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Amazing journey from the Shop floor to Boardroom of the gigantic L&T

Sneak Peak into Mr AM Naik's Life through his recently launched book "The Nationalist" authored by Mr Minaz Merchant

Actor-Hemu Shetty-The Nationalist-AM Naik-Minaz Merchant-Newztabloid-Larsen-Tourbro-L&T-Harper-Collins-Hemu-Shetty
The biography of feisty AM Naik's extraordinary journey, the last 5 decades comes alive with “The Nationalist” authored by Minaz Merchant
The day of Minaz Merchant’s book launch ‘The Nationalist- How A.M Naik overcame great odds to transform Larsen & Toubro into a global powerhouse’ published by Harper Collins India, will always remain an historical significance in the annals of corporate stories as it had the gathering of once-upon-a-time of hostile corporate gobblers who came in wholeheartedly to congratulate this occasion and to praise the honcho of the company which was under threat, constant siege and under the fear of losing their independence over the years. Beaming from ear-to-ear both Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries and Kumar Mangalam Birla, chairman of Aditya Birla Group, was present at the occasion when Naik nostalgically recollected how he battled against these two powerful and overly-aggressive Indian conglomerates making the crowd cheer with hilarity and entertained.

The book launch ceremony, with the presence of Asia's most renowned Industrialist and corporate heavyweights, brings the value of the book, status of the L & T honcho and the eminence of the author in the forefront and a power to reckon. The launch ceremony held on Saturday, November 18, was presided over by spiritual leader Ramesh Oza, Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani and the National Security Advisor to Prime Minister Ajit Doval and Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. AV Birla Group chief Kumar Mangalam Birla, Vedanta’s Anil Agarwal, Banker Uday Kotak, ICICI Bank’s Chanda Kochar, Deepak Parekh, Ashok Hinduja and Zee’s Subhash Chandra to Government Authorities were present, all this is also symbolic of the fact that inherently all corporate chieftains are friends and companions; need be, will back each other whenever felicitations abound.

The biography of this extraordinary journey, the last 5 decades comes alive with “The Nationalist”, penned by the eminent author. This is the story of an extraordinary business and the feisty leader, Anil Manibhai Naik, (popularly known as AM Naik) the non-executive chairman of the country's largest construction and engineering firm Larsen & Toubro (L&T), he has served for 53 years and led for the last 18. It narrates how the son of a schoolmaster in rural south Gujarat battled the odds to rise to the highest echelons of the corporate world. The hard-fought journey from the anonymity of a little village to the spotlight of international recognition demonstrates what it takes to succeed in the demanding world of business and industry.

In India Inc.’s crowded pantheon, L&T’s Chairman stands apart. Outspoken in his views, he is known to ask the tough questions that ruffle the status quo. His native candour and clear-headed assessment of the challenges that the country and its economy faces offers a rich mine of insight.

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Conglomerate moments! bigwigs launching the book, Mukesh Ambani flanked by AM Naik and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, seen in the photo-collage are Minaz Merchant  and  AM Naik being congratulated by Asia's most renowned Industrialist and corporate heavyweights during the launch
Since circa 1987, all the cash-rich corporates had an eye for this highly valued equity-driven conglomerate which had become the nation’s wonder in the stock market space. The aggressiveness of few those in the likes of Reliance and Birla claimed stake to their aspirations in wresting the reins of the company. Since then L&T in the fear of losing the independent identity was in turbulence. All the CEO’s till the incumbent had sleepless moments till they gained full Independence strategically to avoid the jaws of the take-overs. Speaking at the launch of his biography book, here on this gala evening Anil M Naik who was glowing with happiness and beaming from ear-to-ear reminisced how he thwarted hostile takeover bids from the Ambanis and Birlas in the early 2000s when the company had almost slipped from his hands and further about the historic three-phased demerger of Larsen & Toubro (L&T), which led to its emergence as a top player in engineering, manufacturing and projects segments. 

Author Minhaz Merchant spoke to Naik over several months to construct a compelling narrative. He takes you through AM Naik's life through this recently launched book. Chronicling about The Nationalist as a portrait of a man whose work and life have been bed rocked on a deeply felt sense of nationalism, synonymous with helping to build a strong and self-reliant India. Anil Naik’s journey has been one of grit, determination, entrepreneurial leadership, 16-hour workdays and a unique management style. What emerges is a visionary leader who ring-fenced L&T from corporate takeovers by creating an innovative employee welfare foundation and transformed L&T into a global technology and engineering powerhouse.

Naik also emerges as a devoted family man and a generous philanthropist who has donated most of his personal income to charities through family trusts focused on healthcare, education and community service. Naik’s father, Manibhai, a teacher who spent his life serving the rural poor, was his role model who taught him to be fearless and honest, with the motto: ‘If you are in the right, you have nothing to fear.’

“This is the story of a man who surmounted great odds to reach the pinnacle of success”, says Merchant also the biographer of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and the late industrialist Aditya Birla. “It demonstrates more than anything else that honestly – the quality Naik prizes most – pays the greatest dividend of all in the end: the respect of your peers, the loyalty of your colleagues, and the affection of your family.”

Majid Khan a colleague and longtime associate of Mr. Merchant joyfully adds " This is Indeed an exemplary work, Mr Merchant's experience as a seasoned editor, veteran author and a successful media entrepreneur, could truly reconnaissance and bring out the intrinsic essence of this conglomerate maker of this gigantic L&T to describe in detail of this extraordinary  journey from company's shop-floor to Boardroom  written in a picturesque and elegant way making it enjoyable and narrating India's success stories amidst the challenging arena"

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Author Minaz Merchant and his colleague Majid Khan having a jolly photo session during the launch of the former's book
Describing L&T as a temple, the 75-year-old corporate honcho and Padma Bhushan awardee say in the book and in a recent interview, Naik had said that his success mantra “is very simple. It is passion and devotion. Devotion is beyond the stage of dedication and far beyond that of hard work.  Devotion is when you worship your God in a temple. My mandir, my temple is L&T.” Few stories of corporate leaders bring in such a spiritual dimension to a day in the office.

Actor Hemu Shetty, a former colleague and a friend of Mr Minaz Merchant, puts aptly "Truly a CEO-Studded evening, a gala affair, with India's most recognized, accomplished chieftains and distinguished honchos of the corporate world , paying an extraordinary tribute to this homegrown-conglomerate-Genius of the world, Mr AM Naik through the newly launched book which chronicles his experience of the strategic management culture in managing this diversified conglomerate in an innovative way against the backdrop of the India's changing economy which was aggressively proportional to the highly volatile global scenario. Simultaneously being way ahead of his peers." And recalls how he could shape himself by referring the quote of this feisty honcho from one of the interviews he gave to a renowned publication which says "The chief qualification of a CEO is leadership - his ability to anticipate changes and ensure that his organization stays ahead of the curve". Truly the man of his calibre could save L&T and keep it away from the aggressive take-overs.

Talking of sustaining cordial relations, over the years since the attempted takeover of L & T during the helm ship of Mr Udipi Vasudeva Rao popularly known as UV Rao the then managing director and CEO. L & T had been in between the tug of war from various hostile Industrialists longing for this valuable equity. Till now all the CEO's till the current incumbent was sleepless as they couldn’t let the takeover happen. Few years till now Naik walked a tightrope to emerge with L&T as an independent corporate entity, largely controlled and owned by employees and institutions, and without a promoter. The Aditya Birla Group took the cement business as a part of the deal. Genuinely, the village boy had come a long way, locked horns with some of the top businessmen of the country and yet managed to remain good friends and had cordial relations with them. 

The large conglomerate which Naik steered, is among the most admired companies in the country. It has an annual turnover of Rs. 1,20,000 crore and a market capitalization of more than Rs. 1,60,000 crore. Its track record includes several critical national projects: India’s first nuclear-powered submarine; strategic weapon and missile systems, space exploration including maiden missions to the moon and Mars; global infrastructure; airports; metro rail systems; and nearly all of India’s nuclear power plants. L&T’s Hazira manufacturing complex, Vadodara’s Knowledge City and the Kattupalli shipyard have become symbols of world-class Indian engineering and technology.


MINHAZ MERCHANT is the biographer of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and the late industrialist Aditya Birla. He founded the pioneering media firm Sterling Newspapers Pvt. Ltd, which was later acquired by the Indian Express group. A widely published newspaper columnist, Minhaz’s book, The New Clash of Civilizations: How the Contest between America, China, India and Islam Will Shape Our Century, was published in 2014. Recipient of the Lady Jeejeebhoy scholarship for physics, Minhaz lives in Mumbai with his wife Kahini. The couple have two children, Suhail and Tehzeeb.

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