“I had an inheritance from my father,
It was the moon and the sun.
And though I roam all over the world,
The spending of it’s never done.”
Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls
Giving the fact that India ranks third globally in terms of the total number of family-owned businesses with 111 companies having a total market capitalisation of US$ 839 billion, after China and the US, familial businesses in India have always outperformed their peers in every region and every sector, irrespective of size. Likewise, Gujarat’s PC Snehal group has earned a number of accolades.
It is the legacy of the vision, shared values, culture and business ethics that runs the daily affairs of Gujarat’s PC Snehal group, in addition to handling highly technical civil engineering projects. For 41 years, in the ever-changing business scenario, the close-knit Patel family has managed to successfully operate the group. The two sons, Chirag M. Patel and Snehal M. Patel, stepped up under the leadership of Manubhai Tribhuvandas Patel, and now the next generation is on a roll, too. “In 1992, our father handed over the family business to us, and since then we have been taking care of it. Now, the next generation is also doing extremely well,” says Chirag, who started his career with flyover construction. In the early days, the group was one of the many contractors that specialised in working on radial collective well systems.
Chirag runs this company along with his brothers and sons. He has now moved on to the role of Chairman and is more of a mentor to his sons and other people in the company. In India, it has always been like this, says Chirag Patel, on seeing his son Chiranjiv Patel excel as Managing Director. “But it is not easy to prove yourself in a family business. My brother and I started working in this company under our father’s supervision, and he guided us in every way. In the last 10 years, the company has grown nearly 10 times. Now, my son and nephews are taking this legacy to the next level,” he adds.
The father-son duo candidly praises each other. Chirag proudly comments, “We were operating in only Gujarat, but ever since the young generation has joined us, we have spread our wings.” Today, PC Snehal group is not restricted to Gujarat but has earned a premier brand reputation in other states as well across the country. The group is working on several iconic projects in different states, including drainage and water projects in around nine states across India. He further says, “Today, the younger generation has taken over and is working from the front, and we are here for guidance.” Chirag is still very much involved in the business as he has light years of experience on him, which shows in the performance of the group.
As a boss, my father is a completely hands-on person. He gets fully involved when working. At the same time, he is extremely non-compromising when it comes to the values and the vision of the company, says Chiranjiv, when asked about his father as a boss. “I have learnt from him to stick to our moral values. No matter how much loss we are incurring, or how much we have to let go, my father does not compromise when it comes to his motto and values.”
Indeed, running a business as a family member has become super competitive. It is an additional pressure that Chiranjiv had to face on joining the group, and he had to prove himself, too. “My father told me, if you want to enter my company you have to undergo the same training as other employees. So, at the age of 21, I started my own chemical business to do something of my own, to learn the trade and prove myself. It took me aroung six years to get involved in my family business. And on that road, there were many challenges that I had to face; it was certainly not an easy task!”
It was also Chiranjiv who first went for private partnership, after getting involved in the group. Chiranjiv had diversified the business into various sectors, for instance, water distribution, which is getting major traction. “I had to convince my father to foray into this project, as earlier they had a bitter experience in this field. But today this segment gives us more than 50 per cent of our audit books.”
Chiranjiv further tells us, “I have done everything what a regular employee does; I have worked as a salesman in my own company. After two years of starting my business, I can proudly recall that I had 17 distributors working with me.
“Also, I do not want a post in my father’s company because he owns it, and, hence, I worked really hard to get to a credible position and earned the place where I am today.”
But as we say, small conflicts are inevitable! Yes, this duo too has arguments as their diverse interests sometimes come in the way. Chiranjiv says, “We have our fair share of arguments, but we have strategies to avoid them. We have transitioned into a corporate culture, which handles different departments and projects, and that has given us many professional insights. Most importantly, we have divided work amongst ourselves.” Currently, the company is working on 42 different projects, and there are a number of guidelines that the directors have to follow.
Chirag and Chiranjiv offer suggestions that can help manage the challenges of running a family business. “First, commitment to quality; our group is committed to quality and never ever compromises in this aspect. Second, focus on the timeline; we always aim to complete a project within the given timeframe. These are two mottos of ourcompany,” Chirag tells us.
He further points out the reasons of their success, “I always tell everyone to focus on new things as there is always less competition in the field. This is one of the main reasons of our group’s success. And last but not the least, the most important thing is sticking to the motto.”
For the Patels, everyone from the peon to the chairman are all equal, irrespective of the post. “Treat your employees as a pariwaar, work with them in harmony and work in teams. This is our policy,” says the senior Patel.
Tips for business owners
Feeling of letting go: For a family business to succeed, the first and the foremost important thing is to let go, and never worry about the things that others have and what they are doing. This attitude affects the work and work culture.
Put the company first: One should not have personal interests if he or she is at the senior, responsible post in the company. One should put the company’s welfare first.
Have a higher right: Sometimes, it is important to have higher rights in the company, but there are times when one has to pass on the baton to a team of highly professional people who are working for the betterment of the company. “We do not behave as owners; we are team players. Our company is already in the transition phase of getting professionally managed in terms of finance, legal, technical designing and so on,” says Chiranjiv.
Structure the family business well: Clearly divide and define the roles, responsibilities and departments of the family members for productive results. One member should not interfere in the others work, and give them space. But it is important to stay updated about what is going on, and share your views and concerns. Also, it is important to give a freehand to corporate and other departments.