Indian entrepreneurs cannot be treated as an escort service: Vikram Bakshi

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Mumbai February 17, 2014: At 40, after having made money in the real estate business, he was planning to take an early retirement and enjoy the hills of Mussoorie and beaches of Goa. Instead, formed a 50-50 joint venture (JV) with McDonald’s and ran it for the next 18 years. Now, ousted as the JV’s managing director, he is fighting a legal battle with his former partner. In his first interview since approaching the Company Law Board (), Bakshi talks to Surajeet Das Gupta & Sounak Mitra about what went wrong. Edited excerpts

At CLB, you recently offered to buy out McDonald’s in the JV. What if this does not work out?

Having built this business from the scratch, I would ideally like to continue growing in the food and beverage (F&B) space, with or without the McDonald’s brand. Even today, a large part of our menu consists of locally-created products (60 per cent). The investors have expressed faith in my abilities and are willing to invest in my ventures, with or without McDonald’s. It depends on whether McDonald’s agrees to sell its stake. Will I create my own brand or will I tie-up with other brands trying to enter the country? I might do either.

How much will you offer the investors or the JV partners, after your experience with McDonald’s?

Ideally, investors would like the entrepreneur to feel a sense of ownership and give him a majority. Once bitten, twice shy; my thought process is very clear. But, we have to wait and see how things unfold.

What went wrong?

I don’t know. I have nothing against McDonald’s. In fact, I have gained considerably from the McDonald’s processes, systems and marketing prowess over the years. However, I was never someone of a subservient nature. As any equal partner, I do believe in asking questions, rather than just jumping when someone asks me to do so. It’s the people who change; so do relationships. McDonald’s needed to establish the brand in India. I have put in my sweat and tears to build and bring the brand to this level in the region where I operate. I don’t understand why we are fighting. The fight is spoiling the brand name and my relationship with people. It has created uncertainty among employees, vendors and landlords. I do feel let down and disappointed, given the number of years I have put in building the company. It does pain me being sidelined today.

What role should policymakers in the government play? Are Indian entrepreneurs vulnerable to big multinational partners? 

Policymakers should ensure a local entrepreneur is not treated like an escort service in joint ventures, used and let off at the will of the stronger partner. I am disappointed that policymaking discussions are not always aimed at addressing the role of Indian entrepreneurs.- Business Line

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