Interview with Harsh Goenka, Chairman of RPG Enterprises, India

RPG Enterprises is a fifth generation family-owned conglomerate and one of the largest industrial groups in India. The group is a major player in power generation and distribution, information technology, infrastructure, tyres, plantations and pharmaceuticals. In 1988 Harsh Goenka was appointed chairman of the company. Building on the entrepreneurial heritage of his grandfather and father, Goenka dedicated his organisational skills to creating a moral structure for the organisation, which would shift the focus towards human capital with the aim to create a work atmosphere of excitement and motivation. He applied considerable efforts developing company employees and still enjoys being involved in decision-making processes though management is delegated to the current CEO. When Goenka first became chairman of the board he brought in an international consultant to help define the core activities of the business. Thanks to this intervention the family group consolidated from 18 to 6 business streams. While RPG Enterprises used to be an India-centric group, today 43 % of the group’s business comes from abroad and has managed to penetrate markets in Latin America, Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

To most, Harsh Goenka is a business tycoon known for taking RPG Enterprises to the next level. But there is a deeper layer to this exceptional businessman; Goenka is one of India’s most ardent art lovers. With a collection of over 6,000 pieces he may well be recognised as one of the greatest collectors in the country. Tharawat magazine speaks to Harsh Goenka about his business, his love for art, and the meaning of culture for Indian society.

What are your business’ core values?

Our most important core value is that we value relationships. And we believe in people as our biggest asset. The second core value is that we operate on mutual trust. More than the written word, the commitment to verbal agreements is very important to us. There is a great amount of dedication and independence given to the whole organisation. The third core value is our belief in transparency and we strive to create a culture of excitement in our organisation. My goal is not to be the biggest industrial company in India, but create the most exciting workplace in the country.

Is your appreciation for the arts the result of a personal passion or does it derive from familial tradition?

My family is from the city of Calcutta, which is known for its passion for culture and the arts. We always had artists, authors and classical musicians coming to our house. My father had a collection of Indian miniatures. And my job as a young boy was to catalogue them. When I grew up I started having a dislike of miniatures, because for me, it was a very tedious task. On the other hand, my interest for contemporary art blossomed due to the many artists who came to our house and their discussions. There were always fascinating debates going on and I think this is when my love affair with art began.

Paresh Maity