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Tribute to V.Narayanan

A Consummate Corporate Manager

For over 60 years V Narayanan (VN) contributed richly to the evolution of Indian management. Soon after graduation in 1959, he joined Unilever-  London, at the age of 21. Returning to India after nine years, he joined Chesebrough Pond’s Inc in the marketing department, became its chairman and managing director and retired in 1997.

 TT Krishnamachari, as the head of TTK & Co, brought several multinationals into India for contract manufacture and marketing of several branded products like Pond’s, Kiwi… In 1957 TTK & Co set up a contract manufacturing facility at Bengaluru for Pond’s. This shifted to Chennai a decade later. Many of an earlier generation would remember experiencing a pleasant aroma of Pond’s products permeating the air while passing through Pallavaram.

 In 1977, at the diktat of George Fernandes, Pond’s India Ltd was set up as an incorporated Indian company. Narayanan as the head, was innovative in improving foreign exchange earnings of the company to balance the outgo on imports and dividends. Like other multinationals like Hindustan Lever, ITC and Pepsico, Pond’s diversified production into several non-related products like footwear and other leather goods, thermometers and even mushrooms! These businesses thrived for a while and were phased out after the liberalisation of 1991. (The thermometer business landed the company into lengthy litigation over environmental damages caused to Kodaikanal).

 Narayanan’s expertise was sought after by a number of corporates. Sundram Fasteners, for instance, had his counsel as an independent director of the board for 24 years. Even the Tamil Nadu government’s TNPL had him as a director for a while.

 IE had its precious association with Narayanan: in 1993 IE launched the annual Business Excellence Award for a southern corporate along with a lecture by an eminent public figure. A three-member team of prized managers of the south – V Narayanan, M K Raju and Ramesh Gelli – helped draft the norms for selecting the awardee, giving equal weightage to financial performance and social concerns.

 Narayanan had a high pedigree: son of the illustrious civil servant, Venkateswara Ayyar, ICS.

 “Success to us is not a destination, but a journey,” VN once told Pond’s shareholders. He achieved this continuously till his demise.  SV      

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