Family isnt everything, work matters

Updated: Jul 28 2004, 07:46am hrs
It is passe now in family-managed business houses to appoint a son or a daughter straight on to the board of directors of a company, without any work experience. Fancy designations of executive director or joint managing director are pegged on to them and life goes on. But Rita Dixit and Manju Sharma, daughter and niece of the

Rs 3,500-crore Jaypee group patriarch Jaiprakash Gaur, had to go through the grind. They began right at the junior executive level 14 years ago in group companies before they could find their way into the top management bracket.

A trained chartered accountant, Rita joined as a trainee in 1990 in the accounts department of flagship Jaiprakash Associates Ltd. After a seven- year stint in different departments related to finance, she was shifted to Jaypee Hotels, which owns 5-star properties in Delhi, Mussoorie and Agra.

Her big break within the diversified Jaypee group came in June 2000 when she was asked to take up the challenge of establishing a 452-acre golf-centric real estate project in Greater Noida called Jaypee Greens. This project has been a great opportunity for me. We set up the largest and longest 18-hole golf course spread over 187 acres. It was done within nine months of signing the lease deed for the project in June 2000, against a deadline of one year. Other amenities such as 25 luxury huts, conference facilities and four stand- alone restaurants were added in the next six months, says Rita, who is now executive director of Jaypee Greens. She is candid enough to admit that she was initially reluctant to take up the Rs 3,000-crore project which involves another two golf courses and a massive commercial and residential real estate complex.

For Manju, her corporate career began in London and Australia where she went along with her chartered accountant husband. A drop-out from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi, who went on to do her masters in mathematics, Manju returned to Delhi in 1990 and joined Jaypee Hotels in the accounts department and is today the companys director (operations).

But how do senior executives within a company and the world outside treat women who hail from family-owned businesses Both Rita and Manju say that people within and outside the company do not take you seriously and are skeptical about a young family members seriousness and commitment to business.

Rita explains: It is more difficult to adjust internally as people tend to take you lightly and some even resent it to some extent. But then it is

your responsibility to become a part of the management team. So for me, establishing myself within the company was more challenging. Adds Manju: Coming from the family is a double challenge because you want to prove yourself to get genuine respect from other employees. Few years ago, the outside world would also not take you seriously, but things are changing now as more and more women are handling important positions and assignments in the corporate world. And once people see you working hard and seriously, their attitudes change.

There is yet another drawback. Rita says that working in your own family-controlled business often entails not getting the financial remuneration which top-level professionals working in the company are able to take home because they come on their own terms.

And how do they handle failures at work Mistakes happen and you learn from them. Anyone can make mistakes and try to minimise them by following a system of collective decision making, explains Rita. Both of them aver that they may not have been able to continue at work, but for the support of their families and husbands.

Rita says they have been lucky to be born into a business family where daughters are equally encouraged to work in the companies as the sons are and that the credit for this goes to their mothers. Our mothers may have been homemakers, but their contribution in our lives have been immense. Our fathers were always on the work sites and visited us only once in three months. So, it was our mothers who did everything, Rita believes.

Their husbands have been equally supportive, which allows them to put in late hours at work. I rarely reach home before 8-8.30 at night. A woman cannot focus on business and work successfully if she does not have a supportive family, says Manju, though she admits there was a time when she wanted to quit working.

Rita, who is married to well-known neuro radiologist, Dr. Vijay Dixit, says that her inspiration to work comes from her father who has created a Rs-3,500 crore business empire from scratch. Seeing my father achieve whatever he has, I always wanted to do something rather than sit at home, she says.

And what is their advise to young women in business families who aspire to one day sit in the board rooms with their fathers, brothers or husbands Being a family member can bring a sense of superiority or arrogance when you join the family business because even top management executives tend to treat you differently, agrees Rita. But then that is a perfect recipe for disaster in business. You have to become a part of the management team and earn genuine respect of people within and outside the company to be successful in business. And there is no short cut to hard work and ground- level experience, she adds.