Another very, very wonderful thing in the book is that each chapter opens with a wonderful story, it’s like weaving up a pashmina, writes the author.
Colours are the only things that matter in their life, Kuldip Singh Dhingra of Berger Paints once told a reporter. His brother Gurbachan Singh Dhingra agreed. They often discussed, in private parties, a dialogue from the blockbuster movie, Sholay, where Jaya Bhaduri gives a small lecture to an elderly person on the festive season of Holi, about the relevance and importance of colours in the lives of people and how life could turn bland if there were no colours. The brothers love that dialogue till date. No wonder their Rs 3,384 crore Berger Paints has grown to be India’s second largest paint company with an 18 percent market share.
And what is interesting is the fact that the brothers - Kuldip is the chairman and Gurbachan the vice chairman - do not hold any executive position in their company that is - very surprisingly - based in Delhi but headquartered in Kolkata, a city not many associate with business. The two bought the company from Vijay Mallya in 1991. The UB chairman was then on a super high, a very flashy tycoon. Many recollect how Mallya was very, very skeptical and almost called off the deal, saying he already had a buyer in place. But the brief conversation - where Mallya was at his flashy best - at Mahalaxmi Race Course in Mumbai eventually transformed to the buyout deal and Berger Paints changed hands.
Unstoppable, a tome from the stable of Penguin Portfolio, penned by corporate honcho and insider Sonu Bhasin, charts the unique growth story of the company and how it emerged out of the shadows of UB and created a niche for itself in two long decades, even outsmarting market leader Asian Paints. The billion plus brothers are a permanent fixture on the Forbes India Rich List.
And still, they stay miles away from the company. It’s like the ranch owner approach. He does not care about the cows or the cowboys. He sets in a process and ensures it functions smoothly and then, only counts the cash. Corporate cognoscenti in Delhi say there are high chances that the next generation Dhingras - Kuldip’s daughter Rishma Kaur and Gurbachan’s son Kanwardeep Singh - will also follow the hands-off, non-interfering approach.
Unstoppable scores where others have failed. In India, the big bucks stories of tycoons have rarely delved deep, did not show the personal side and always played the softie angle. This one stands out because the brothers opened up and talked their hearts out, sharing scores of personal anecdotes, including how the company flourished to be a paints giant from a group of orchard owners. Another very, very wonderful thing in the book is that each chapter opens with a wonderful story, it’s like weaving up a pashmina.
Consider some crucial points about the company. In 1990, Berger was the smallest player in the Indian market. The brothers set some aggressive goals and improved Berger’s financial health. They did some interesting technological innovations like getting Berger Easy Clean Paint, resistant to even the most stubborn stains, fungus. I remember my flatmate Aloke Mukherjee, a genial person, who worked with them for years at their plant in Sultanpur on the outskirts of Delhi and shaped some of their innovations and helped the brothers break through the iron wall of what was then the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) with their company, UK Paints (remember Rajdoot Paints). Mukherjee died a tragic death in Kolkata. He collapsed at the Howrah Station and could not be revived. I heard some wonderful stories about the brothers from Mukherjee, including how they did not pay any bribe during their stint in the USSR and how once the Dalai Lama advised the brothers not to deal in arms. Remember those were the days when India had a closed economy and growth was tough. But Mukherjee always told me about the confidence of the brothers. I see the same stories in the book.
The fourth generation Dhingras are a happy family. They have their business instincts and heart in the right place, actually in the same place.