Media lavishes much attention on those who have started and helmed successful business ventures. On the other end of the spectrum it also focuses on new and promising start-up founders who will hopefully steer their companies to glorious heights. The Consolidators by Prince Mathews Thomas talks to a unique group- the second generation entrepreneurs who have consolidated their family businesses and taken it to newer heights.
The Consolidators uses storytelling to show that being a second generation entrepreneur in the family business comes with its own set of challenges. Popular media may not glorify this group as much. However, as these case studies show, carrying a legacy on your shoulders and negotiating a challenging business scenario is no cakewalk.
While the author acknowledges that first time entrepreneurs deserve to be applauded, he points out why second generation entrepreneurs who then take that business forward are very important too. He says about this faction, “they might be born with a silver spoon, but they had to make sure they didn’t lose it”.
There are important lessons to be learnt from success stories of second generation entrepreneurs in family businesses. These lessons are interwoven in the stories described in the book.
The virtue of Scalability
The major theme that emerges here is that of scalability. In order to take the family business to dizzying heights, these second generation entrepreneurs have had the vision of scalability and the boldness to go in that direction. Reading these stories makes one aware of the precarious balance between security and opportunity that these entrepreneurs have successfully navigated.
Case for a story
The Consolidators presents seven case studies. However, what makes these compelling to read is that they are all written in form of stories. This is where Thomas’s skill as a storyteller truly shines forth. There are moments when one feels the tension and uncertainty of the businessman on the verge of turning around his father’s business or taking a risk with the clear awareness that if things went wrong there was no looking back. At the same time the reader can sense the exhilaration of a project well executed.
At the end of each story there are some bulleted lists of learnings. However, since each story is different there are some unique themes that emerge. On reading about Ajay Bijli and how he turned a simple family owned local cinema into PVR, one of India’s largest multiplex cinema chain, one gets the sense of how scalability can completely redefine a business. Abhishek Khaitan’s tale illustrates how the confluence of old and new views and the balance between legacy and new thoughts add on to direct a company into the future.
Mithun Chittilappilly’s story talks of how the second generation entrepreneur got in professionalism and new thoughts and systems in an old established business to expand it in an ever changing world. T.S. Kalyanaraman’s story again shows how a continuous penchant for risk taking pays off.
The case of Rituraj Sinha illustrates how a young entrepreneur can incorporate new thoughts and practices, with support and confidence of old employees. Vikas Oberoi illustrates how dreaming big creates wonders. Priya Paul took on the reins of the family business in midst of great personal tragedy, but emerged victorious and turned things around. Hers’ is a story of grit and determination.
Grooming for business
The author also weaves into the narrative, instances and examples of how parent-child interactions ( father-son in all these cases except one, that of Priya Paul) during childhood or certain childhood experiences have worked towards building the outlook and personalities of these entrepreneurs. Yes, there is an element of childhood influences creeping in. Even as children, what they absorbed about the workings and culture of the business seems to have influenced them, and continues to do so.
The Consolidators touches upon a specific aspect of entrepreneurship. It talks about the role of second generation entrepreneurs set in the context of modern India. It will offer useful insights on the dynamics of family business from two points of view – the first and the second generation entrepreneur.
The Consolidators by Prince Mathews Thomas
Published by Penguin Random House, 2017