Navas Meeran, the Chairman and Managing Director of Eastern Condiments Private Limited (ECPL) had been instrumental in the growth and professionalization of ECPL by bringing in non-family professionals, introducing state-of-the-art systems and processes in manufacturing, and nurturing the values of compassion and loyalty that his father had instilled across the organization. In 2014 he had taken a sabbatical and handed over the company operations to his younger brother Firoz. ECPL, the flagship company of the INR 8 billion, family managed Eastern Group headquartered in Kochi, India, was engaged in manufacturing and marketing spices, blended spice powders, pickles, breakfast staples and beverages in both domestic and international markets. The company began as a small shop set up by their father M.E. Meeran in 1961. It had grown to record revenues of INR 5.60 billion in 2014.
Though Navas was pleased with the company's 2015 business performance under Firoz's leadership he was uncomfortable with the pace and execution of major organizational changes brought in by Firoz. He was worried about Firoz's aggressive approach; the speed of the internal changes Firoz had made to tap external market opportunities had resulted in 10 -15% attrition at all levels in the organization.
Was it right for a traditional family run business bred on a culture of compassion and loyalty to make a sudden shift to a metrics-based performance culture? Would Firoz's efforts to transform the company into a professional organization ultimately sustain the growth of the business? Was there a need to both cultivate professionalism and reward loyalty across the ECPL value chain? Could a company based out of a Tier 2 city such as Kochi be able to attract high-quality talent easily? These were some of the questions that worried Navas.
Professionalization of a business is about putting in place structure, systems and processes. Family owners need to practice professionalism to professionalize their business.
Professionalization calls for appropriate changes in the structure and processes at the top management level to ensure that key people have the same organizational perspective. It should provide platforms to debate on HR policies; avoid creation of silos, that are detrimental to growth of the business.