Wipro sells soaps and perfumes…

Having read the following piece (http://publication.samachar.com/pub_article.php?id=6362247) I was reminded that many of the firms that we see in the top rankings of India’s business pages actually started life as something totally different.

Understanding their evolution helps, at least in my opinion, to understand the Indian business landscape a lot better.

There are some notable examples:

For example, as the article states, Wipro actually started off as a consumer goods firm that sold cooking oil and soap to Indians, it was only in 1980 that Azim Premji had his eureka moment and decided to change tack and add an IT business to his group. Subsequently – as we all know – that’s what Wipro’s become known for, but it still stands true that Wipro has a thriving consumer goods business, also.

The other is KV Kamath, who turned a boring development finance agency into a juggernaut in the banking sector. Whilst this doesn’t doesn’t seem to be a major divergence today, in those days it was a huge leap he had to take to make the transition.

My final example is that of Sunil Mittal’s Bharti group, which today is best known for its mobile phone business, but I have no doubt that in a decade or so, we’ll be wondering how he made the leap from telecoms czar to retail guru, with thousands of supermarkets scattered all over India, selling groceries, vegetables and all kinds of stuff that the discerning Indian shopper wishes to buy. Let’s not forget he’s done this before, after all he had a successful venture selling bicycle parts in the 70s and then electricity generators in the 80s.

Of course, we could go into the TATA story just as well, but the point of writing this piece was simply to highlight the fact that these companies have incredible histories, which if you read into and factor into your dealings, makes doing business with them a lot more meaningful.