29 Years
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The Life and the Legend

Saturday, November 16, 2013


Byram Jeejeebhoy has insight into ethics of entrepreneurship. He moved to London at the age of nineteen, and got deeply involved in western classical music so much so that his violin teacher, Nicholas Roth became a fatherly figure and left an indelible mark in his life. He says "He took me under his wing like a son, which helped me to ward off loneliness in a foreign country. His influence on me was tremendous because he made me responsible by putting all his chores on to me, but I must say that it is my mother who has always been the shining light and the driving force of my life". Holding a Business Management degree from the London School of Economics and equipped with several other postgraduate degrees, Jeejeebhoy by his own admission says that perhaps his experience of living in India would have been far more fulfilling. "He feels that he would have been happier staying in India because the evolution that has taken place in India is an upward graph while in UK the graph shows a downward trend and he has seen both of them happening simultaneously.".

Though based in UK, ]eejeebhoy divides his time between India and Dubai too. He feels that he should have been in India a lot longer. "I miss India the most and I would like to spend most of my time there." Having said that, he does not deny his wonderful equation with the city of Dubai which puts him into an instant holiday mode. "Geographically, Dubai is a very convenient place to be in. A lot of my friends in Dubai are my old London friends who have migrated to Oubai. Small little perks of good food, excellent service and security surely make for a happy living here."

As Chairman of the family business house, overseeing the development of various estates and managing the various trusts and companies seems like a cakewalk to the veteran ]eejeebhoy, who attributes it to the latest methods of electronic communication which facilitate information at one's fingertips anytime, anywhere.

As a ]eejeebhoy, he takes immense pride in admitting that he has looked after and cared for all his family to the best of his ability and his children are also doing the same. "The fact is that as a Jeejeebhoy, you are always looked up with esteem and glad eyes and usually with a smile, rather than a frown," adds Jeejeebhoy with a sense of pride.

Byram ]eejeebhoy, has been a recipient of the coveted 'Vijay Ratna Award' for enrichment of human life, 'the Award of Freedom of City of London: and the 'International Friendship LTCL' from Trinity Music College, London. He keeps terms at Grays Inn (Inns of Court) enjoying a larger than life persona. Apart from his humble disposition, what astounds one the most about this man in his mid-sixties is his amazing bunch of hobbies and pastimes. His fervor of collecting violins, bows, clocks, flying helicopters and breeding and running racehorses sets this king-size personality miles apart from others. His well-appointed abode at Burj Residences which is dotted with interesting artifacts and masterpieces created by the iconic painter, MF Hussain is a true reflection of his impeccable taste and style. }eejeebhoy's yesteryears have been characterized by a robust lifestyle replete with sports like swimming, tennis and horse riding. At the moment, Jeejeebhoy's favorite sport is golf. If he were asked the same question ten years ago, his answer would have been horse riding. "I started riding when J was eight and never gave up. Given the offer, I will jump on a horse even now!" says an enthusiastic Jeejeebhoy. Byram Jee jeebhoy negotiates a few questions:

What is your ethical code in conducting business?
The most important thing in business is to give your counterparts and associates, absolute confidence of your integrity and honesty. Good mannerisms, conduct and speech go a long way in framing one's reputation and goodwill. Transparency in transactions is also essential for good business relations. Keeping hidden agendas or reserving certain cards for the last are not counted as good ethics and only go on to tarnish one's reputation.

You are the Director of various companies spread over different continents. Also, you are the Trustee for several Trusts. How have you successfully managed these Companies and Trusts?
J firmly believe that 'the more you give, the more you get back.' We constantly raise funds and keep making donations. I am only too happy to reveal that the standard of everything that has been happening for the last twenty-five to forty years is just a vertical graph. In this regard, I sincerely appreciate the foresight of my forefathers who built several charitable institutions to promote the Parsi community. As far as successfully managing my companies is concerned, it is essential to maintain a policy and not making too many U-turns. This ensures clarity of direction and action amongst the co-workers. Also, key positions should always be occupied by people who are well aware of the ethos and principles of the company and are conditioned to act and think like you."

What are the important lessons learnt by you through business experiences?
Experiences come to people only when applied in time; they can't be bought, they have to be lived. J owe much of my experience and success as a businessman to Mr. Madhusudan B. Vakharia, my colleague Director, ]eejeebhoy Business House, who gave me the benefit of his own experiences and trained me to look at things in the right manner. Neither do I panic when the market is bad, nor do J feel overjoyed when the situation looks great because it all comes in a day's work. It is an experience that should be taken in a straight-line manner.

Over the decades, how have you evolved as a businessman?
Evolution is something that generates itself from within and I have thoroughly enjoyed the progression of having lived through things for which I have made decisions, not knowing whether they were going to be right or wrong. If they were wrong, I have learnt a lesson, if they are right, I am happier that J have learnt a lesson and simultaneously have got them right.

What would be your piece of advice for the budding entrepreneurs?
Wait until an opportunity actually presents itself. Do not try to create an opportunity because that leads to a false start. Do not be shy of making developments through your contacts; the guy behind you will use them, if you don't. If things are not going too well, hang in because brighter days always come! Everything goes around in circles-we see great days and bad times. Try to keep yourself on an even keel and apply the best methods that you would apply in any given situation that should not damage your or the company's reputation.

What would be your advice to the Zoroastrian youth?
Get married and have more kids and do not be afraid of following your dreams!

What brings a smile on your face?
I am blessed with two beautiful children, Janine and Jamshed. My son, Jamshed has taken over the mantle and realizes the pressures of maintaining a good name. My four -year old grandson, Aryaan is a delight and I wish I could turn the clock back myself for him. He has given me a new dimension of life and instantly brings a smile on my face.

Any regrets?
In general, I have led a much fulfilled life. It is but human to have some heartaches, too. It is disconcerting to see that the institutions which were built by my forefathers have been turned into government organizations which, today suffer due to corruption and lack of organization. Lack of trained teaching staff and indiscipline in schools and co lleges have led to the dismal state of affairs in these institutions, which earlier carried the proud name of the Jeejeebhoys.

How would you like to be remembered?
I would love to be remembered as a man of benevolence who by means of his excellent managerial skills in schools, homes and hospitals did good all around for the benefit of the society as a whole.

What are your hopes and fears for 2014?
Health issues will persist worldwide especially in the poorer countries. Distribution of food to starving nations has again taken a backseat and needs a kick start very soon . Nature continues to play havoc with our lives with volcanoes, earthquakes and flooding. Although all countries are addressing the global warming issue, it wi ll be many years.

Wars and civil disturbances are in abundance and unless the more powerful step in to neutralize these disturbances, thousands of lives and families will be ruined daily. Theeastern countries China, Malaysia, Korea, Indonesia and India are powering through their own economies, showing self-suffiCiency and less dependence on the west. The globalization program gives advantages to level of economies, the weak and the strong.

The attack on white collar crimes and fighting corruption should seea more transparent and honest way of living. Education, compulsory or not is being addressed more seriously at international level. Soon the world will emerge with smarter and smarter younger people. The attack on obesity and emphasis on healthy living and eating, exercise program are going well into 2014 will make for a happier healthy society.

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