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Half A Century and Still at The Crease – Biji K. Kurien (PGP 1968)


Authored by Mr Biji K. Kurien (PGP 1968, Gold medalist) The book highlights the journey of a management graduate from the early years of IIM Ahmedabad (1966-68) across a period of 50+ years. Still going stronger, the author inspires through a career spread over 30 years through 3 companies, majorly in the paint industry. He has also associated as a business consultant for 20 years, besides mentoring a start-up for 2+ years and, currently, being on the advisory board of a start-up company in the tech space in Australia.


Synopsis: ‘Half a Century and Still at the Crease’ takes the readers through a series of professional challenges faced by the author and how the management education at the IIMA, together with the considerable learning over half a century, helped him in facing many of them. It also helped in the consultancy over a period of couple of decades in a host of different industries ranging from education, agriculture and floriculture, tobacco, machinery and chemical processing, retail and franchising.



Using a combination of academic and experiential learning, Biji K. Kurien highlights how these are applied in formulating strategy and the detailed planning that is required in executing the same.  Readers currently in the paint industry will find the description of the industry and major players from the late sixties an interesting study.


“Which is more important?”, asked the Big Panda, “The journey or the destination?”. “The company.”, said the Tiny Dragon. That sums up the author’s reaction on being asked about his journey.


Business Memoir reviewed by Mr KC John (FPM 1988) “When the successful CEOs dip their pens in ink, enthusiastic book buyers have made their jottings bestsellers. Of course, readers believe top achieving executives are as capable of writing useful books about management as they are at running big businesses. Biji K Kurien in his autobiography, ‘Half a Century and Still at the Crease: A journey of 50+ years of a Management Professional’, proves that writing a business memoir requires distilling insights through deep introspection of long years of overcoming business challenges, competitors, investors and business model innovation. Most probably, the book is the first business memoir emerging from the early batches of IIMA.


In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Biji depicts growth trajectory and significant contributions that the first-generation of PGDMs made and build IIMA mindshare among Indian business community. The narrative helps the readers navigate through early IIMA studentship days and experience significant inflection in career trajectory of Biji that has spanned 50+ years. The book in nine sections and forty-six chapters unravels Biji’s career from entry level manager to branch manager to marketing manager to chief executive in a span of 12 years, as well as the larger roles as business chamber (Bengal Chamber) and industry association (Indian Paints Association) captain. It also provides nuggets of wisdom in designing second innings as consultant, coach and mentor.


Biji’s business leadership journey is also about shaping the Indian paint industry, both in the pre- and post-liberalization era. Historically, the paint industry has remained oligopolistic. The dominant players are the Asian Paints, Berger Paints, Nerolac and ICI. Biji, subsequently, weaves prodigious recall from the memory and deftly crafted anecdotes into a vigorous, gripping narrative about the fiercely competitive oligopolistic paint industry in India. He shares the inside, mostly unknown story of evolution of the paint industry in India.  As an early visionary leader, Biji’s imagination and zeal transformed the commodity ‘mitty-putty’ to highly differentiated, brand innovation and FMCGisation of decorative paints (75 percent of Indian paint industry). The future brand managers may want to steal and adapt brand growth and market penetration strategies from Biji’s copybook of developing a new category leader – premium range of high-end acrylic emulsion paint – and Luxol Silk brand. Long before Ratan Tata, Biji travelled from Calcutta in 1983 to establish the manufacturing facility for Berger Paints in Gujarat. Of course, the labour strike was the catalyst. When initially established, it was not a Berger Paints factory due to MRTP Act.


In ‘Half a Century and Still at the Crease’, Biji K. Kurien offers unprecedented insights into the whirlwind ride in business world – family business, MNCs, internationalization, trade exits, and merger & acquisition. His innovative business model and refreshingly frank stories offer counterintuitive lessons that one can apply to business and life. The memoir is replete with rich insights into innovations like, contract manufacturing, customer service experience, computerization and MIS, retail marketing, B2B marketing innovation of industrial paints for automotive and marine products, gamification and loyalty program, and much more.


A top-notch business memoir with significant insights in business leadership for everyone.



AUTHOR: admin
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