Anushree and Parth Jindal for HELLO! India© HELLO! India

Anushree And Parth Jindal On Their Old-School Love Story

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Sangeeta Waddhwani

The new Jindal family home in South Mumbai is an unhurried ode to modern sensibilities. Its rarefied spaces whisper through a mise-en-scene of pastel rugs, quirky furniture, futuristic lighting and the truest of luxuries — floor-to-ceiling bay windows offering spectacular sea views. Each work of art feels alive in this muted design language, awash in natural light. As for the artists — what a riotous assembly! While there’s an iconic Bharti Kher, there’s also a rebellious outlay of the lesser seen Rana Begum, Astha Butail, Annie Morris, Idris Khan, Tanya Goel and Fred Eerdekens.

But then, let’s not forget that the Jindals are planets apart from the nouveau riche galaxies sprawled around the city, clamouring for ‘profitable’ Progressives and Masters. As Anushree Jindal shares, “The art is mostly curated by us; my mother-in-law Sangita Jindal is always there to guide us. She told us, ‘You choose what you like. Go for young, fun artwork. My collection of Masters is there for you to put up any time.”

True enough, as we see two SH Razas in the audio-visual room where we chat.

One can’t help noting the warmth, humility and approachability of Anushree and Parth Jindal. This is the third generation of an epic corporate family founded by a titan like OP Jindal, whose JSW Group, like JSW Energy, JSW Steel and, more recently, JSW Cement and JSW Paints, among other core manufacturing ventures.

Now, thanks to the globally exposed and marketing upskills of Parth Jindal, the JSW Group has not only seen resurrected brand power in older core ventures, but has also gained an appetite for “risk diversification”. One such venture is the Inspire Institute of Sport (IIS) by JSW, which sponsors and trains more than 120 sportspersons in different disciplines and has brought India much pride at the Olympics, with Neeraj Chopra winning a gold and freestyle wrestlers like Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik also adding to India’s medal counts.

“Over 20 athletes trained at IIS have won more than 15 medals for India in the Commonwealth Games. It’s helped the JSW brand in more ways than one,” shares Parth.

So here are the big questions: What has Parth’s evolutionary trajectory been like? As best friends, husband and wife, young parents — he’s a multiple award-winning business leader, and she’s an impassioned social entrepreneur — how do Anushree and Parth walk the Jindal talk? How deeply embedded are the values and patriotic sentiments of the late OP Jindal, and other paterfamilias, in this generation? We find out...

HELLO!: What were your formative influences, preceding your journey of carrying the Jindal legacy into such a disruptive world?

Parth Jindal: There’s a famous saying that goes, “The first generation creates, the second generation grows, and the third generation destroys.” I’m the third generation! (Laughs) Yes, one can easily become complacent, thanks to the achievements of our earlier generations. But it was at business school where I realised that if one rests on past laurels, one could easily become irrelevant. I completed my MBA at Harvard Business School, which prepared me for our world, disruptions notwithstanding. We were exposed to case studies of various businesses to understand strategy, globalisation, disruption as well as what worked and what failed. I grew up walking around our factories with my grandfather, OP Jindal, my father Sajjan Jindal and all my uncles. That particular generation was all about being entrepreneurs and building from scratch. After finishing B-school, since I was coming into an already established business, my role was not only about entrepreneurship, but also about good leadership, managing people and the expectations of our shareholders, employees and family, and understanding risk diversification.

Anushree Jindal: My father hails from a well- established diamond family, hugely influenced by Gandhiji who often stayed at our house with my great-grandfather, Nanalal Jasani, in the 40s, brainstorming politics and philanthropy. My mom’s family background was essentially industrial. My maternal grandfather, Nimjibhai Kapadia, owned Kohinoor Mills (until it got nationalised) and several other major companies.

Both sides of my family were strong influences in my life... Being surrounded by strong women like my mother, who’s a pivotal force in my life, inspired me at a personal level to want to do something meaningful. Growing up in India, I’ve seen so much inequality all around me; it troubled me. I wanted to do my bit to empower women and help bring them out of severe poverty.

When I was 18, my uncle — my mother’s late brother — gifted me this book on microfinance. This was the time when Muhammad Yunus’ work and Grameen Bank’s initiatives were gaining recognition. Since then, I dreamed of starting a microfinance company. In college, I organised a fundraiser to distribute solar lanterns in non- electrified parts of rural Maharashtra. I personally went on these distribution drives and met these women in their natural environment. They were so strong, hard-working and ambitious, even without formal education. They all had a fire in them. I knew then that I wanted to do something where I could help these women.

Thereafter, I went to the London School of Economics for my masters and learned about the best business practices, with a focus on what felt relevant to India. Before launching my business I also did a course on microfinance at Harvard Kennedy School, which enabled me to build my venture, Svamaan Financial Services, on a strong, purposeful foundation.

H: Tell us about some inspiring milestones from your journeys.

PJ: When I returned from Brown University, we had incurred losses in JSW Steel’s US operations. In India, we were recording losses at JSW Cement and in our IT business. I wanted to turn these sleeper businesses into galloping successes! My father asked me what I needed from them, to which I had said I’d get back to him. I joined the sales and marketing division of the group. After my father assigned me the task of finding out why Tata Steel could command such a large premium over JSW Steel, I undertook a detailed market study and realised that this was because of its sheer brand value. From the tea you drink, the salt you eat, the TV network you watch, the car you drive — everything has a Tata brand connect in India! I remember telling my Dad, “The brand is so powerful; people say we only build our house once, so we want to use Tata Steel.” We needed to rebrand JSW Steel. There was also a lot of confusion regarding the Jindal tag; people wondered, “Which Jindal is it?” In the cement business, we competed with Birla, Ambuja and all the big brands. It was my strong belief that there was no better way to build our brand than through sports.

AJ: At Svamaan, we give rural women small-ticket loans. These are women with no credit rating or credit history, so no banks would really extend them any aid. If they went to money lenders, they’d get loans at high interest rates, which would ultimately become burdensome. These women are mostly mothers and wives, not women with formal vocational training. Some are wives of autorickshaw owners, or drivers, or farmers who drink too much. Some are SME owners, like small kiraana shops, or tailors, with little income, but they still need financial backing. Hence, being an integral part of their journey is extremely special and fulfilling to me.

Another big milestone for me was building the two temples near JSW Cement factories in Nandyal, Andhra Pradesh, and Salboni in West Bengal. In both cases, we engaged with the local communities and found out which deity they believed in. The idea was to give them a pious place of worship, and I feel immense gratitude to have been able to facilitate this! In Andhra, we built a Lord Balaji temple inspired by Tirupati, and in Bengal, we constructed a Maa Kali temple. In Nandyal, through the process of building the temple, we were also able to restore an untapped underground water resource that helped rejuvenate agricultural produce in the region.

H: Parth, does your sports institute also align with your family’s love of sport?

PJ: Yes, it does. Sports has always been close to our hearts. When I say ‘our’, I mean my mama, chachas and my dad. We’re a sports-loving family. I was troubled by the fact that a country of 1.3 billion wasn’t winning too many Olympic medals. That’s why I wanted to build an institute that would groom India’s youth to compete at the Olympics. When we started these discussions in 2012, that’s what I really wanted to change. I felt people would start associating JSW with Olympic sports if we could contribute to India winning medals. I took this idea to the board at JSW Steel, which was finally approved in November 2014, and we started construction right away. The institute was launched in 2017. It’s done extremely well, if you consider our achievements since, and it’s definitely helped the JSW brand in more ways than one. Today, there’s no price difference between JSW Steel andTata Steel across all our product portfolios! In fact, we’re now larger than Tata Steel as a company! Once this happened, we felt it was time to get into the commercial aspect of sport. So next came our Bengaluru FC football team, followed by the Haryana Steelers, our pro-kabaddi team, and finally, IPL’s Delhi Capitals.

H: Your grandfather, OP Jindal, was a legend. What did you learn from him?

PJ: Babaji was one of the most inspirational people I’ve ever met. He was a farmer’s son. He wasn’t educated but went on to build steel plants and create one of India’s largest steel conglomerates. I learned from him to lead by example, and never expect someone to do something I wasn’t willing to do myself. One of the finest anecdotes I heard about him goes like this: We have a factory outside Mumbai in Vasind. In the 1980s, Datta Samant was a powerful politician and head of the trade union. There was a drive in our factory to get the workforce unionised. When my grandfather visited Vasind from Hisar, the workers told him he had to speak to their leader if he wanted to speak to them. But my grandfather told them, “We don’t believe in unions, and this factory won’t operate with a union.” When the labourers threatened to not turn up for work the next day onwards, he literally closed the gates to the factory, went to Samant’s house and said, “This is your factory now. You please run it. I’m not involved.”

When he came home and narrated the incident to my father, Dad was taken aback because we had invested so much in this unit. To this, he said, “If they can run it better than me, then let them run it! If they want me back, there will be no union.” He told my father to give them seven days, and that if they returned the factory to him, we’d have nothing to worry about. Within four days, they came running back to him, saying “Sir, without you, we cannot run this!” So my father told them that there was no place for a union in any Jindal factory, and as long as they agreed, they could return to work. Since that day, there’s never been any union at any of our plants.

H: Getting more personal... How did the two of you meet and recognise each other as soulmates?

PJ: Anushree and I both studied at Cathedral and John Connon School in Mumbai. She was in my cousin’s class. I’d see her at my nani’s house, where she’d come over to meet my cousin, who she was good friends with. Our school organised a ski camp that we both attended when we were around 10 years old. We eventually got together when we were both 18. So we’ve known each other our entire life! (Laughs)

AJ: It’s been 14 years! We’ve created beautiful memories while growing together as individuals. Every stage of our relationship has had its highlights. For instance, I remember when we were in a long-distance relationship — I was based in Mumbai and London, and he was in Boston — we’d try to meet in London. Those were really good, fun times. Things have evolved since then.

Today, all our energy is focused on bringing up our kids. They are the fulcrum of our lives! So every stage of life has had its special moments.

H: How did you propose, and how did that moment feel?

PJ: Very dramatic! Extremely so. Our life is actually like a movie screenplay. I was at Harvard, and she was doing her masters from London. I knew her parents were visiting, and we had been dating for seven years by then. I felt the time was right to take our relationship to the next level. So I decided to visit her and had even asked her father for a drink in private. In his hotel lobby, we had a drink, and I told him, ‘Uncle, I really love your daughter, and I want to propose to her. Are you ok with that?’ He just laughed at the innocence of the entire matter and gave me the green light, ‘OK, go ahead.’ I told him I wanted to take Anushree to Courchevel to propose. Even though he agreed to the idea, he made sure I’d check with her mother first.

So the next day, we went to Courchevel. Anushree and I had never travelled alone together, so she had probably figured out why we were there. I wanted to do something memorable, which is how I got the idea to propose to her on a mountaintop! There was this one restaurant, below which there was a balcony of sorts. There, in wood, I wanted to have the words ‘Will you marry me’ carved and erupt in flames. We were supposed to go there after dinner, where I’d go down on one knee and pop the question. All of this was planned for the first night, and we were to stay another before returning to London. But that night, there was a really strong blizzard, and I couldn’t do anything!

Anushree was completely puzzled. So the next day, with better weather, we went skiing, returned, and I invited her to go snow-mobiling with me. I later took her up to the restaurant. We had dinner, I steered her to the balcony, the fire was started, the music began to play, and I went down on one knee and proposed to her!

AJ: I had an inkling that something was going to happen, especially since we had never gone on a trip together before this! When we got there, he just wasn’t popping the question! I was wondering what was going on. He actually proposed when I was least expecting it. We went to this restaurant, high up in the Alps, on a snowmobile in the middle of a snowstorm. I didn’t cry when he proposed, but it was such an emotional, sentimental moment. He had ‘Will you marry me’ erupt in flames. I was very overwhelmed! It was truly magical.

The fairy-tale proposal has since been followed by six fairy-tale years, as Parth spread his wings in the family businesses and took the legacy forward by leading the diversification of the JSW Group. Anushree, on the other hand, fulfils her home responsibilities while running her microfinance business. She’s busy being mom to their two children, Ayana, their three-year-old daughter, and six-month-old Vivaan, a pandemic baby! We see in them both the microcosm of a young nation propelling itself forward internally and on the world stage, while nurturing a fourth generation of industrious, visionary little Jindals!

Photography: Ryan Martis; Creative Direction: Avantikka Kilachand; Fashion Editor: Sonam Poladia; Junior Stylist: Anushree Sardesai; Makeup: Priya Todarwal

This story has been adapted for the website from a story that was originally published in Hello! India’s September 2022 issue. Get your hands on the latest issue right here!