Saturday 11 April 2015

LRB resigns from Hindustan Lever

LRB's resignation letter from HLL
On November 30, 1971, after 4 and a half years at Hindustan Lever Ltd., LRB finally submitted his resignation. He addressed the letter to David Webb, the Vice Chairman of HLL and requested that he be relieved by the end of the year. Tte decision to leave had been a difficult one that he had mulled over for a long time (and one that would write about in the future). LRB was leaving to join the faculty of IIM Ahmedabad as a young (he was 23) Assistant Professor to build a career in academics. In a few months, he would move to New York to join the Doctoral programme at Columbia Business School. 

It appears that LRB put a lot of time into composing this short resignation letter. Despite its brevity, the letter's tone, tenor and language has been carefully crafted. He takes pains to convey his reasons for moving on, emphasizing his firm belief that academics is his true calling. Like he would say in an interview years later, he "didn't leave to leave Levers". HLL had made a big contribution to LRB's personal growth and professional development. He had also tasted great success there. It seems clear that he felt a connection with the company and did not want to snap ties or leave his colleagues with an unpleasant feeling. Indeed, the letter acknowledges his deep gratitude and fond regard for the company and talks about staying in touch. The language is of a protege saying goodbye to his mentor. 

Hindustan Lever was sad to see LRB leave. It is very likely that LRB had been identified as a 'lister' - one of a few individuals identified by the company for potential fast-track advancement to top management. Prof. SK Bhattacharya, one of his mentors at IIM-A, once told a colleague that Levers rated LRB very highly, and that "if Labdhi had not left Hindustan Lever, he would have joined the company's Board of Directors in a few years."

On the cusp of his transition from HLL to IIM Ahmedabad, on the 30th of December, 1971, LRB would hear the sad news of the unexpected passing of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, the visionary founding father of IIM-A. LRB would join the institute on the 3rd of January 1972. 3 days later, on the 6th of January, he would be joined by another young turk - CK Prahalad. That very month, on the the 25th of January 1972, Ravi J. Mathai, the celebrated Director of IIM Ahmedabad, and the man who had done the most to attract LRB and CKP to the institute, would drop a bombshell in the first faculty meeting of the year - he would be voluntarily stepping down from his position. The IIM-A torch was gently being passed to a new generation. 

Transcript of letter

November 30, 1971

Mr. D. F. Webb
Vice Chairman
Hindustan Lever Ltd. 

Through: R. A. Tofts

Dear Mr. Webb, 

It is with deep regret that I request you to accept my resignation from the Company in order to work towards a doctoral degree in the field of management studies in U.S.A. 

It is no secret that I have always been drawn towards academic pursuits and indeed the years with Hindustan Lever have been a highly educative and rewarding experience for me. However, it is only at the University, I believe, that I can find my true vocation - at least for the immediate future. A specific opportunity has now come my way as a result of which I now propose to join the faculty of the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, preparatory to my doctoral studies. Towards this end, I request that I be released from the services of the Company by 31st December, 1971. 

I would like to take this opportunity to record my gratitude to the company for all that has been done for my professional training and development. May I add that it is my appreciation of what I owe the Company that makes it difficult for me to consider serving the firm with anything less than total commitment.

I contemplate a career in management education and I hope to be in touch regularly. Should I ever be in a position to be of service to Hindustan Lever, I would consider it a privilege to render such help. 

With kind regards, 

Yours sincerely 

Labdhi Bhandari


  1. Apoorva, are you saying your dad started working at 16.5 years? If so, he is a true tendulkar!

    1. He started working at Hindustan Lever on July 1967, 3 weeks short of turning 19. So, not quite as early as Tendulkar. He did start his MBA at IIM-A 3 weeks short of turning 17.

  2. This has frequently resulted in costly hiring mistakes because of a “hit and miss” approach to recruitment due to: use it or lose it policies


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