Anu Aga hangs up her boots, leaves behind a stronger Thermax

By: | Published: August 9, 2018 4:54 AM

Anu Aga retired from the Thermax board on Wednesday, not seeking re-election. Two years ago, Thermax decided not to get into projects that involve third-party commissions and any kind of payments or inducements to acquire a business even if it meant letting go that business, and Thermax has lost out on some of such kind of projects.

Anu Aga, Thermax board, Thermax AGM, Thermax shares, Boston Consultancy GroupAga has retired from the Thermax board after crossing the age of 76 and has not sought to linger on in the company as patriarchs of many business families do, pointed out Meher Pudumjee, chairperson, Thermax.

Anu Aga retired from the Thermax board on Wednesday, not seeking re-election. Two years ago, Thermax decided not to get into projects that involve third-party commissions and any kind of payments or inducements to acquire a business even if it meant letting go that business, and Thermax has lost out on some of such kind of projects. In Thermax, it is an article of faith and the top management has to adhere to this code of conduct. In such a a difficult business environment, it took courage to say no to business and retain integrity instead. That is the legacy Anu Aga leaves behind in the company. Growth with profitability but not at any cost. Thermax continues to be a profitable business and revenues are still growing.

For instance, the company recently decided to get out of the municipal water business, in which it is considered difficult to do business without compromising on the company’s values. At its peak, the water business was a Rs 180-crore business with potential to multiply, but navigating the murky municipal waters was not acceptable to the company. Thermax has chosen to be an ethical company even if it means avoiding some of this kind of business. They are happy working with industry that values their technology and values in the water business. Aga hangs her boot at Thermax, a company she so famously pulled out of troubled waters and anchored to safety and laid the foundation for the Thermax 2.0 journey. Since then, Thermax has grown by more than 10x to a peak of Rs 5,250 crore and is hovering around this number despite a challenging business environment.

Aga has retired from the Thermax board after crossing the age of 76 and has not sought to linger on in the company as patriarchs of many business families do, pointed out Meher Pudumjee, chairperson, Thermax. Pudumjee said it was difficult to see her go but she is a stickler for governance and said the same rules should apply to professionals as well as promoters on the board, to retire at 75.
Pudumjee paid a tribute to her mother at the Thermax AGM in Pune on Wednesday.

Pudumjee said her mother took over in 1996 after she lost her husband Rohinton Aga in 1996. “Mum kept all the anguish, anxiety and pain of loss of a partner to keep the company together and be responsible to every employee, shareholder and stakeholders to become the CMD in 24 hours,” Pudumjee said.

Again during 1999-2000, when an anonymous worried shareholder wrote to her about Thermax shares falling from Rs 420 to Rs 36, hurting small shareholders and asking her what she was going to do about it, it hit her hard and she then took many tough decisions that helped turnaround the company, she said. That year, Thermax had for the first time ever posted losses. Aga felt it was time to get external help to save Thermax. She dissolved the Thermax board in 2000-01 and the their MD resigned. Aga got in the Boston Consultancy Group to restructure business. As per BCG suggestions, Thermax exited from all non-core non-essential businesses and JVs ranging from water to electronics to software, painfully let go of hundreds of people and sharpened focus on the energy, environment and chemicals segments of their business. Thermax turned around in 2001-02.

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