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`AV Birla Group to be on Fortune-500 list by 2010'

Our Bureau

Not keen on special economic zones at present

Ahmedabad , Sept. 15

The Rs 38,000-crore Adiya Vikram Birla group is expected to be on the Fortune-500 list by 2010, said its Chairman-cum-Managing Director, Mr Kumar Mangalam Birla.

Replying to queries after delivering the 27th Vikram Sarabhai Memorial Lecture at the Ahmedabad Management Association (AMA), he said the group, in fact, expected to make it to the list even by 2009.

The lecture was organised by the Vikram Sarabhai Memorial Trust at AMA, which is celebrating its Golden Jubilee this year. The subject of his speech was `Values: The Driving Force For Success'.

Replying to questions, Mr Birla said his group did not want to join the current race to set up the special economic zones (SEZs). The SEZs were not a priority for him at present, but the group may consider it in the future, he added.

Competition and values do not go together, he observed, adding the AV Birla Group would stick to its values even if progress were slow-paced. "Our generation does not believe in being remembered by the future. It lives in the present," he remarked. Emphasising the long-term importance of adhering to value systems, he said performance could be highly regarded and even rewarded but not at the cost of values.

India vs China

Asked how India could beat China, Mr Birla asserted that India could do so by beating China at the latter's own game — by keeping the cost lowest. He stressed upon the employees' commitment to work, loyalty and passion. "If you have them, you can sleep in peace."

About his future plans, he would not join politics, and continue to work for the next 25 years. The group has expanded from the Rs 8,000-crore bracket at the time of his father's demise in 1995, to Rs 38,000 crore now.

Earlier, in his 20-minute lecture, Mr Birla lauded the multi-faced contribution to India made by Dr Sarabhai who set up around 30 top-level institutions to kick-start progress of the country in different areas soon after Independence. Stressing the need for corporate houses to make themselves socially relevant, he said although business saw maximum value as the highest objective, superior values led to superior value-creation for stake-holders.

`Inspire confidence'

He pointed out that the world of business was passing through a crisis of trust and was full of scepticism and cynicism. We must inspire confidence in values and the CEOs must inspire the organisations to put out their best.

He praised doyens of Indian business and industry such as JRD Tata, GD Birla and N.R. Narayana Murthy, for adhering to values and said the business world should be aware of the importance of values and morals in the long run. Success without values is short-lived, he said, while citing how unethical practices had stunted the growth of housing sector despite there being a huge demand in India.

Mr Birla also underlined that values could be culture-specific and differed from country to country. What is considered a gift in one country may be scoffed as bribe in another. Different countries treated words like honesty, loyalty, opinion and solutions in their respective culture-contexts.

He also highlighted the steps taken by his group to restructure itself along moral, ethical and value-based lines in recent times, particularly after having on its rolls close to 82,000 employees from diverse cultures and nationalities and sorted out their "value dilemmas."

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