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Hard At Work Hard At Play

Arun Nanda, Executive Director, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd, spends at least 12 hours at work every day. And he still manages to play golf, party hard, keep quality time aside for his family and intermittently take off to the mountains or the beaches, discovers Raadia Mukadam

Arun Nanda, as President of Infrastructure Development Sector of the Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd, guides the Group’s forays into the infrastructure sector, draws strategic plans for the formation and management of various companies in the areas of property development, construction, hotels and timeshare resorts, privatisation projects, and engineering consultancy. He is currently on the board of companies including Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd, Mahindra Holdings and Finance Ltd, Mahindra Industrial Park Ltd, Owens Corning (India) Ltd, GESCO Corporation Ltd. He is the chairman of Mahindra Holidays and Resorts India Ltd, Mahindra Ashtech Ltd and PSL Erickson Ltd. He has taught Financial Management at Symbiosis Institute of Management, Pune for 8 years.

And in between working 12 hours daily, he also parties hard, is an avid golfer, twice a year takes off to the beaches and mountains and makes it a point to spend quality time with his wife, son and daughter.

How does he manage this mammoth juggling act with life? The reply is cryptic, almost philosophical, “Life is about bridging the gap between what you expect and what you get. And when you’ve learnt to do that nothing perturbs you any more.”

Arun Nanda with his wife (to his right) Neeru at a party hosted by him for Diana Hayden when she became Miss World
Dune bashing in Dubai
At the bowling alley

In fact, Nanda always knew what he wanted to do. As a child, he was as comfortable in the company of numbers and financial figures as other children his age were with toys. Nobody was surprised when he became a Chartered Accountant at the age of 20.

After becoming an Honours Graduate in Commerce from Calcutta University in which he stood on the merit list, Nanda went on to acquire a degree in Law from the same University. After a brief stint in Indian Copper Corporation Ltd, Calcutta, (1970-71) as a Financial Accountant, he moved to Machinery Manufacturers Corporation Ltd, as a Management Accountant (1973-76). In 1976, he joined the Mahindra Group as Chief Accountant and Company Secretary of Mahindra Sintered Products Ltd., Pune. Since then, he has held various senior positions within the Group. In 1992, he joined the Board of Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd, as Executive Director. In a major organisational restructuring that took place in 1994, he was also appointed as President of the Infrastructure Development Sector of the Group.

One wonders what has kept him bound to the Group for 29 long years. “The Mahindra Group is not just a family, it is a culture. A culture as rich in its value system as in its acquirements and achievements. This Group has taught me the meaning and value of acceptance. I have learnt to accept my own deficiencies along with the success of other people. To stay right on top, I set benchmarks against myself and then try to exceed and excel,” he says. “Most importantly, it respects the individual and his dignity and I have never had to do something that my conscience would not have permitted.”

He modestly attributes his success to being at the right place at the right time. “Armed with a hard work, determination and endless hope, when knowledge and fate come together, life is good,” he says.

Professionally he may have achieved most of what he set out to do, but Nanda still feels he has miles to go before he stops. “Life is what we make of it, always has been, always will be. A content person is not a person in a set of circumstances but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes. Human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes,” he says.

Besides his commitment to the Mahindra Group whom he has served for 29 years in different capacities, he is also a member of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Bombay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI). He is currently the Chairman of the Mumbai City and Urban Infrastructure Committee of BCCI and is on the Tourism Committee, Urban Infrastructure Committee and Construction Committee of CII and President of the Indo French Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

Getting Arun Nanda to catalogue his favourite leisure activities is a tough task. He has no favourites and says he indulges in what suits his mood best. An avid golfer, he plays his favourite sport whenever time permits. He religiously takes two vacations a year alternating between beaches and mountains.

“I love to visit Switzerland as I revere the Alps, but of late I have begun preferring Austria because it still remains virgin and uncommercialised. Another wonderful holiday destination is New Zealand, because of the number of activities one can take part in within a short span of time there. But when it comes to beaches, Maldives wins hands down. Munnar in Kerala is another favourite mountain getaway,” he says.

With approximately eight international trips and at least 60 domestic trips in a year, the tag high flier suits him to a tee.

On why he is involved in so many activities, the rejoinder is curt yet pointed, “I want people to respect me for who I am as an individual. I want people to remember the person behind the profile.”