New Delhi: Describing L&T as his "life with priority beyond wife and children", the diversified conglomerate's long-serving chief A M Naik says he will pass on the reins to his successor S N Subrahmanyan next year and the focus is now on grooming the next line of leadership.
74-year-old Naik, who has been with Larsen and Toubro for 52 years, including about 18 years as its head after rising through ranks, said he knows everything "on the pulse" at L&T and things might not be as easy for his successor but he will ensure that the company remains in strong hands.
"I don't want the criticism that Mr Naik did a great job when he was present, but as soon as he went the company did not do so well. It is my life.
"So I often sing Raj Kapoor song from the film Mera Naam Joker -- Jeena yahaan, marna yahaan; Iske siva jaana kahaan (I will live here and die here; Where else can I go)," Naik told PTI in an interview here.
He described Subrahmanyan, currently Whole Time Director, Deputy Managing Director and President at L&T, as the "brightest that we have got" and said he was being mentored extensively across all the major businesses.
As per the succession plan, Subrahmanyan will take over on October 1, 2017, said Naik, currently Group Executive Chairman at the USD 15-billion giant that is present across engineering, construction, infrastructure, financial services and technology businesses, among others.
"I have treated this company as my life and nobody will be interested more in creating an outstanding successor as me. I have considered it as a temple with priority beyond my wife and children and I would want the company to be even more prosperous after me," he said.
Naik said Subramanyan has been the biggest beneficiary of his mentoring since 2006 and has been present during all his high-level negotiations and business meetings.
"In the last 4 years, after he joined the Board, I took him to very active mentoring on a day-to-day basis. In last six months, knowing that the company is very complex, apart from L&T Construction which he runs and accounts for 45 percent of the business, he has been involved in many other businesses.
"I gave him shipbuilding, then I gave him the Hyderabad Metro, I involved him for IT and technology services and slowly I will involve him for more so that from one year from now, as much one can mentor, that will be done.
"Of course, most of these companies are formed by me, almost 75 percent, so it will never be the same as somebody who has started from the clean slate, but as much as one can do in the fastest possible way, that is being done to create that successor," he said.
Naik also rued the lack of leadership talent in the country for manufacturing and projects businesses and said it is even more difficult for a group like L&T with as many as 82 businesses.
"In India 90 percent people go abroad. The smartest IITians and smartest MBAs all go abroad and those who live here work in IT, technology services and financial services, strategy and all that. So, for actual manufacturing and project businesses, which is very very hard and tedious work, only the second level engineering colleges are available," Naik said.
"Therefore we have started extensive training programmes and a seven-step talent development programme within L&T where we say anybody, who is even average or otherwise, becomes smarter than IITians. That is the programme on which we are depending. This sort of saying that take anyone from the road and make him smart enough to conquer the world...
"We are creating the leaders. We will have to continue to do that internally," he added. He said the group has a sort of management school in Lonavala that has no parallel.
"We have a project management school. There will be a time when we will take 50 percent from outside and 50 percent from inside," he added.
Naik also explained he mentors 18-20 people at the startup stage of their lives as his Executive Assistants and each one of them is assigned to one company. They are present during all his important meetings as part of their learning process.
"They learn how the negotiations are done and that is the exposure all of them get. Similarly, when the people are at very high management level, I take the chosen few for mentoring. So, at any given time I have 20-24 persons for mentoring," Naik said.
He said L&T Group is in very good hands and it will remain very strong, as the succession planning exercise is being very well done.
"Now, the task is to find the successor to the next level. My next level is done, and the next step needs to be put in place. The mechanism for that would need to be put in place.
"We need to find who will do this mentoring of 17-18 people that I have been doing, as Subramanyan will have very little time. I had time because I knew everything on the pulse, while he will have a lot of work to do on a day-to-day basis. But he is the brightest that we have," Naik added.