|Ambuja Neotia is one of the more prominent and respected corporate houses headquartered in Kolkata with its forte in real estate and recent forays into hospitality, healthcare and education. The Company, under the stewardship of Mr. Harshavardhan Neotia has been responsible for landmark projects in and around Kolkata such as Udayan, Kolkata’s first Condoville, created around the Public Private Partnership model, City Centre, the mall that went on to re-write several retail rules, Ffort Raichak, Kolkata’s first luxury weekend getaway and the pastoral hamlet by the Ganges, Ganga Kutir amongst many others. The Group also championed the cause of woman and child healthcare by setting up Bhagirathi Neotia Woman & Child Care Centre in Kolkata.
The Neotia Family – An Introduction
The Neotia family has been an integral part of the business scene in Kolkata for nearly 120 years. Originating from Rajasthan, their forefathers settled in the city some time in 1890s being attracted to the opportunities for enterprise that the city offered. Since then Kolkata has been their home and subsequent generations have been born and brought up here.
Patriarchs of the Ambuja Neotia Group, Late Shri Suresh Neotia and Late Shri Vinod Neotia started their entrepreneurial career in the mid-1950s. Their eldest brother Shri Bimal Kumar Poddar was adopted by their maternal grandfather Shri Janki Prasad Poddar, a partner of the celebrated firm "Tarachand Ghanshyamdas". This was probably one of the first wholly Indian registered partnership firms during the time of the British occupation of India. It was a trading firm that had offices right from Karachi in Pakistan to Shanghai in China. It began with interests in banking and insurance and later diversified into distribution of petroleum products as a franchisee of Burma Shell.
Subsequent to dissolution of "Tarachand Ghanshyamdas", the three brothers Bimal Kumar Poddar, Late Shri Suresh Neotia and Late Shri Vinod Neotia set up "Radhakrishna Bimalkumar" in the mid-1950s. As a leading franchisee of Burma Shell in the country, it operated out of several branches spread across UP, Bihar and West Bengal.
Following the sad demise of Shri Bimal Kumar Poddar in 1968, Late Shri Suresh Neotia and Late Shri Vinod Neotia took charge of the family business. Under their leadership "Radhakrishna Bimalkumar" continued its expansion with major forays in trading operations of Cement, Fertilizers and Petroleum products. Having grossed a turnover of Rs.500 crores by the early 90's, it continues to maintain a steady growth.
Parallel to these, other ventures of the Neotia family included a Textile Mill in West Bengal and highly profitable collieries which were later nationalised. They also promoted an engineering firm "Macmet India Limited" which is engaged in engineering contracts and software solutions.
This long and successful entrepreneurial tradition found its true culmination when the two brothers, relying on their vision and vast experience joined hands with Mr. Narotam Sekhsaria, brother of Bimla Poddar (wife of Late Bimal Kumar Poddar), to promote "Gujarat Ambuja Cements Limited (GACL)" in the mid 80's. In a few years the company earned Blue Chip status and became a leader in the Cement Industry.
In late 90’s, Modi Cement, which had become sick was taken over by GACL and Harshavardhan Neotia, son of Late Shri Vinod Neotia and the only male heir of the family, was appointed as MD of the newly formed "Ambuja Cement Eastern Limited". Continuing the family tradition of excellence, he was able to execute a remarkable turnaround transforming the erstwhile sick company into one of the most profitable and efficient cement manufacturers in the country.
Together, the Sekhsarias and Neotias built up what was arguably India's most well-known and efficient cement company. In the year 1999, they made a strategic investment in ACC, India's oldest and most prestigious cement company, by acquiring about 14.5% stake.
In the year 2005, they invited Holcim, the world's largest cement company to join them. Together they took control of ACC. In the year 2006, they divested a substantial portion of their stake in GACL in favour of Holcim and handed over its management control.
Shri Harshavardhan Neotia, the current Chairman of the Ambuja Realty Group, was born and brought up in Kolkata. He did his schooling in La Martiniere for Boys, Kolkata, graduation from St. Xavier's College and OPM from Harvard Business School, USA. He serves as the Honorary Consul of Israel in Kolkata and holds other esteemed positions such as the post of former Chairman, CII-Eastern India, Member of the Board of Governors of IIM Kolkata, Member of Board of Trade, Government of India, Member of Rajasthan Foundation and Nathdwara Temple Board and also Member of Heritage Commission, Government of West Bengal. It is he who diversified the family business into real estate development.
Establishing new benchmarks in public private partnership to promote social housing, he set up one of the first joint sector companies, "Bengal Ambuja Housing Development Limited" in partnership with the Government of West Bengal. Its maiden project, the "Udayan", built on the same maxim was declared a Model Housing Project by the Union Government. These efforts earned him the honour of being bestowed with the 'Padma Shri' by the President of India in 1999.
In addition to their excellent entrepreneurial tradition, the family has also been keenly involved in the promotion of arts, both performing and visual, apart from discharging its social responsibilities towards the underprivileged sections.
Late Shri Suresh Neotia had been associated with the promotion of many cultural institutions like Anamika Kala Sangam and Padatik and had served on the board of prestigious bodies of Government of India, including Asiatic Society, National Culture Fund, Victoria Memorial Trust, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad and is currently the Director of Central Board of Reserve Bank of India. He also served as the Chairman Emeritus of GACL.
Late Shri Vinod Neotia, with strong religious dispositions, was a Trustee of Somnath Temple Trust and Kshetropasana Trust. Surpluses of these trusts are used for the betterment of the poor and the aged.
The family has also promoted a major cultural institute by the name of ‘Jnana Pravaha’ at Varanasi where Smt Bimla Poddar is the Managing Trustee and lives there to run the institute. The ‘Jnana Pravaha’ houses a very impressive art collection of Indian antiquity and also the library of Late Shri Suresh Neotia comprising rare and priceless books on art and literature. The Institute is engaged in the field of preservation and dissemination of Indian heritage and culture. Late Shri Suresh Neotia (8 September 1936 - 7 May 2015) was the Chairman and Shri Harshavardhan Neotia a Trustee of Jnana Pravaha.
Currently, the Ambuja Neotia Group is being led by Shri Harshavardhan Neotia.