Sunday, October 19, 2014



PRAKASH TANDON (1911-2004 )

Surely  you may not be familiar with this name. Those who are, may not have adequate knowledge about his contribution and background.

He was Chairman cum Managing Director the first Swadeshi Bank known presently as Punjab National Bank. Before that he was chairman of State Trading Corporation and First Indian Chairman of Unilever ( Hindustan Lever Ltd. ). He made HLL truly Indian not only in name but also in spirit. There was a genuine realisation in London, and a sense of pride in Bombay that Indians could manage the company. He was also on the Board of Directors of Food Corporation of India ,Hindustan Steel , Hindustan Aeronautics and Reserve Bank Of India .

He also taught at universities in Berkeley , Boston, California , Chandigarh , Delhi and Ahmedabad. He happened to be a founding Director of IIM Ahemdabad . Once while addressing the IIM faculty he said

“The essence of management is the ability to sort out the relevant from the irrelevant. If you have to plough through reams of case material and exhibits for tomorrow's classes, you must train yourself to read selectively and fast - take what is strictly worth remembering, and discard the rest.”

Wherever he served , he left his imprints . He brought freshness, efficiency and unique organizational culture in many organizations which he entered in any capacity . As individual , he lived a simple life and lived  in  his own  DDA  flat at Vasant Kunj.  He would be  often seen  driving  his own Fiat Car .

I need to say something more about this Gem of a man ..

Born in 1911 to a wealthy Punjabi family , Prakash Tandon graduated from Govt college Lahore as science student but suddenly shifted to Commerce, went to UK and returned as qualified Chartered accountant in 1937.

While Prakash Tandon was proud of his Punjabi heritage, he never promoted  Punjabis.  His closest associates in the Hindustan Lever Ltd. were Maurice Zinkin, a Britisher, and R. Ramaswamy, a Tamil Brahmin. His preferred successor was Vasant Rajadhyakshya, a Maharashtrian. He applied this principle to all other organizations that he headed. The success  story of of DALDA ( Hydrogenated vegetable oil which became a cheap substitute for Ghee in the Indian Kitchen )    was solely scripted  by Parakash Tandon  due to  his innovative marketing  skills infused in Hundustan Lever Limited .  

He revolutionized the Financial sector In India especially Banking by his Guidelines that came to be known as Tandon Norms . These fundamental Guidelines on Working Capital finance together with a scientific Methodology for working out credit requirements of Industrial enterprises have been put to use by every Financial institution in the country . Most of my friends in the Banking sector must be familiar with his Methods of lending based on Current Assets , Margin and well defined Holding Norms for Raw material , Stocks in process , Finished goods and receivables . Industries and Banking sector in India remain indebted to this genius for these basic Guidelines on Working Capital Finance . He was a pioneer in management education in India.

A lover of fine Arts , Prakash Tandon was a connoisseur of Urdu Poetry , Ancient History , Music and classical Literature . It was always a real treat to listen to him on any subject under the sun. His ideas were original and innovative and he would speak for hours extempore . The three books authored by him which comprise his autobiography – Punjabi Century , Beyond Punjab and return to Punjab – are regarded as Modern Classics . These Books have been published by Penguins as Punjabi Saga .

His admirers were to be seen in all segments of the society . Some names that come to my mind at the moment are Playwright Balwant Gargi , Punjabi writer Kartar Singh Duggal, Dr Mulk Raj Ananad , Actor Devanand , Ram Nath Goenka , J R D Tata , Shreyans Prasad jain , Dr Manmohan Singh and Dr. A M Khusro.

His book BANKING CENTURY , published by Penguins in 1989 is an interesting story about a Public sector Giant known as Punjab National Bank . A story about how the idea of lala Lajpat Rai  to start a swadeshi Bank at Anarkali lahore was conceived and given practical shape in 1895 by three Gentlemen ( Sardar Dayal Singh MajIthia , Babu Kali Prasun Roy and E C Jesswala . A sikh , A Hindu and a Parsi ; All the three were followers of Bengal’s Brahmo Samaj ) highly motivated by a Nationalist leader lala Lajpat Rai.  It is a grand story of three dreamers  who could have little realized that a two room office at Anarkali Lahore would  finally  grow  into a National Bank with more than 6500 branches spreading from Leh to Kanyakumari and Kohima to Kathiawar . He worked as Chairman cum Managing director of the bank for three years and inducted more than 1000 young Management Trainees who rose to become Executive Directors and Managing Directors of various Banks in the country.

Half of this Book takes the reader on a journey through Babylonian , Roman, Greek , Chinese , Egyptian , Persian , Arab and Indian Civilization examining the evolution of finance and Trade in these cultures .The Book also explains interestingly how Finance and trade evolved itself in Ancient and medieval india through Hundis and traditional sahukaars . The story of Seths , Multanis , Marwaris , Banias , Nattukottai Chettis , Chettiars , Nagar Seths ( City Bankers ) finally settles down at Birlas , Tatas , Goenkas , Jains etc. In between You also come to know that founding families of Levers , Krupps , Duponts, Dunlops , Bayers , Lavals , Thomsons and Marellis have disappeared while much of the Indian Industry is still managed and controlled by families who , often owning a fraction of equity wield total power and control.

You are also updated about the Arya samaj movement of Punjab , Brahmo Samaj Movement of Bengal ,Tribune Newspaper in its formative years , Lahore The Grand city of Punjab , Darshani ( Payable on demand ) and Dekhanhar ( payable at sight ) Hundi syetem in indian Trade and commerce , The East India company , Mughals , Maharaja Ranjit singh’s rule , The sikh Misels ,Zamindari and Jagirdari system in India ,Indian Railways , Irrigation canals in Punjab , Barter system in Indian Trade , Journey of Currency from Metal Coins to paper Notes in india , Post War Economic Recessions in the world , Arrival of Post offices in India , Partition of the country with rebirth of Indian economy , Nehruvian Industrial and economic policies , Social control and Nationalization and the final phase known as financial Sector reforms.

From this book I came to know that Mahmud of Gazni , who invaded India 14 times had issued gold coins in 1007 AD each weighing 180 grains and bearing Kalima and the name of Khalifa Al Qadir B’Illah , on whose behalf he conducted the wars and invasions . In india , he did something unique in history ; he issued coins with sanskratized Kalima ; “ Ayyaktamekam Muhammad Avatara samvati 418 Mahmudpur “ followed by the name of the issuer , Nripati Mahmud with a motif of Hindu Deity . He had renamed Lahore as Mahmudpur .

From this book I also came to know that from Kings to common man , every person would borrow from Nagar Seths and discharge Hundis . Prakash Tandon informs that during the Sepoy uprising of 1857, Seth Amirchand of Bikaner and Seth Mool Chand of of Ajmer financed British Government .Bhama Shah , the oswal Banker , financed the maintenance of 25000 men of Rana Partap for many years to enable him to carry on his wars against Akbar .
The house of Jagat Seth were hereditary Bankers to Nawabs of Bengal. Jagat seth was instrumental in the overthrow of Nawab Siraj Ud Daula and setting up of Mir jaffar as Nawab . When Mir Kasim became the New Nawab of Bengal , he ordered Jagat Seth to be thrown into Ganga from the Bastions of Monghyr Fort.

About this book Prof A M khusro adds

“ In the history of Money and Finance , there are few works which claim greater depth , erudition and elegance than ( this ) fascinating Book “

About Parakash Tandon , Dr Ashok Ganguli Former Chairman HLL adds ..

"He established standards and norms for corporate conduct, governance and social conduct that have now become popular and fashionable around the world."

Some quotes of Prakash Tandon that come to my mind are ..

“ Room at the top is always Vacant ”

“ Recruitment , training and cadres must be built on continuous basis in any organization . Overlooking this may land any organization into Managerial Crisis. ”

“ Greatest tasks have been performed by men using simple Common sense “

“Managers are functional entities and not Bureaucrats . They have to keep their doors open .”

“ Age plays a key role in the process of taking a decision .Beyond a certain age, managers tend to tread the safe and secured path. Quite often , their movement along these paths may prove disastrous for the organization.”

I conclude this post with some lines from “Naya Aahang “ a beautiful poem composed by well known modern urdu Nazm poet late Akhtar Ul Imaan …

Loghaat Alfaaz ka ek dher hai Lafzon pe Mat jaana ,
Naya Aahang Hota hai Murratab Lafz o Maani Ka,
Meray haq mein Abhi Kuchh Faisala saadir Na Farmaana
Me Jis Din Aaoonga Taaza Loghaat Hamraah Laaoonga…...........
( Akhtar Ul Imaan )

The dictionary is nothing but a heap of words ,
Be cautious and discreet ,
A fresh design is in the offing to define everything anew,
Pray, Don’t pass any judgement at the instant .
The day I come my lord ,
I shall bring along with me the NEW LEXICON…
So long so much……

( Autar Mota )

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CHINAR SHADE by Autarmota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.
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