from "The Heritage of Indian Tea" - D.K. Taknet
Core Values and
Williamson Magor saga of success is based on certain core values
and corporate culture developed by its chairman. Underlying this
is a firm belief that teamwork and motivation rooted in fairness
are the key to success in business. The group sets benchmarks for
itself in these areas and strives to achieve them, believing in
seeking the active participation of everyone in decision-making
rather than relying on the imposition of central diktats. Quality,
productivity and optimal utilization of resources, human and materials,
woven around the concept of the welfare of the community as a whole
is central to the management's philosophy.
However, it is more than just sound business practices
that contribute to its success story. BM's fundamental insight,
that tea is not just a commodity but a way of life, has been internalized
by the group as a whole. He firmly believes that business cannot
sustain growth unless there is perfect harmony among the owners,
managers, workers and the government.
More than most others, the group understands and
lives by the principle that in the final analysis, the quality of
tea will always be an eloquent testimony to the well-being and efforts
of those associated with its production. With this in view, over
the years, the group has consciously associated itself with the
life and problems of its employees and the contiguous communities
by utilizing its resources, skills ad talent to the development
of human resources.
Says Aveek Sarkar, owner of a leading newspaper,
the Telegraph : 'The group has earned itself a very high reputation
because it has involved itself in a lot of welfare activities without
seeking personal publicity. 'Its penchant for maintaining a low
profile has earned for it the confidence of the central and state
governments, the public and private sectors, its share holders,
as well as the Reserve Bank of India and other financial institutions.
The Williamson Magor group enjoys a reputation
for financial probity. It always tires to keep on optimal terms
with the government, financial institutions, banks, creditors and
other stakeholders. D. Pal Choudhary, senior accounts manager, Williamson
Magor & Co. Ltd, explains, 'It is group policy that government taxes
and dues should be paid honestly as and when they become due'. S.K.
Nigam, chairperson, Central Board of Director Taxes, Department
of Revenue, Ministry of Finance, government of India, conferred
the Rashtriya Samman on B.M. Khaitan on 7 April 2000 for being one
of the highest tax payers during the assessment years 1994-5 to
The group never actively seeks leadership roles
in business, social, cultural and sports organizations; rather,
the opportunities come their way in the natural order of things.
Whenever anybody from the group has headed an organization or association,
it is by consensus or by invitation. Innumerable such examples abound,
as in the cases of International Chamber of Commerce, Indian Chamber
of Commerce, Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Indian
Tea Association. 'All this business of throwing a hat into the ring
is alien to Williamson Magor's corporate culture. These jobs come
by consensus and invitation; when any member of Williamson Magor
moves out and becomes the president of any chamber of association,
he does not have just Williamson Magor in mind, he has to think
of the entire industry. His whole focus becomes much wider,' said
the late Mumtaz Ahmad, former chairman of the Indian Tea Association.
Corporate culture plays a crucial role in economic
performance and is an important factor in determining the success
of a company. The group's corporate culture has been nurtured for
decades. Its salient features are fairness in dealing with and excellence
in human resources, focus on consistent quality, research and development
and a concept of public welfare.
Williamson Magor is a professionally run conglomerate
with a family atmosphere. Its culture includes the following tenets:
to run its business as efficiently as possible, be competitive,
make enough money not only to plough back into the business but
also to serve in equal measure the interests of the various stakeholders
and support cultural, educational and welfare activities, particularly
in the states of Assam and West Bengal. A central pillar in the
group's philosophy is employee welfare both in monetary terms and
at the human level. A reason why it is able to hold on to its employees
is that besides compensating them well monetarily, they also enjoy
a large measure of independence and scope of creativity.
Citing an example, a. Monem, vice president of
the sales division of Williamson Magor, relates, 'I come from a
family of tea planters, tea owners…..and I think you have to be
in love with tea and there is a sense of security when you know
the man running the company is in love with tea himself. It's a
company run b a family of tea lovers and professionals in a family-like
Loyalty and Commitment:
IThe rise of militancy in Assam has thrown up unforeseen
challenges for the management. The isolated tea gardens have been
soft targets for militants and kidnapping of managers for ransom
has become commonplace. G.P. Barua elaborates, 'So the whole atmosphere
was tense as the group's managers worked in remote areas. At that
time their only beacon of light was the chairman. The felt that
even if something happened to them the burra sahib would take care
of the family.'
A few armed extremists entered the bungalow of
Tarun Bordoloi, senior manager of Hunwal Tea Estate and took him
to his office. One of them stood at the door with an AK-47, while
another was near a phone. They told him that they were from the
United Liberation Front of Asom and asked him to forward a demand
letter of Rs 15 lakhs to the company. Later, the chairman called
from Calcutta and spoke to him and members of his family. The chairman
assured his wife, 'Nothing is more important to me than your husband's
life and I'll ensure he is safe'. He also told his wife, 'If there
is anything we can do to give you a sense to security let me know'.
Every possible measure was then taken to safeguard him and his family.
In February 1990 the killing of D.K. Choudhary,
manager of Romai Tea Estate, by militants came as a great shock.
The management decided to continue paying the salary and emoluments
that Choudhary had been receiving to his wife. The education of
his children was ensured and later his son was employed as an assistant
manager. In April 1992, militants packed up Subir Ray, manager of
Dimakusi garden located in Udalguri subdivision of Darrang district.
The management spared no efforts and eventually managed to get Ray
safely back to his family. There have been several other similar
examples of the caring attitude and generosity of spirit, as in
the case of the untimely demise of P. Bajaj and Ranjan Mukherji.
This protective attitude has earned the company the loyalty of all
Williamson Magor is equally solicitous about the
labour force which it carefully trains and nurtures. Its tea estates
are like welfare amenities are provided voluntarily. According to
Paban Singh Ghatowar, former union minister of state and a prominent
leader of tea workers, 'Its tea estates are like mini-townships
where a number of additional, non-statutory welfare amenities are
provided voluntarily. According to Paban Singh Ghatowar, former
union minister of State and a prominent leader of tea workers. 'Its
chairman is a very enlightened employer and takes personal interest
to see that his executives properly implement the labour welfare
activities in their gardens and that's why it is rated high in terms
of labour welfare.'
Underlining the healthy relationship between the
management and the workers, Subrata Narayan Maitra, the leader of
Williamson Magor Workmen's Union, says: 'The contribution of the
management, with their pragmatic approach towards the welfare of
staff members, has helped us a lot in building up a one family concept.'
The group has undergone its share of restructuring, reorganizing
and shedding far necessitated by business compulsions. Such actions
have often been undertaken and meticulously executed. The one thing,
however, that makes this group stand out even while taking hard
business decisions is that no employee ever got a raw deal even
when asked to part company.
S.K. Pal, vice-president (HRO), confirms, 'It may
not be out of place to mention here that the voluntary separation
package offered to its employees in the recent past has become a
benchmark for many companies who have followed suit and have been
successful in their mission'. Even when an employee parts company,
he never hesitates to come back in the event of his requiring any
assistance and generally such help is willingly provided.
A Tradition of
At the Williamson Magor group the loyalty generated
by its commitment to fairness it testified to by the extensive plantation
programme and high quality standards it is able to maintain. 'From
1968 onwards, we went in for extensive replanting of its tea gardens.
The replanting project continued for seven years, covering about
1000 to 1500 acres a year, which has yielded rich dividends in terms
of larger yields and lower costs,' says Deepak Khaitan, managing
director of the group. It has a very careful programme of investment
year on year, to develop better systems and improve discipline in
the gardens and factories. Its agricultural and technical experts
have changed the face of the estates and factories to such a degree
that virtually every factory in the tea gardens has been completely
dismantled and reconstructed.
Development of the tea estates receives the utmost
priority and the group has reinvested over Rs 2.5 bn over the past
five years. In the plantation area, massive improvement of the drainage
system, roads and bridges was effected. Large replanting programmes
were undertaken each year by uprooting the unproductive tea sections
in order to pre-empt future loss of crop. The basic concern from
field to factory is to ensure not just higher production but also
better quality while remaining in touch with emerging trends in
the industry. That is why overseas buyers respect the group's philosophy
of development with its concentration on consistent quality.
By consciously adopting a policy of keeping abreast
of the latest technological and scientific developments in the fields
of agriculture and biotechnology and by enforcing a rigorous quality
regimen, the Williamson Magor group continues to retain its leadership
position in tea.
Development a Priority:
A research and development focus has provided strong
scientific support to the group's quantitative growth with continuing
enhancement in the quality of the product. It would be pertinent
here to recall that many years ago it was George Williamson who
introduced a new methodology for the production of tea in Assam
that was very different from the traditional method developed in
China. That tradition of innovation not only continues but has been
The research and development policy keeps the group's
long-term interests in view and believes in anticipating the needs
of the future. It is committed to modernization and encourages it
in every field. While it sponsors research related to crop improvement
and the important area of control of while ants, in prestigious
institutions of learning like Cambridge University and the Indian
Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, it seeks to develop information
and application systems that are region specific. Future research
planning is considered equally important. The group plans to set
up more training establishments and in addition produce in house
training videos to show its workers in order to improve plucking
and pruning operations. The group organizes seminars on subjects
relating to tea-growing and manufacturing in which scientists from
plantation research institutes participate to upgrade the technical
knowledge of management staff. Although the senior managers have
never attended research development programmes in laboratories,
they have achieved significant results with their own experiments
in the field and factory.
Research activities received a boost when the management
appointed Dr W. Hadfield, a renowned agronomist from Cambridge,
as consultant to review its existing agronomic policies. He has
been visiting the group's tea estates since 1991-02, providing detailed
reports on their yield patterns. The implementation of the recommendations
of its research and development department has begun paying rich
dividends in terms of improved quality and enhanced production efficiencies.
The yield increases are closely linked to effective pest control
and irrigation practices.
Williamson Magor has extended considerable support
to the Tea Research Association since its inception, with senior
members of the group having acted as members of its Council of Management.
Apart from this, many tea estate managers have actively participated
in various expert committees in Assam and the Dooars. The management
has also permitted the Association to carry out many experiments
on the group's tea estates and indeed, initiated some of these.
Courtesy: The Heritage of
Indian Tea - D.K. TAKNET
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