March 22, 2020. It had started becoming apparent that India’s healthcare system would soon be hit by an avalanche of COVID-19 cases. The Mahindra Group was one of the first organisations to offer assistance to the government by raising funds internally to support the most vulnerable population in the Group’s ecosystem.
Since its inception, that immediate, almost reflex, response to any national need has been the hallmark of the Mahindra Group. Indeed, the flagship company M&M was set up in patriotic fervour by brothers JC and KC Mahindra, along with their partner Malik Ghulam Mohammed. In 1945, JC and KC quit their respective jobs and sold their Kolkata home to set up Mahindra & Mohammed as an entrepreneurial steel-trading venture in Mumbai.
The choice of steel as the first business was obvious. The metal is the foundation of industrial development, on which are built the core industries such as railways, automotive and construction that a young, growing nation would need, and JC was a steel man having risen in Tata steel. To build a steel factory was his dream.
M&M was launched as a business firm ‘imbued with a national purpose’
On November 8, 1945, an advertisement appeared in the Times of India – the very first by the newly formed M&M – explaining the intent of starting up the enterprise, ‘To secure for India that industrial development so indispensable to her future dreams’.
At Mahindra, this nation-first outlook has sustained as the underlying theme for 75 years. Company veterans call it the ‘intertwining of the horoscopes of Mahindra and India’. It is a union of the highest level, a match between a critical national need and the corresponding business solution.
M&M followed up the steel business with a foray into the automotive sector. Again, the economic need was clear. Post its independence, India was still primarily a rural economy, living in her villages. Road networks were poor, and what was needed was a sturdy utility vehicle that could traverse tough terrains.
In 1947, shortly after India declared Independence, Mahindra brought in the iconic Willys Jeep, a vehicle that had more than proved its mettle during the Second World War.
Over the next decade, by the early 1960s, as India’s challenge in food security grew, so did the search for solutions to improve agricultural productivity to feed her millions. As the Green Revolution rolled out across crop-filled fields, Mahindra launched tractors to help farmers increase yields through mechanisation.
The nation-building vision continued to drive M&M’s choice of businesses. The requirement for special and alloy steel was ever-present. To meet the demand, M&M tied up with Ugine Kuhlmann of France to form the Mahindra Ugine Steel Company, the first private sector alloy steel plant in India, in 1962. Mahindra’s first outreach internationally started in 1969, with the export of utility vehicles to the Yugoslavian market.
In the 1980s, telecom and Information Technology (IT) were powering the world’s automation revolution. In 1986, M&M and British Telecom announced a JV with 44% and 38% holding, respectively, in the incorporated company Mahindra British Telecom. This company became Tech Mahindra, one of India’s leading IT players and one that has made its mark in enhancing India’s threshold of cybersecurity. In 2018, Tech Mahindra set up the country’s first Cyber Security Operations Centre in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh.
The quest to find business solutions leveraging technology continued, and supply chain risk management at a global scale stood out in Mahindra’s vision towards global expansion while also providing India and Indians with an opportunity to spread their wings. Mahindra Group acquired Bristlecone, a US-based IT-supply chain company in 2004, to build a digitally resilient supply chain for the future.
Building the backbone of India’s agri, farm and power infrastructure
Mahindra has been inextricably linked to Indian agriculture from its earliest days. This connection was only strengthened with the establishment of ‘Mahindra Agri’ whose simple yet compelling vision is to ‘deliver prosperity to farmers to help them Rise’. The company does this through technology-enabled products, services and other initiatives that deliver real-world solutions to millions of farmers, helping them grow their incomes over time. Through the Group’s Farm Equipment business, which is the world’s largest tractor manufacturer by volume, Mahindra has been working closely with farmers for decades now and is their most trusted supplier of farm mechanisation products and solutions. In its crop care business, the company has a joint venture with the Sumitomo Corporation of Japan, giving it access to several unique agri-chemicals. Similarly, for the seed potatoes business, it has a JV with HZPC of the Netherlands, who are leading global players in the industry.
In order to further strengthen India’s infrastructure needs, starting with the farm mechanisation needs, Mahindra Powerol entered the field of power generation in 2001-02. Since its inception, Mahindra Powerol has made rapid strides in the Indian genset industry. Mahindra Powerol Gensets are the first choice of Telecom majors across India and overseas. Moreover, the brand has dominated the Indian telecom industry for the last 11 consecutive years. Mahindra Powerol was awarded the prestigious Deming Prize in 2014, a global quality award instituted by the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers (JUSE) that recognises businesses that have successfully implemented Total Quality Management (TQM). Recently, with the launch of Gas Powered gensets, Mahindra Powerol has taken a step forward towards the future with clean energy.
Today, it also provides power solutions to customers from a diverse cross-section of industries and segments like banks, buildings and construction, public sector units, hospitals, hotels, homes and manufacturing units in India and global markets. Apart from gensets, Mahindra Powerol also offers engines for various industrial applications.
Promoting financial inclusion in India’s less privileged communities has also been a factor when Mahindra ventures into new sectors
In 1991, Mahindra Finance started vehicle financing. Within a few years, this was extended to the financing of farm equipment in rural India to benefit from tractor financing. Later, when Mahindra entered the home financing business, it consciously tapped into the rural homes market to bridge the wealth divide between urban and rural India.
Housing, industrial development and promoting family holidaying
Mahindra entered the Real Estate development business in 1994 with Mahindra Lifespaces, India’s first listed real estate company. The business went on to address the needs of the Indian masses with regards to affordable housing as well. Further, Mahindra World Cities created an infrastructure for sustainable urbanisation collectively addressing the residential and commercial realty needs.
In 1996, Mahindra entered the Hospitality industry with Mahindra Holidays, driven by the aspirations of then-burgeoning middle-class segment in India; and offering aspiring middle-class Indian families’ fun-filled and affordable vacations in some of the most exotic locations in the country.
As a part of the global expansion strategy, the Group established Mahindra USA, a wholly-owned subsidiary, to represent the tractor business, in 1994. Mahindra Group has a growing global footprint with a business presence in 100+ countries creating thousands of jobs through direct and indirect employment, invests millions in facilities and R&D, and gives back millions through engagement with communities. 32 of the 72 Mahindra’s manufacturing facilities are outside India, while eight of its R&D facilities are in India and 20 development centres located across ten countries.
The idea of a resurgent India became part of the Group’s Purpose
‘Indians are second to none’ – this was part of the articulation of Mahindra’s first Core Purpose statement in 1997. That message went around the world as the company expanded its global footprint. When Mahindra became the world’s largest-selling tractor brand, M&M had taken Brand India to the world.
Mahindra has also put India on the global map by entering (and winning several races and accolades) the FIA Formula E championship. It has taken the farm sector business to other countries -- Finland, Turkey and Japan -- and set up the Roxor auto unit in Detroit, America’s auto heartland. Through its acquisition of Pininfarina, M&M has introduced Italian design expertise to the Indian auto sector, thus adding beauty to utility.
Mahindra has been ahead of the curve, in several sectors, bringing in economic solutions well before they gained popularity. Aftermarket is one such sector. With Mahindra First Choice Wheels, the company created a reliable partner for people to own used cars with pride and peace of mind. Electric vehicles is another such area, with Mahindra pioneering the electric three-wheeler Bijlee in 2002 and then acquiring Reva to become a market leader in electric mobility in the country. As India strongly pushes for e-mobility to reduce fossil fuel usage and carbon emissions, Mahindra was ahead of its time and ready to support India’s National Electric Mobility ambition in 2018. Mahindra today is the home of e-mobility in cars and small commercial vehicles and will soon launch e-bikes and e-scooters.
A focus on emerging sectors
An emerging economy spawns new industries, and Mahindra Partners was set up to promote new ventures. Many of the Partners companies have operations that help build a stronger nation. Mahindra Accelo, the erstwhile Mahindra Intertrade (the first company in the Mahindra Group launched before India’s independence), has evolved from steel trading to its position today as one of India’s largest steel processing companies.
Mahindra Susten was launched around a decade ago as a key player in India’s solar power story. Mahindra Water Utilities, based out of Tirupur, Tamil Nadu, is one of the first water utility companies with a public-private partnership model. Mahindra Waste to Energy works with municipalities across multiple states to process waste and produce clean energy.
As India’s manufacturing, infrastructure and consumer sectors grew, there was a need for efficient transportation of goods – both within the country and for export-import trade. Mahindra Logistics was born to cater to this demand, and it soon grew to become one of India’s largest organised logistics players.
Defence is a key sector where Mahindra has continuously applied itself to the nation’s security needs
In 2010, when the country needed to step up its domestic defence equipment production, Mahindra Defence was formed to rise to the occasion. Starting from a position as the largest private-sector provider of armoured vehicles to the government, Mahindra Defence has expanded into surveillance solutions, aircraft mobile surveillance and modern defence equipment for the army, navy and air force, ensuring India’s ‘atmanirbharta’ or self-reliance in critical defence areas.
The Group has also introduced new capabilities in the aerospace sector through small aircraft manufacturing. It is also supplying aerostructures to the world’s top aircraft brands.
It’s not just about business
Mahindra has risen to the call of social needs just as quickly. To promote gender parity, Project Nanhi Kali encourages girl-child education; over 450,000 underprivileged girls have been supported in their school education.
Higher education gets equal prominence at Mahindra United World College in Pune and Mahindra University in Hyderabad. Underprivileged youth are provided scholarships and skilling opportunities through Mahindra Pride Schools and the KC Mahindra Education Trust. To build green cover and rejuvenate barren lands, Mahindra Hariyali has planted over 18 million trees and helped revive community livelihoods among those who live off the land.
At Mahindra, nation-building isn’t merely an inspiring goal. It is about sowing and nurturing the seeds of India’s future and being a true partner in its economic growth and prosperity. That’s what Mahindra does, silently and steadfastly.
In an inspiring message to employees at the 75th -anniversary virtual celebration, Group Chairman Anand Mahindra said, “It is incredible how our Core values of good corporate citizenship, professionalism and the dignity of the individual, reflect the thoughts of our Founders 75 years later, looking back on the unique and first advertisement published by the company in 1945. And how our core purpose of Rise and the spirit of service it embodies, reflects their dreams for better land and a happier life. Their ideals have permeated our DNA. They have talked about India, but I am sure that they would be delighted to see that today we are taking those ideals across the world to every global member of the Mahindra family and every community that we serve.”
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