Mr. S.N. Subrahmanyan, CEO & MD, L&T, brought the event to a close with a formal vote of thanks.
It is said that true greatness is hard to replicate. Impossible even. One can try any number of permutations of oft-cited virtues like hard work, intelligence, and passion and still come up empty. The math simply doesn’t add up. Even fate doesn’t always guarantee a place among the giants. And so contrary to what life coaches and self-help gurus prescribe, sometimes it is best not to emulate the great ones. A better way perhaps of reconciling with one’s own limitations is to take inspiration from their lives and pleasure in their feats.
The Nationalist offers both in copious amounts.