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On February 7, India Inc came together at the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards 2010 to raise a toast to the journey of three generations of gritty industrialists in India.
Just when many in Delhi thought the winter was over, the showers on the evening of February 7 left a nip in the air. Unmindful of the rains outside, 350 business leaders, the who’s who of India Inc, were showering praise on the finalists and the winners of the 12th Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards at the Taj Palace Hotel in the capital.
Journalist-turned-compere Riz Khan was back to anchor the show, widely considered as the Oscars of Entrepreneurship even as business leaders waited with bated breath to learn about the lucky winners. Khan, armed with slides on funny headlines and brand names, had the audience rolling in laughter, but it was Salman Khurshid, minister for water resources & minority affairs and chief guest for the event, who stole the show with a humorous speech, more than making up for coming late.
Even as invitees were greeted to a special menu prepared by the master chefs of Taj Palace, including exotic Chilean Sea Bass and organically-grown asparagus, short videos on finalists chronicled their entrepreneurial journeys. “These were the classiest awards I have ever been to. Every nomination represented an aspiring achievement and I felt fortunate to have been awarded,” said Rajiv Bajaj, who received the award for business transformation.
All the 20 finalists were cheered by the audience as they walked up the dais to collect their awards but there was loud applause for N K Chaudhary, CEO, Jaipur Rugs, who won the award for start-up of the year. Few had heard of Chaudhary until management guru C K Prahlad called him one day, wanting to do a case study on him. The rest is history. Beginning with two looms in 1978, Chaudhary has built the largest hand-knotted rug export firm in India, working with 40,000 weavers across 10 states.
The loudest cheers were reserved for the Entrepreneur of the Year award winner, Dilip Shanghvi, chairman and managing director, Sun Pharmaceutical Industries, (he had also won the life sciences category award in 1995), who took over Israeli drug firm Taro after a protracted battle, and Brijmohan Lall Munjal, chairman and director of Hero Honda Motors, who was honoured with a lifetime achievement award. What made this year’s awards more memorable is the introduction of two new award categories, “energy & infrastructure” and “life sciences & consumer products”.
“Our finalists represent three generations of entrepreneurs,” said Rajiv Memani, country managing partner, Ernst & Young India. The first consisted of older business groups who have thrived in a new global environment by reinventing themselves. Next, there were those who built scale at a rapid pace, and finally, there were nippy newcomers who made a mark with innovative business models.
“The co-existence of three generations of entrepreneurs is unique and is taking the India story global and laying the foundation of the Indian economy for the 21st century,” said Memani.
The interest in the awards can be gauged by the fact that for many of the awardees like Dilip Shanghvi or Naveen Jindal, their mothers came to cheer for them -- like they would do for their kids at a school function.
The award attracts a large number of applications – a record 312 this year – and is also the only award based on self-nomination. The applications are first vetted by independent journalists, followed by field interviews of select candidates, which are then reviewed by the jury. “I must compliment Ernst & Young on a rigorous selection process. The awards recognise the spirit of entrepreneurship. We look for people with fire in the belly, who took the risks, fell but got up and continued to fight. Some finalists and some award winners are relatively new in their fields, but have quickly risen to positions of leadership.” said M Damodaran, chairman of the jury.
For Ernst & Young, this award is a global programme which is now held in 140 cities across the world. “Over the years, we have been proud to honour men and women who have had the inspiration to create innovative, market-leading companies,” said Farokh Balsara, National Leader for the Entrepreneur of the Year Programme, Ernst & Young India. “The award has become synonymous with innovative thinking and a measure of entrepreneurial success in India,” he added.
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