Pallonji Mistry….the unforgettable innings

 

 

Pallonji Mistry….the unforgettable innings



 







 

The war-struck Indian economy of the 1960s was struggling with economic slowdown, food grain crisis and high levels of unemployment. Agriculture thus remained the focus area of the government. 

 

 

Even during these difficult times, the family business of a Parsi family was doing well. But a young family member in his 30s chose to see the problem of India has his own problem. He realised that while the present belonged to agriculture, the future of India lay in show casing its engineering prowess to the world. 

 

Indian engineering (then largely dominated by civil engineering) never had a chance to showcase its talent outside India. Previously completed projects play a critical role in bagging civil contracts. Therefore, with no proven past track record outside India, it had become a catch-22 situation for Indian contractors. 

 

Leaving his well-settled life within the comfort of south Bombay, and risking both his time and money, Pallonji Mistry moved to the deserts of middle-east. The result – India bagged the first large scale  international construction project and  thus were opened the gateway for Indian engineering to the world. 

 

With brand India getting recognition in the middle-east, several Indian companies started bagging projects, thus offering huge employment not just to Indian engineers but also to Indian construction workers across the middle-east. Today, middle east remains the largest base of Indian diaspora. And India’s engineering prowess remains India’s biggest foreign exchange earner. 

 

 

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My personal interaction with Pallonji Mistry commenced in late 90s, when the Heritage committee had published the guidelines for restoration of old heritage buildings in Mumbai. I suggested restoring one of the old and dilapidated buildings - Contractor Building (owned by Shapoorji Pallonji)  and developing a leasing model around it. To my surprise, Pallonji took personal interest in this project which was probably not even of miniscule size for him. I will answer this why later but my most interesting observation during various meetings  was the kind of questions that he would ask in the meeting. His meticulous notes in his small red diary ensured that no member of the project team dared to over-commit on deliveries and promises.   

 

Later in early 2000s, I had proposed him another different kind of project but this time a completely unprofitable one. It was the restoration and colorisation of Mughal-e-Azam. By the time the first rush prints had come in, the budget had already increased by 100%. He saw the rushes and was extremely delighted. Very cautiously, I suggested that I wanted to further improve the quality but that would increase the budget by 300%. By the time, we reached office from Sterling cinema (where we had seen the rushes), he called up the Finance dept and issued instructions about the new budget.

 

Three months later, he was in Dubai so could not make it for the premier but the very next day at 8.57 am IST, an extremely delighted Pallonji called me and said, “Congratulations. Excellent work. You have done your job”. 

 

Success of any film is normally known after the first weekend not before that.…..But here is where Pallonji’s KPI (Key Performance Indicator) was different from many others. For him, KPIs were not quantitative numbers like Profits or EBIDTA but about the quality of the output. He would often tell that profits can at best hurt one project but quality can hurt the entire organisation. It was for this reason, he gave his personal attention to a small project like Contractor Building and it for this reason that he wanted restoration and colorisation of Mughal-e-Azam not to be deprived of budgets. He knew that both the project would speak to the world about what quality meant to the organisation. Big budget projects typically earn big profits and attract large attention from senior management but it is the small projects that have the potential to lose organisation’s credentials. 

 

For those interested in numbers, after 300% increase in budget, Mughal-e-Azam ( 2004 ) returned a handsome 65% profit margin.

 

 

 

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Lastly, many wonder, how could Pallonji consistently deliver quality in any kind of work he undertook –  domestic/international, residential/industrial, core business /non-core business  et al.

 

My common observation, through discussion with various people who have worked with him is that his consistency with quality was because of the fundamental fact that he would fall in love with the work he would undertake. Love for one’s work makes quality a natural bi-product. And it is this love for his work that kept him the same man whether as young a Pallon Mistry in 50s and 60s or as a veteran Pallonji Seth. 

 


Nothing but these lines from Mughal-e-Azam so well communicate the above phenomena :

 

Taqdeerein  badal  jaati  hain,

Zamana  badal  jaata  hai,

Mulkon  ki  tareekh  badal  jaati hai.

Shahenshah  badal  jaate  hain,

Magar,  iss  badalti  hui  duinya  mein, mohabbat  jis  insaan  ka  daaman  thaam  leti  hai, 

Woh insaan nahin badalta.

 

Long live…Pallonji Mistry.

 

 

-       DEEPESH SALGIA is a senior executive of the Shapoorji Pallonji Group

Comments

  1. Long Live Pallonji Mistry.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Amazing blog Deepesh. Would never have known the other side of great man, he was. My respect for Parsi business men magnified, while we see most of them honest, sincere and dedicated to their work, disciplined and visionary quality guys. 🙏

      Delete
    2. Deepesh Salgia29 June 2022 at 17:54

      Many thanks

      Delete
  2. Pallonji Seth will live forever in our hearts. Well written Deepesh. I had the honour to be with him one full day when we both went together to Udvada. That day is unforgettable. He ws the most humble person I have ever known.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Quite an emotional piece Deepesh. Long live the legend !

      Delete
    2. Deepesh Salgia30 June 2022 at 11:13

      Thanks Krushna

      Delete
  3. Amazing..... Love the quality and profit quote

    ReplyDelete
  4. Simply amazing, very well put up. Thanks for gathering and sharing this with us.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Salutations to the Great Man 🙏

    ReplyDelete
  6. Brilliantly penned tribute to a great man - a legend!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Beautifully written, Deepesh. Your respect and admiration for the great man comes through and evokes the same feelings in the reader. He'll be missed.

    ReplyDelete
  8. We got to see the greatness of Shri Pallonji up close and personal ..thanks to your wonderful blog Deepesh.

    Admirable writing !

    ReplyDelete
  9. Very true Deepesh. 🙏🙏🙏

    ReplyDelete
  10. Khushroo Setthna1 July 2022 at 23:14

    Fabulous read…such men walk the earth once in a century…..

    ReplyDelete

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