Arnavaz ‘Anu’ Aga, one of the richest women in India, a Rajya Sabha member and the co-founder of ‘Teach For India’, has had a life marked by tragedy and indomitable courage.
On her 75th birthday, her close friend and contemporary in the corporate world, Rahul Bajaj (chairman of Bajaj Group), speaks about his friendship with Aga, whom he refers to as the ‘Iron Lady’.
Bajaj fondly recalls being close to Aga’s husband, Rohinton, whose untimely demise forced Aga to take over the reins of the family’s then-flailing business.
Thermax: A Story of Revival
In the 80s, Aga and Rohinton worked for Thermax Ltd – the company her father started in 1966, before handing it over to Rohinton upon his retirement.
But in 1996, life changed forever for Aga after her husband passed away. Thermax was her responsibility now, and she assumed charge as the chairperson of the company. Before she could recover from Rohinton’s death, tragedy struck again – her 25-year-old son, Kurush, was killed in a road accident.
When Aga took over, Thermax was on the verge of sinking. The share prices had toppled from Rs 400 to Rs 36. Aga later recalled an anonymous letter by a shareholder which acted as a driving force in improving the situation at Thermax. The author of the letter accused her of letting him, and several other shareholders like him down. As the largest shareholder in the company, Aga knew it was up to her to reverse the company’s imminent nosedive.
She carried out full-scale reforms, and by the time she stepped down as chairperson in 2004, Thermax was a global player and leading in energy and environment projects.
Now in her retirement, Aga has passed on the baton to her daughter, Meher Pudumjee. She devotes her time to the field of public education, with her foundations Teach For India and Akanksha, for which she was awarded the Padma Shri for Social Work in 2010. When she’s not doing social work, Aga can be found among her books and grandchildren, or meditating.
Video Editor: Mohd Ibrahim
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