CFO Lifetime Achievement: Bharat Doshi – ‘Work is worship’

By: | Published: March 23, 2018 5:32 AM

He had always hero-worshipped Nani Palkhiwala and inspired by Louis Nizer’s My Life in Court, pursued a master’s degree in law. In college, he would stage mock trials of his professors on Annual Days.

CFO Lifetime Achievement, Bharat Doshi, Nani Palkhiwala, Reserve Bank of India, mahindra finance, Mahindra and MahindraThe balance sheet expanded multi-fold but with Doshi around, capital was always used efficiently, borrowings were never out of sync with the equity and the costs were always in check.

He had always hero-worshipped Nani Palkhiwala and inspired by Louis Nizer’s My Life in Court, pursued a master’s degree in law. In college, he would stage mock trials of his professors on Annual Days. But it was the early seventies and given his family’s financial circumstances — and the time it would take to establish himself as a lawyer — Bharat Doshi soon found himself in the corporate world. Doshi would have surely have become a top advocate given he loved speaking in public and played a leading role in theatre performances in school and at Sydenham College. But old-timers at Mahindra and Mahindra (M&M), where he spent four decades managing its finances, say he was never the argumentative kind. Sure, he loved a good debate and made his point forcefully but his was always a balanced and considerate view. And that’s probably why he was able to negotiate so skilfully with workers and labour unions in the early 2000s winning them over with his genuine concern for the older workers. Everyone at M&M misses Doshi, a man who mentored many generations even as he learnt from them. It was his ability to communicate with people that endeared him to them.

In his later years, as he discovered Kabir, Doshi would realise that it was the simplicity of the message that gives it its strength and makes people reflect. Over the last several years Doshi has spent a lot of time understanding Kabir, listening to Prahalad Tipania, who he says is like a guru. “Shabd ki chot lagti hai”, he says explaining the effect that Kabir’s couplets can have on one. For all his love of philosophy, Doshi was a hard-nosed professional during his M&M days playing a key role during the acquisitions of Punjab Tractors in 2007, Satyam in 2009 and SsangYong in 2010. The job was a challenging one and became even more challenging as M&M turned into a conglomerate branching out into several new fields, no longer the auto and tractor manufacturer it used to be.

The balance sheet expanded multi-fold but with Doshi around, capital was always used efficiently, borrowings were never out of sync with the equity and the costs were always in check. His role, in a company that was cashing in on the opportunities in a growing economy, was clearly more than that of a CFO’s and he played it beautifully both complementing and supplementing the efforts of the others in the top team.  As he says, the CFO is much like a juggler trying to handle multiple jobs together and he retired as executive director and group CFO.

But even as ensured M&M always stayed financially sound he also foresaw the opportunity in the field of finance and set up Mahindra Finance to exploit this potential. Even today Doshi has little time to spare as he runs from board meetings at Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to give a talk at the Banasthali Vidyapith a university for women. Every now and then he takes a break in Bengaluru playing with his grandchildren. Time well spent.

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