Billionaire Nadir Godrej has said we need to “stop dividing the country” and urged the government as well as the industry to “do more” on this aspect. Godrej, the chairman and managing director of the diversified Godrej Industries, said we are doing very well on the economic front and also undertaking welfare measures like financial inclusion and education, but efforts ought to be made to “unify the country”.
“…I think we need to try and unify the country and stop dividing the country. I think that is important and I am sure the government also recognises the economic growth requires that, and we should be focusing on that,” Godrej told PTI on the sidelines of a book launch earlier this week. When asked if the industry also needs to do more on this front, he said, “Of course, industry should try and do things also by trying to be as inclusive as possible. And the government should also do more.” Godrej’s comments are rare among top industrialists, who generally refrain from speaking on social or political matters. The late industrialist Rahul Bajaj had in 2019 said that fear of reprisals prevents captains of industry from speaking out. Adi Godrej, Nadir’s elder brother and predecessor who helmed the business, had also warned in 2019 that rising intolerance and hate crimes can seriously damage growth.
Earlier, speaking at the event, Nadir Godrej delivered a speech in a poem format which touched upon a slew of issues. The industrialist said he would like to see more free speech where the “state’s long arm doesn’t reach and crushes voices that oppose”. He made it clear that we need to create a space “where active debate thrives and grows, where ideas win because they are right and not because of their own might.” Our thoughts need to be humanitarian, and not sectarian, he said, adding that while there are a lot of reasons to cheer, there is fear sometimes that things are not on track and we may be moving back as well. We need strong institutions, he said, adding that building them takes a long while they can be subverted or broken quickly. He said businesses also need to realise that delivering profits is not the only goal, and stressed that one can do well for oneself by doing good as well. We need to aspire for both social rights and economic growth, Godrej said, adding that inequality is “dire” and getting harder.
Highlighting the present theme of ESG (environment, social, governance) dominating boardroom discussions, Godrej said we do not need a world which is just green but need to create a “brave new world” which is green, fair and does away with inequality. “Environment isn’t all, in society let us take a call; let’s keep in sight every person’s human right,” he added. Touching on the freebies debate, he said the economy cannot take all doles in its stride and also welcomed the Supreme Court’s moves pressing for a decisive action on the topic.
He, however, said government spending should happen on public health and education, and termed the latter as the passport to realising the oft quoted demographic dividend. The industrialist also touched upon the Centre-state relations while enlisting his set of concerns.
On the economy, he said the GST collections are a hopeful sign and added that we are on a better track as commodity prices are on the decline and the domestic inflation should be fine. The economy is growing fast, and there are signs that the same will last, he added.
He said the speciality chemicals, where the Godrej group has interests, is doing well after the pandemic. Asked about any progress on the Godrej family split, Nadir Godrej declined to comment. He also did not offer a timeline for the same.