For 75-year-old Pradeep Bhargava, the biggest change in Pune is the fact that the city is now firmly entrenched in the global ecosystem for industries. “Earlier, the industries in Pune thought of the country as its market. But now, Pune is firmly in the global map – the vision of the industries have changed,” said Bhargava, a permanent face in Pune’s industries.
He has donned major roles from steering the Mahratta Chamber of Commerce Industries and Agriculture (MCCIA) to being on the Board of multiple companies and captaining the various socially relevant initiatives of the industry.
It was in 1982 when Bhargava landed in Pune to run a consumer electronics company after 11 years stint in various central government organisations such as the Atomic Energy Commission and the Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) where he got to work with stalwarts such as Dr Vikram Sarabhai and others.
“Bharat Forge Limited was looking to diversify its portfolio and Mr Baba Kalyani asked me to head the newly set up corporate planning department in 1982. Pune did not feel very different as my upbringing was in cities like Udaipur, and Jaipur,” remembered Bhargava.
Pune was a city of cycles, scooters and the Bhargavas were put up off Law College Road. “Our office was in Mundhwa and four of us carpooled to the office from Law College Road. It took just 20-25 minutes for us to reach office but on some occasions, if the railway crossing was against us it took around 30-35 minutes, it felt like a long wait,” he said.
An alumnus of the prestigious Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, and the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, Bhargava spearheaded the Bharat Forge Sharp Corporation’s strategic joint venture which saw the forging giant entering consumer electronics.
“In 1987, the joint venture was finalised and we set up the production facility in the small village of Bhima Koregaon. In those days, Bhima Koregaon did not have a telephone exchange and a consumer durable company which was manufacturing televisions and had to coordinate with multiple vendors and dealers worked around that,” he said.
Most of the vendors, Bhargava said, were spread in Bhosari and Mumbai. “There have been times when my purchase manager has left for Bhosari to meet the vendors with them arriving in our offices just minutes after he left. There was no ways to coordinate but we managed the show pretty well,” he said.
Travel to Mumbai meant depending on the passenger train service of Deccan Queen with Bhargava making the trip almost twice a week.
For young Bhargava, Bhima Koregaon and its production facility were a new challenge. “As soon as I took over, I told the HR manager to arrange a meeting with the village sarpanch,” he said.
The meeting saw Bhargava arrange for employment of girls in the factory and the sarpanch asking for the local tanker owner to be employed as a supplier for water to the factory.
“I told the sarpanch that as our work involved intricate work, we would not require body builders. But what the sarpanch said was an eye-opener for us – most girls are married off before they cleared their Class X,” he said, adding that the relation between the company and the villagers was excellent.
“Pune-Ahmednagar Road was a hotbed of political agitation. Once there was announcement of road blockade at 2 pm. The young girls who were employed with us were to be transported to their home on company bus. I sent out a word to the sarpanch who immediately dispatched some young men as guards who accompanied the buses,” he said.
Global templates need to change for India
From Law College Road to Bhima Koregaon it took just 45 minutes with Wagholi and Lonikand not being synonymous with traffic jams as they are now. After the Kalyanis exited the joint venture in 1997, Bhargava shifted to Bangalore to work for a multinational company involved in electric lighting. “This multinational company had plants in Gujarat – but the global management failed to recognise the Indian sensibilities. Thus when many of the employees in the factory wanted to attend the marriage of a colleague’s sister in their small village, the global management was flabbergasted and advised that their leave be not sanctioned. My piece of advice was simple – if the leaves are not granted now, they will proceed on leave when the company needs them the most,” he said.
The message went through. After three years in Bengaluru, Bhargava returned to Pune to join Cummins India, first as the managing director of the Power Generation Business and continued on their Board till 2018, post his superannuation in 2012.
“During my stint with Cummins India, I can proudly say I spearheaded the setting up of the first Green Factory in India at Cummins Ranjangaon,” he said.
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