As the business world continues to evolve, it is imperative that we take note of the women who are shaping the landscape. Dr. Bina Modi, who succeeded her late husband, Mr. KK Modi, as Chairperson of Modi Enterprises—KK Modi Group, is one such iconic businesswoman who has guided the conglomerate to greater success. With an unwavering focus on nurturing her husband’s legacy of care, she has established herself as a leader who understands the importance of putting people first in the cut-throat world of business.
Under her guidance, Modi Enterprises—KK Modi Group has witnessed remarkable growth and expansion, and today it is counted among the top business groups in India. As the Chairperson and Managing Director of Godfrey Phillips India, Dr. Bina Modi has been instrumental in driving the company’s growth and has established it as a leading player in the tobacco industry. She is also the Chairperson and Managing Director of Indofil Industries Limited, where she has spearheaded several innovative initiatives that have propelled the company towards greater heights.
Apart from her role in the Group, Dr. Bina Modi is a successful entrepreneur in her own right. Her fashion brand, Bina Fashions, has a global presence, while her specialty restaurant chain, Ego, and salon brand, Dessange, are highly acclaimed in their respective industries. She is a true embodiment of the phrase “leading from the front” and has inspired countless women to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams.
In the past, Dr. Bina Modi has served as Head of the Family Council for Modi Enterprises – KK Modi Group, providing a crucial interface between professional management and the Modi family. Her extensive experience in leading and managing businesses, combined with her ability to build strong relationships, has helped her shape the future of the group and its various businesses.
Dr. Bina Modi’s achievements have been recognized and celebrated globally, with accolades such as “Women of the Decade in Business & Leadership 2018” by the Women Economic Forum and the prestigious Achiever’s Award in 2019. She has also been featured in ‘India’s Most Powerful Women,’ a book by Prem Ahluwalia. More recently, she has been recognized as the ‘Most Inspiring Woman In Business’ at the Outlook Business Spotlight’s Visionary Leader Awards 2023.
In an exclusive interview with Business APAC, Dr. Bina Modi candidly shares her unique approach and ambitious plans for the future, leaving no doubt about her status as an extraordinary leader shaping the business landscape.
Q: You entered the business world at the age of 40. What led to this decision?
Dr. Modi: After my 40th birthday, when a dear friend casually asked me what I had done with my life so far and what I planned to do next, it really got me thinking. I had a lot to offer, and age was the last thing that could stop me. My children had grown up, and I was motivated to follow my passion. I banked on my instinct. By relying on my intuition, I established businesses centered on my personal interests. Each of my entrepreneurial pursuits, which include Bina Fashion, a series of EGO restaurants, a unique travel company, and a luxurious beauty salon, are all products of my passion and serve as evidence that, with persistence, one can realize their capabilities without hindrance.
Q: Did you face challenges after your induction in Modi Enterprises—KK Modi Group?
Dr. Modi: Cigarettes and agrochemical businesses are completely different ballgames. I was told that it was impossible to make your own space in these male-dominated industries. But KK saw potential in me. He said, “When someone says impossible, seize the challenge.” I have made it my life’s mantra. In my opinion, my ability to remain patient, resilient, and eager to learn has played a crucial role in my rise as a leader and in making a significant difference. Additionally, I have high regard for the leadership team of the Group for their ability to adapt to changing times and appreciate individuals for their capabilities rather than their age, race, or gender.
Q: Since 2014, the Group has benefitted greatly from your leadership. Can you tell us about your journey so far?
Dr. Modi: It has been an incredible journey so far, and I am proud of what we have achieved as a team. When I joined Group in 2014, I was excited to take on new challenges and contribute to the growth of the company. It was a great opportunity to work with my late husband, Mr. KK Modi, and be a part of Godfrey Phillips India’s Board of Directors. As a member of the Executive Committee, I actively participated in strategic business decisions, the reconstruction of business processes, and the strengthening of the business portfolio. Reinforcing the human factor has always been as important to me as strategizing for building businesses, and keeping People-First is an intrinsic part of my business philosophy.
I believe that businesses are successful only when the people involved are confident enough to do their best and explore their potential. It is gratifying to see the result of our hard work and the dedication of our people, and I am proud to lead a team of highly talented and extremely motivated individuals. We are a proudly people-oriented group. And when we say people, we include our employees, investors, retailers, customers, and communities. I am deeply invested in ensuring the best outcomes for each of our stakeholders. Our community welfare and sustainability programs are a testament to our commitment. As the Group strengthens its sustainability and ESG efforts, I will continue to lead from the front and ensure that we make a positive impact on society, the environment, and the planet.
Q: As the Chairperson of the Group and Chairperson and Managing Director of the Group’s flagship companies – Godfrey Phillips India and Indofil, you’ve taken some tough decisions. What motivated you?
Dr. Modi: When I first started my business, I received guidance from my husband, whom I consider my mentor. His wise words, “Innovate, because to stagnate is to die,” and “Have the courage to fail,” have stayed with me and continue to guide me in my decisions. My priority has always been the well-being of our people and the growth of the group. It is a constant exercise to better consolidate our business to deliver the best results to our stakeholders. As part of this exercise, although we had built a strong brand in the pan masala business, we divested from it after evaluating its contribution to our business and growth potential. This bold decision has proven successful.
Another strong move that I am extremely proud of is Sanchay – a cost-efficiency program that our employees embraced wholeheartedly. We maximized the utilization of our resources and responsibly managed our spending. The results have been phenomenal, and we have achieved a significant boost in efficiency and productivity.
I firmly believe that the success of Modi Enterprises—KK Modi Group is due to our people, and therefore, I strive to empower them to push boundaries. Our senior management follows an open-door and open-mindset policy, valuing every employee’s feedback. We encourage our people to take risks and share innovative ideas with us, which we discuss and implement based on merit.
Q: GPI is known for its tech-led approach. Can you tell us about some of the programs and initiatives you’ve implemented during your time as Chairperson?
Dr. Modi: Our company’s rich heritage and legacy of care have always been at the forefront of all our initiatives, while we continuously strive to integrate a modern outlook and technological advancements.
Our program, LEAP, automates and digitizes our supply chain processes, ushering in the future. Through the use of automation, advanced software, digitization, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, we have broken the silos across the organization, enabled transparent planning, and covered end-to-end supply chain processes, from demand forecasting to dispatch planning.
We also leveraged technology to better connect with our employees across the country. For example, at Godfrey Phillips India, our intranet and official in-house social media platform have allowed our employees from different parts of India to engage with each other and stay up-to-date with the company’s daily operations, bringing us closer together.
Q: You are one of the handful of women in leadership roles in the country. Recently, you have also been honored with a ‘Women Empowerment Leadership Principles Award, Asia, 2023’. How do you empower women in your organizations?
Dr. Modi: At all of our Group companies, we give tremendous importance to upskilling our employees. We believe that investing in learning, development, and training programs is essential to not only growing as individuals but also ensuring the success and growth of our companies. As a woman myself, it is my passionate duty to inspire and empower more women to step forward and take advantage of these opportunities. We believe in going above and beyond to provide a safe and nurturing work environment where everyone feels valued and respected. Discrimination has no place in our companies, and we take great pride in our comprehensive policies and the unwavering dedication we have to uphold them. Together, we strive to create a culture of inclusivity, growth, and excellence.
Personally, I believe women are extremely strong and capable. The best way to empower them is to provide them with equal opportunities, and they will do the rest. Organizations that are biased in favor of any one gender are losing out on great talent. And at Modi Enterprises—KK Modi Group, we ensure that we provide all our employees with an equal platform for growth. As a country, we have made significant strides toward gender parity. The industry has to rise to the challenge as a whole to ensure we are using our talent pool to its full potential by not discriminating against anyone based on their gender, race, region, religion, or age.
Q: You have been honored with an honorary doctorate by two leading universities and recognized at multiple distinguished platforms, including the Women Economic Forum and Indo-American Chambers of Commerce. Recently, you were honored with the title of ‘Most Inspiring Woman In Business’ at the Outlook Business Spotlight’s Visionary Leader Awards 2023. Which achievements are you most proud of?
Dr. Modi: It may sound like a cliché, but I truly believe my best achievements are yet to come. As Robert Frost said, I have miles to go. But if I have to choose, I’ll say that the certification of our Group companies as a Great Place to Work gives me great joy. The Group has a rich legacy of always putting people first. All our business decisions have the human factor at the center of them. Getting validation for our sincere and relentless efforts to create a great workplace for our people is always heartening. In fact, our flagship company, Godfrey Phillips India, has received this recognition for the fifth year in a row.
Furthermore, recognition of our manufacturing capabilities, CSR initiatives, and employee-centric schemes by various bodies and institutes gives me great joy. But the recognition comes with a great responsibility, which I’m honored to shoulder. It is my commitment to always aim for excellence and deliver optimal value to even the last member of our value chain.
Q: What does the future hold for Modi Enterprises—KK Modi Group?
Dr. Modi: We don’t believe in sitting around and waiting for the future. We are the change-makers, and we are ringing in the future! We continue to deliver phenomenal financial success. Along with celebrating record-breaking growth this year, we are also planning the diversification of our portfolio. Our commitment to the people and our planet will be a strong underlying theme of all our decisions and actions.
As the Group’s Chairperson, I am unwavering in my dedication to Corporate Social Responsibility and our values of sustainability and corporate governance. We are taking bold steps towards an ambitious ESG journey, prioritizing reduced water usage, renewable energy, waste reduction, and biodiversity improvement. Our agility and people-centric approach are essential to sustainable growth, and we prioritize the well-being of all stakeholders in our value chain. With a strong culture of inclusion and diversity, we ensure the independence of non-executive and independent directors, internal and statutory auditors, and compliance with the highest standards of accounting and regulations, while advocating for positive change and long-term growth.
“The key to sustainable growth for the Group companies lies in prioritizing the human factor.”
“When someone says impossible, seize the challenge.”
“Innovate, because to stagnate is to die,” and “Have the courage to fail.”
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