“Ceat Mahal” - The Corporate headquarters of the prestigious RPG Enterprises is a beehive of activity. This massive group has interests in several businesses, Telecom, rubber, Hotels, Computers and finance to name just a few. The group, whose revenues are in excess of $2.2 Billion, is reflective of the ambition and hard work of the man called Rama Prasad Goenka.
Rama Prasad Goenka was born on March 1, 1930, to Keshav Prasad and Rukmini Devi Goenka in Calcutta. The Goenka's were a prominent and majestic family in Calcutta. RP's grandfather Sir Badridas was the first Indian Chairman of the Imperial Bank (now State Bank of India) in 1933. RP had the bloodline of his ancestors, and was talented in finance and commercial activities from a young age. He graduated from the Presidency College in Calcutta, in 1950. His father Keshav Prasad got RP a job in a British company called Duncan Brothers as an Assistant.
Duncan Brothers was a prosperous British firm with interests in tea and jute, and had continued business in India even after independence. RP was unhappy working in Duncan Brothers due to the racism that existed there. But his father requested him to stay on. This was because Keshav Prasad's dream was to take over Duncan Brothers one day. Keshav Prasad's dream eventually came true when he bought over Duncan Brothers in the earlt 1960’s, which was lauded as a major achievement at that time. Under his aegis, and his sons' support, Duncan Brothers grew to become a huge and Prosperous company.
The Goenka's also acquired a few other companies (textile, jute, tobacco etc.) over the next few years. By then, Keshav Prasad's sons – RP, Jagdish and Gouri - were completely involved in the business along with their father. In the 1970s, the brothers decided to part ways, and their father reluctantly split the list of companies three ways. R.P. Goenka got Phillips Carbon Black, Asian Jute, Agarpara Jute and Murphy India. He was unhappy with this deal, as the blue chip Duncan had gone to his brother.
But there was no room for argument, and RP took on this situation as a challenge, promising himself that he would grow his share to be larger than the other brother’s shares put together. The split carne as a blessing in disguise, as RP was able to strategize more freely and make quicker decisions. His first break came in the form of Ceat India, which he acquired after selling off his stake in Agarpura Jute. Ceat was being hived off by its Italian parent, due to a financial crisis. RP seized this opportunity, and bought the company for Rs. 1.2 crores. Under his leadership, Ceat started to do exceptionally well and eventually became the flagship of the RPG stable.
Now RP was on an acquisition spree and bought companies quickly in succession KEC, Searle India, Dunlop, Spencer & Co to a name a few. Exceptional management strategies and fine business acumen guided each of these companies towards great profits. In 1992, the group achieved the status of becoming a $1 Billion company. RPG Enterprises was now amongst the top 10 business houses in India. RP’s dream of being the numero uno amongst his brothers had come true. While his business was flourishing, RP maintained an excellent relationship with Late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. He was said to be very close to Mrs. Gandhi’s confidantes R K Dhawan and Pranab Mukherjee. These contacts helped him overcome hurdles in the corporate jungle, but also put him to embarrassment a few times.
RP was well known as the takeover artist, a shrewd businessman with a penchant for buying over companies, and turning them around. The one acquisition deal that R P backed out from made big news. His takeover of Bombay Dyeing from the Wadia's was supposed to be signed, sealed and delivered. But at the last minute, he surprised everyone by backing out of the proposal. If it had gone through, Bombay Dyeing would have been a prize acquisition in the RPG stable.
Nevertheless, this did not deter RP, and he went on with his acquisition spree. Today, the RPG Enterprises owns 22 companies, professionally managed by RP's sons, and an able management team. The thoroughbred businessman, RP is an extremely religious person. With his two sons, Harsh and Sanjiv managing the show, RP finds some time for travel, watching movies and reading.
The RPG Enterprises have been through some tough times due to errant acquisitions. But this 'larger than life' personality moves on. R.P. Goenka has been in business for 45 years. He does his best, leaves the rest in the hands of God… and mostly succeeds.