Home Book trading Book Review – The Ambuja Story: How a Group of Ordinary Men Created an Extraordinary Business by Narotam Sekhsaria

Book Review – The Ambuja Story: How a Group of Ordinary Men Created an Extraordinary Business by Narotam Sekhsaria


By Nupur Pavan Bang

Book: The Ambuja Story: How a Group of Ordinary Men Created an Extraordinary Business
Author: Narotam Sekhsaria
Price: 699/-
Pages: 368
Year: 2022
Publisher: Harper Business, India

Efficiency is the name of the game: Once upon a time there was a boy named Narotam. He was born into a Marwari family in Chirawa, Rajasthan. His family took him to Bombay (now Mumbai) when he was three years old. There he was adopted by his grandfather’s younger brother who had no son of his own. This practice was a means of ensuring lineage continuity in a patrilineal society. Fate had plans for him. This is his story and that of the company he built.

Ordinary is relative

Narotam and his family were ordinary. Ordinary compared to the Bajaj who were their neighbors. But living in the same building as the Bajajs, who owned and managed one of the largest business houses in the country then and now, certainly can’t be ordinary. Likewise, Narotam had an ordinary upbringing. A boy next door. He struggled in school but finished first in the class. Was aimless and unambitious but went on to study in some of the best colleges in Bombay.

Entering the civil service or landing a job in a bank or a multinational was the dream career for those entering the labor market in India in the 1960s and 1970s. This is not the case for a boy growing up in a Marwari house. Working for someone else was unthinkable. So he joined the typical cotton trading family business. It has proven itself in various ways. Whether it was getting orders from Finlay, having the foresight to buy more for his client when prices started to rise and the client was on vacation, being fair even when he would have been able to earn a lot more money, and to earn, maintain and exploit social networks, manifested in the way he operated. Nothing he did was extraordinary. Just ordinary things done right to achieve extraordinary results.

Greater shores beckoned

Narotam’s “dil” wanted more. Forty years ago, entrepreneurship was not a buzzword. Or the ease of doing business. Ambuja’s story is not the usual startup story we are used to reading in the 21st century.

Narotam grew up in a family of traders. The DNA required for manufacturing is very different from commercial DNA. After spending a decade as a trader himself, setting up a manufacturing unit for a commodity he knew nothing about, shouldn’t have been easy. And it wasn’t. The book highlights the vulnerabilities and many uncertainties facing the Founder. It also shows how he adapted every step of the way. He recruited the best, treated them with respect and retained them. Did not compromise on the quality of the factory, although it trusted newcomers rather than established players. Financial management, credit policy and high ethical standards were all consciously incorporated into the creation of Ambuja. While there are many lessons learned from history, the three I would like to highlight here are efficiency, innovation, and brand building.

Efficiency: Cement is a commodity. There is little room to differentiate the product itself. But there’s plenty of room to differentiate efficiency. Process efficiencies, adjusting factories to improve productivity, dust management systems and ensuring that everyone does their job well are just a few examples. The company has efficiency written all over it.

Innovation: Innovation does not mean using artificial intelligence and machine learning to solve problems only with digital solutions. Innovating, doing things differently, to find better or more cost-effective solutions such as transporting cement by sea when no one else was doing it in India, and making small changes to factories to achieve a big impact, has played an important role in Ambuja’s profitability. From the very beginning.

Branding: In a product where it was difficult to charge a premium, investing in building the brand early on, as if it were a consumer product, helped Ambuja gain traction even in presence of existing giants. Ambuja continued to build and improvise on its brand image as it grew. The results were all too visible.

Values ​​and responsibility

Being born into a Marwari family, I have often heard of and witnessed philanthropy without anyone knowing. The left hand should not know if the right hand gives. Such beliefs leave an indelible mark on everyone. It was no different for Narotam. He writes how values ​​and spirituality kept him “calm and centered even in the most turbulent times. The values ​​of ethics and compassion he [his father] taught me has guided me in everything I have done in my career” (page 134). The Ambuja Cement Foundation has been far ahead of its time in embracing impactful corporate social responsibility projects and transforming the lives of the communities around which it operates and reaching beyond those communities. Resilience

An entrepreneur starts when he spots an opportunity. But the time at which he should go out is also important. Quitting doesn’t just mean selling the business. It could also mean redefining the role of the founder to ensure continuity beyond him. The confidence that the business would survive beyond the founder is what makes it enduring. Even without planning it, Narotam had built a business that didn’t need him on a daily basis when he had cancer.


There are many books on industrialists and entrepreneurs. Few of them go into so much detail regarding the process of thinking about every aspect of starting and running the business. This book is focused on building Ambuja, easy to read, comprehensive, and describes the trials, turbulence, and triumphs at every stage.

The author is Associate Director, Thomas Schmidheiny Center for Family Enterprise, Indian School of Business. Can be contacted at [email protected] The opinions expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online. Reproduction of this content without permission is prohibited.Ibitten.