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My father allowed me to make mistakes: Anirudh Dhoot

As a child, Anirudh Dhoot watched his father and grandfather set up a black-and-white television factory in Ahmednagar. The third generation scion of Videocon Group talks to Phorum Dalal about his penchant for travel and music, and shares his future plans

Anirudh Dhoot, Director, Videocon Group, India

It was the happiest day for Anirudh Venugopal Dhoot when he kickstarted the Luna his grandfather, Nandlal, gifted him on his 15th birthday. “Every time I think about my childhood, I remember that teenager riding the bike on the streets of Ahmednagar in Maharashtra, the same place where my grandfather had set up the company’s first factory in 1984. My father and uncles assisted him,” says the director and sales-marketing head of the consumer electronics division of Videocon when I meet him at Mittal Towers in Nariman Point. Dressed in formal black trousers and a white shirt, Dhoot has a calm persona but talks with an eager voice, keen to share his life story.

Anirudh Dhoot
Anirudh Dhoot in Mauritius 

When his grandfather, a former sugarcane mill owner and food trader, set up Videocon three decades ago, the company sold black-and-white television sets. Today, it retails interactive Internet-enabled television sets, home theatres, video-conferencing set ups, washing machines, smartphones and tablets, with the third-generation Dhoot at the helm of affairs.

Born in Kolkata, Dhoot’s early days were spent in Ahmednagar. “I was extremely close to my grandfather. Those days in a smaller city, where life moved at a slower pace and people were more accessible, were lovely. I had the opportunity to observe my father help him set up the factory. By the time I turned 10, I loved hanging out with my friends, lazing in the vast gardens outside our bungalow, and taking part in the Ganpati festival. Our entire factory’s staff would come together for the festivities and we would welcome the idol with much fervour,” recalls the 36-year-old. However, it was a tragic incident for him when his grandfather passed away in a plane crash. “I can never forget his sharp mind, multitasking skills and love for social work,” he recalls.

The Videocon Group director holidays in Zurich
The Videocon Group director holidays in Zurich

Early days in Mumbai
After Class 10, Dhoot came to Mumbai, where Videocon set up its first office at Mittal Towers, Nariman Point. “I got admission in Sydenham College of Commerce and Economics at Churchgate. Apart from attending classes, I spent most of my college years driving around in my car with friends, taking long drives along Marine Drive, and sometimes, all the way to Lonavla and Pune. During this time, the travel bug bit me. We would go on road trips and rent cheap resorts at Mahableshwar,” reminisces Dhoot. He also spent many afternoons watching films at Sterling and Eros theatres. “Shah Rukh Khan was my favourite actor. My friends and I watched Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge and Pardes many times over,” recalls the businessman.

An average student, subjects such as marketing and labour laws interested him. “While education was necessary, I realised the importance of practical knowledge early on and tried to strike a fine balance between the two,” says the company’s third generation owner, who visited the Videocon office and spent time with the executives to understand the know-how of things during his college years.

MBA abroad and back
After leading the typical life of a collegian, Dhoot joined an MBA programme in Cardiff University, London.  “Once I joined the family business, it would be impossible to take a study break. My family was surprised when I told them I wanted to do an MBA. ‘Kya zaroorat hai, itna toh padh liya. Family business hi toh join karna hai’ (What is the need? You have already graduated. You will eventually join the family business), they said,” says Dhoot, who got a taste of global culture while living in the university. “While I made many Indian friends, I met people from Asia, Europe and UK, too. It was an experience of a lifetime, and the degree helped me get a perspective about the business,” reminisces the entrepreneur, who became a full-time employee of Videocon at the age of 22.

Once he returned to India, he spent the first year in practically each and every department of the company — right from finance to marketing, sales and manufacturing — to understand the intricacies of business. “I enjoyed marketing, creative product planning, advertising, media planning, public relations, as well as launching new products and distributing them. I would organise meetings with distributors and visit different factories. At 25, my father asked me to set up the Greenfield plant in Kashipur in Uttarakhand. I worked with collaborators from China and Korea and even went to China for training. Today, it is our second largest unit,” he tells us with a smile. He also shares a great rapport with his father.

“Extremely liberal, my father allowed me to learn from my mistakes and take independent decisions. He taught me that a company’s prime focus should be customer service and quality. He told me that all good things come at their own time, and patience is an irreplaceable virtue. I gradually understood that everyone must climb the ladder, one step at a time,” explains Dhoot, who believes that while running a family business, one can never have fixed office hours.

Today, he prefers to be in office by 9.30 am, but work goes on round the clock, thanks to WhatsApp and other communication forums. But to strike the right balance, the young businessman ensures he gets his daily dose of yoga, coupled with a game of table tennis and badminton at National Sports Club Of India (NSCI) health club at least thrice a week. “We are in the age where one can be virtually present in office. While I check my emails on my phone, I conduct group conferences across our India offices. While I am in office till 6.30 pm on week days, Saturdays I wrap up work by 4 pm, to spend the weekend with my seven-year-old son, Raunak, and wife, Pooja,” says the self-confessed gizmo geek.

Roller-coasters and moreDhoot plans his travel itinerary around the school schedule of his son, a Class 1 student. “Last year we went to Austria and UK, and within India, we went to Kerala and Sikkim,” says the adventure freak. “I have tried jet skiing and parasailing at beaches, and ridden roller-coasters and deadly rides in Disney World in Orlando, US and Hong Kong. You can call it my passion,” grins Dhoot, an avid postcard collector. “I have a collection of over thousand postcards. Earlier I used to post them, too, but with email, and social networking forums, no one values it any more. In fact, visiting a local bookshop to buy postcards is always a part of my travel itinerary,” he adds.

 When he is not travelling, Dhoot makes time for music, movies and live concerts. “Be it Kishore Kumar’s melodious tunes, or the latest Bollywood hits, songs transport me to a tranquil world. I really like the tracks of the Hindi film Two States. Every week, my wife and I go to the movies. I loved Mary Kom. The Indian boxer’s struggle is so inspiring,” says Dhoot, who finds live performances of Sonu Nigaam and Asha Bhonsle electrifying.

On the cards
On his personal agenda, the avid wanderer has two ‘must dos’. “I want to visit Kailash Mansarovar and then Bhutan and Maldives. We tend to travel to far-off places, but never really visit the beautiful destinations in our country. So trekking and camping in Leh Ladakh is on the list, too,” he signs off.

Inside Track
Born:
August 31, 1978
Education: MBA from Cardiff university, BCom from Sydenham College
Motto: Contribute to the country by creating employment and a world-class brand best advice you ever got: My dad told me, ‘Never give up in life, and the number of times you fail is not important’

My favourites
Movie: Gandhi
Book: Steve Jobs
Destination: Goa, South Africa
Song: Dekha Na Hai Re from the film Bombay to Goa

Kishore Kumar’s melodious tunes and Bollywood hits transport me to a tranquil world

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