Date: 15th March 2017
Telecast on: DD National
Pradip Burman is the great grandson of the founder of Dabur, Dr. S.K Burman. Born in a family of innovators and philanthropists, he absorbed these qualities from childhood. He cannot lie, even if it would save him from punishment. He had two brothers, one older and one younger.
He was born in Amritsar in 1942, during the Second World War. Dabur set up a factory in Deoghar, Bihar, and the family moved there. When the war was over, they moved to Kolkata and he was sent Hindi High School. In 1951, two brothers were sent to an English medium boarding school, St. Pauls in Darjeeling. English was new to them, but they learned fast. Pradip took his education seriously and studied hard. He liked cricket, soccer, gymnastics and boxing.
1960, he applied to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA, for a degree in Mechanical Engineering and was admitted. That was quite a feat, considering the competition. He continued wrestling and swimming. A professor of Liberal Arts, Mr Shipkey, befriended young Pradip Burman. The Professor, an alumnus of Harvard, introduced Pradip to Greek and Roman history. Pradip enjoyed reading the Odyssey as much as he enjoyed learning about the great physicists and their work. Professor Gamble, made Pradip’s chemistry interesting with experiments in class. Pradip’s thesis was a sonic aid for the blind, which sent out ultrasound signals to detect obstacles.
The Professional phase
After graduation, he migrated to Canada and joined a chemical manufacturing company, Canadian Industries Limited. He worked on building a machine that could test soil. He returned to India in 1967. He joined Dabur India Ltd , in Calcutta, as an executive, where his brother was running production, and his uncle, P.C. Burman, was in charge of R&D. In 1969, he married and had a son soon after.
During his time as an Executive, he and his brother would leave for the factory at 7 a.m. and return late evening. Pradip was in charge of the engineering at the factory – from ordering them to maintenance. He put up preventive preventive maintenance system for the production machinery. . During this time, Bengal was dealing with the Naxal movement. Trade unions gained power and the existing State Government lost to the Communist party. This was the period when Trade Unions brought Calcutta to a standstill. Burman, out of goodwill and to maintain peace gave into their demand once, but decided to not put up with it as it was unfair, paying workers who would not work. During the 1970’s unrest, curfews and lengthy power cuts, Dabur went through tough times.
The Burman family decided to shift to Delhi. While his brother took care of expansion in Delhi, Pradip stayed in Calcutta. He faced regular strikes until the Delhi factory was ready. Dabur, left Calcutta, along with many other manufacturing companies. Calcutta became very small part of the company. In 1982, he was diagnosed with Rheumatoid arthritis, owing to the stress created by the trade unions. He then made the decision to move to Delhi for treatment and, keeping in line with his values, opted for Ayurvedic treatment. He was treated with Panchkarma therapy and massages, and it did the cure.
Dabur had a new project, in collaboration with a Swiss company, Unipectin. The factory was setup in Alwar, Rajasthan, since the essential raw ,ateroa; Giar Gi,was found in Rajasthan. It became operational in 1983. This became Dabur’s first public venture in India. However, the plant didn’t go too well and could not cover the cost. The company had to shut down the project. The factory was converted to a manufacturing unit for Dabur products. In the meantime, since there was financial backfire, the Guar Gum Company was merged with Dabur.
In 1992 Pradip Burman then moved to Delhi and started a new venture – a veterinary division of Dabur India Ltd, which manufactured Ayurvedic medicine for veterinary usage . It was sold under the divisional name of Dabur Ayurvet Ltd.
Initially it started making a loss, as the [rpdicts was made by Dabur and costs charges to Ayurvet were high. A consultant, McKinsey & Co., were called in to professionalise Dabur. Which meant that the family members would have to move out of the business. McKinsey proposed to continue giving salaries to all the family members, whether the member was working or not.
After a couple of years of getting a salary and having nothing to do, Pradip felt the itch to put his knowledge to good use, He took over the veterinary company and named it “Ayurvet Ltd” and the company was named ‘Ayurvet Ltd’. The plant was in Baddi, Himachal Pradesh. The company started making profit since the costs were lower in their own manufacturing premises.
Pradip was truly fascinated by Ayurveda. He mused about the difference between modern and ancient science, and realised that both can be right. So he defended it with the Dabur motto – “Traditional Knowledge, Modern Research”. The medicines produced by Ayurvet were evaluated before being given to the public. Ayurvet does not believe in animal testing.He headed the PHD Rural Development Foundation from 1996-99. He is also the founder chairman of Sustainable Development Society (Sundesh), a CSR initiative supported by Dabur, for development work in the rural areas. He is the chairman of the Mobius Foundation, a non-profit organisation working for education, sustainability and the protection of the environment.
All in all, one good man, way too many hats.