Early on March 16, 2019, the country’s spotlight turned towards the grand official residence of the President of India – the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Within the edifice, in a stately, chandelier-lit hall, a galaxy of VIPs including the Prime Minister of India and senior members of his cabinet had gathered to witness one of the country’s most prestigious felicitation functions – the Padma Awards ceremony. Minutes into the function, a gravelly-toned announcer called out the words every L&T-ite was waiting for - ‘Shri A.M. Naik, udyog evam vyapaar (industry and business)’.
Our Group Chairman Mr. A.M. Naik rose, greeted the PM and other distinguished guests with a namaste, and walked towards the stage. On stage, the President of India Shri Ram Nath Kovind pinned on Mr. Naik’s dark blue bandgalla a burnished, bronze-coloured medallion suspended on a pink riband and handed over a large scroll bearing a citation inscribed in decorative Devanagari.
Even for someone as used to being felicitated on stage as Mr. Naik, this was indeed something special. After all, this was the Padma Vibhushan. In its long, six-decade history of conferring distinction on citizens from India and abroad, very few from the field of business and industry have ever made it this far. Our Chairman is one of the few true-blue professionals from the field of industry to be so honoured (most of the winners are scions of family businesses who are in a sense born into exalted positions). This year – 2019, Mr. Naik was the only one from the field of Industry and Business to have been deemed worthy.
Accepting the award, Mr. Naik reiterated the sentiments he had expressed when his name featured in the Honours List on Republic Day. He had said: “I have always considered myself fortunate to be in a position of service to India and millions of my fellow countrymen. To secure high national honour for such service is a matter of the utmost joy.”
He added: “For me the Padma Vibhushan is also an acknowledgement of the contribution made to nation, industry and society by Larsen & Toubro – the company I am proud to have served for over five decades and led for the last two. I thank the Government of India for this honour and use this opportunity to congratulate my fellow awardees who have won recognition in different fields.”
Ten years ago, Mr. Naik had received the Padma Bhushan. He now becomes the first L&T-ite in the Company’s history to be conferred the Padma Vibhushan, apart of course from garnering a host of awards from national, international, professional bodies and the media.