Adi Godrej runs one of India’s most successful family businesses – he is also becoming one of the country’s best ambassadors for regional peace.
The 70-year-old head of the Godrej Group recently announced his company would be setting up business in Pakistan. The announcement comes after Godrej led a delegation in May of 40 business leaders to Pakistan to improve bilateral trade between the two countries. He went to Pakistan in his capacity as the recently appointed president of the Confederation of Indian Industry.
Of course when it comes to Godrej’s trip to Pakistan, it was likely to have been motivated more by selling the company’s consumer goods to the sixth most populous country in the world rather than to promote peace between the two nations. But that doesn’t mean the symbolism of his trip was lost on Godrej, or indeed Indian and Pakistani politicians.
Relations between the two regional superpowers – both have nuclear bombs – have been fraught since the partition of India in 1947. And many commentators see these tensions as one of the biggest hot spots in international relations. Some have even suggested that it is the most likely region in the world where a full-scale nuclear war could start.
Business is often a good starting point of rapprochements between adversaries. The need for greater trade with the west helped to bring down the so-called iron curtain between much of eastern Europe and the west in the late 1980s. The desire for peace in Northern Ireland was partly driven by the business imperative. Even greater trade between Israel and the Palestine-controlled Gaza Strip has helped in recent months to alleviate some tension between the two adversaries. Although, of course, there is a long way to go before peace breaks out between the two.
If there is one thing Godrej and his family members can appreciate running a family business that is more than 100 years old is the need for patience and a long-term strategy to ensure success. That, combined with the Godrej family’s belief in Zoroastrianism, the religious and philosophical belief system that teaches, in its most basic form, that mankind is ultimately good, might be as good – if not better – a starting point than any political initiative to bring the two countries closer together.