Godrej was set up by the Parsi Lawyer, Ardeshir Godrej at the peak of the Swadeshi Movement in 1897. As a follower of Dadabhai Naoroji, Ardeshir Godrej was a fervent believer in the principle that India should not simple reject foreign-made goods, but work to create its own industries with high-quality manufacturing processes. The story of Godrej is iconic among those of Indian indigenous established businesses, especially in lieu of how fast the company grew and how its portfolio of versatile interests was brought about. However, this highly successful business venture had a humble beginning manufacturing locks which were patented under the seal of King Edward VII in 1909. Godrej soon moved on to manufacturing safes in an era where robbery was commonplace. These safes were among the few things to survive the 1944 explosion at the Bombay docks.
Innovation – Godrej’s Claim to Fame
The Godrej group established its place in the market by manufacturing several products that were the first of their kind. The most distinctive representative of these is what later came to be called ‘Cinthol’- the world’s first soap that was not manufactured using animal fats. This one-of-its-kind vegetable oil soap was launched as Chavi in 1918 by Godrej Soaps Ltd. The signature Godrej steel almirah was launched soon thereafter in 1923. These steel cupboards have become a signature gift to newlyweds in India over the decades making Godrej a tradition.
Godrej secured the goodwill of a number of freedom fighters including Annie Besant, Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi which made for good marketing and business soared post-independence as well when it was commissioned to make 1.7 million ballot boxes for the first election in Independent India. Godrej made its debut in home appliances as the first Indian manufacturer of the refrigerator in 1958 and launched their own brand of hair colour, forklift trucks and animal feed shortly thereafter. Godrej forayed into property in 1990 and is said to have brought innovation and excellence to real estate in India. Godrej Properties reported a 9% increase in consolidated net profits at Rs. 45.46 crore at the end of December 2019. They promote sustainable development by launching projects like Planet Godrej, Mumbai which features proudly on their website.
Treading Deep in Business Waters
Godrej made legendary decisions in mergers and acquisitions in its third generation, forming joint ventures with international brands under Adi, Nadir and Jamshed Godrej who had two their names a degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and two degrees in business respectively. They acquired Translekta Domestic Products in 1994 and with leading brands like Good Knight and Hit, remain the top player in household insecticides in India and Indonesia. They also acquired Banish, Jet, Hexit and Ezee which was the first liquid detergent brand to be advertised on Indian television and in 2001, acquired Hindustan Lever Ltd.’s animal feeds business, renaming it Hindustan Unilever Ltd.
The Indian Postal Department released a special postage stamp in 1997 to celebrate 100 years of the Godrej Group. 2005 was a grand year for Godrej, for it launched its gourmet retail chain Godrej Nature’s Basket in India while making its first global acquisition of Keyline Brands Ltd., effectively expanding business to Jordan, Australia, Africa and Europe. The Group formed multiple Joint Ventures with world-renowned companies like Proctor and Gamble, Pilsbury Co. Ltd., Hershey Co., and General Electric Co.
Pioneers in CSR
Godrej’s success has never overshadowed the long ways it has gone in fulfilling its Corporate Social Responsibility. The Government of Bombay in 1943 auctioned Vikholi village to Pirojshah Godrej. The village has been revolutionized into a green, industrial township and is, today, home to Godrej One, the Global Headquarters of Godrej built in 2015. Notably, the largest privately owned belt of Mangroves are found in Vikhroli and have been found to make air in Vikhroli 30-40% better than the rest of the city.
Godrej has also proved to be committed to working towards the betterment of the environment and has taken up many green initiatives. The Godrej Group holds about 23% of its promoter holdings in trusts that invest in health, environment and education. They have also established a World Wide Fund for Nature in association with the WWF. Godrej Good and Green aimed in 2010 to build a more inclusive and greener India by 2020 and innovate for “good” and “green” products.
The launch of Godrej India Culture Lab is another brilliant example of Godrej’s commitment to its social responsibility. The Culture Lab is defined as “a catalyst to challenge existing notions of culture and encourages dialogue and experimentation through innovative programming”. It is no wonder that Godrej has been among the world’s most innovative 100 companies.
Godrej also proudly claims stake in the success of the 2008 mission to the moon and 2014 mission to Mars. Godrej engineering expertise made immense contributions to the manufacture of the launch vehicle and lunar orbiter of Chandrayaan-1 and the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle for India’s first mission to Mars.
2020- Business and Empire
Forbes reported in 2019 that the Godrej family controls $ 4.7 billion and had a net worth of $12 billion. Adi Godrej, the present Chairman of Godrej Group holds an impressive net worth of $ 2.2 billion.
Godrej, in 2010, announced a grand ‘Vision 2020’ that included achieving the stature of being one of the most trusted brands in India, fostering an inspiring place to work, creating shared value and becoming 10 times their size in 10 years.
Adi Godrej’s children are the fourth generation of the Godrej family business empire. They hold key positions in various Godrej ventures. It seems imminent that the Godrej name shall remain connected with innumerable goods and services for long years to come.