G M RAO
Group Chairman, GMR Group
GM Rao, a Mechanical Engineer, is the Founder Chairman of
the GMR Group, the global infrastructure developer.
Born in Rajam in the Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh in
India, GM Rao ventured into business starting with a single
jute mill in 1978. Since then, till before India’s economic
liberalization, circumstances compelled him for opportunity
driven business building.
He entered 28 businesses as a serial entrepreneur and exited
most of them with the opportunities thrown up by the
opening up of the Indian economy in the early 1990s. As a
part of the post-liberalization generation of entrepreneurs,
his moves became entirely strategy driven and focused on
long term objectives. Eventually, his single-minded focus on the core infrastructure sector
resulted in GMR Group exiting some of the highly attractive businesses of banking,
insurance, software, breweries, jute and sugar.
In his long journey, GM Rao evolved from a student leader, to a trader, to a manufacturer,
to a banker, to an infrastructure developer.
Over the last 4 decades he has successfully established GMR Group, as one of the most
recognized brands in the country, creating national infrastructure assets of global scale and
world-class quality, creating new benchmarks. The Group is now well diversified and
professionally managed infrastructure developer with focus on Airports, Energy,
Transportation and Urban Infrastructure including SEZs.
While business grew rapidly, GM Rao laid special emphasis on long term prosperity by
focusing on institution building as well. The GMR Group Vision states “GMR Group will be an
institution in perpetuity that will build entrepreneurial organizations making a difference to
society through creation of value.” A set of seven core Values & Beliefs was arrived at, to
define the GMR Group’s distinct organization culture. This was further strengthened by a
Code of Conduct for all employees, emphasizing on ethical and professional behaviour.
Rao believes that “Family must be run like Business and Business must be run like Family”.
He made the pioneering effort in formulating a Family Constitution taking expert opinion
from world renowned consultants. This is now formalized into a legal document, with all
immediate family members including spouses as signatories.
He says “Strong family governance ensures strong corporate governance”. He believes that
this will ensure a smooth transition of business from generation to generation, and at the
same time, enable professionals to discharge their rightful roles in the growth and
development of the Group.
GM Rao’s vision in 3 dimensions of business building, institution building and family
governance had a 4th dimension built into it, that of giving back to society. This, he started
very early on, in his career. Eventually, he set up an independent, professionally run,
company, GMR Varalakshmi Foundation, to channelize funds for social causes for the
benefit of the under-served in society. Today, the Foundation is active in 18 locations in
India and 2 locations in Nepal and its 4 areas of activity are education, healthcare, livelihood
and community development and it has received wide national recognition for its impact in
the sections of society it serves.
To ensure that his legacy lives on beyond his lifetime, he made an endowment of the entire
portion of his personal wealth to the GMR Varalakshmi Foundation in March 2011.
He was conferred with the honorary Doctor of Laws by York University, Toronto, Canada in
2011, the honorary Doctor of Letters by the Andhra University, India in 2010 and honorary
Doctor of Letters by the Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, Hyderabad, India in
2005. He received the award for the ‘First Generation Entrepreneur of the Year’ from CNBC
TV18 in 2009. In the same year, he received the Infrastructure Person of the Year award at
the Infrastructure Journal Award Ceremony held in London. He was also chosen as the
‘Entrepreneur of the year’ at the Economic Times Awards for Corporate Excellence 2006 –
07, apart from numerous other awards and public recognition throughout his career. He has
served on the very prestigious Central Board of Directors of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) from
year 2011 to 2015.
For his considerable achievements, he insistsAll the credit goes to my GMR colleagues and
my family for their understanding, shared vision, hard work and dedication”.