Anand Burman
India
Anand Burman
  • Chairman, Dabur India Limited (Natural Consumer Products)
Born Kolkata, India, 1952. B.Sc. in Chemistry, University of Wisconsin; M.Sc. in Chemistry, University of Kansas; PhD in Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of Kansas (1980)
“We want our brand—we want the Dabur name—to signify trust.”

Summary

In this interview, Dr. Anand Burman, chairman of Dabur India Limited, reflects on the over 130 year history of his family’s diversified consumer products business. The company was founded in 1884 by his great-great-grandfather, Dr. S.K. Burman, a medical doctor living in Calcutta who specialized in ayurvedic medicines. Over time, Burman explains, the company grew into now-iconic products like Dabur Amla hair oil, and Red toothpaste.

Burman was in many senses born into the family business. Growing up, he recalls, family and business were “completely inseparable.” Officially, however, he earned a PhD in pharmaceutical chemistry at the University of Kansas before returning to India and joining the business in the 1980s. At that time, he worked under the mentorship of his uncle, Mr. Gyan Burman, who taught him how to translate his formal education into practice at Dabur.

Burman speaks at length about the central role that ayurvedic tradition continues to play at Dabur. Several decades ago, he explains, the company made efforts to delve into the science underpinning the ancient ayurvedic tradition in order to perfect products and make them widely available to the Indian consumer. He emphasizes that this is the key to the company’s success, as Dabur didn’t invent ayurvedic products. “We have taken an age old remedy, and we have standardized it,” he explains. “We have put it into a very modern format.” Even with non-medicinal, every-day consumer products, the company works to integrate ayurvedic and other elements.

Burman also touches on some of the struggles of maintaining high quality ayurvedic products. For one thing, he says, the company constantly battles competitors who undermine the legitimacy of Ayurveda by making outlandish claims about products that have no basis in science. He also reflects on the increasing scarcity of certain essential ingredients. In the interview, he talks about how the company has been working actively with the United Nations on CITES—the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora—to cultivate several species in greenhouses.

In the interview, Burman reflects on major changes to the company that took place in the 1990s, when Dabur went through its first IPO, and shortly thereafter brought in the consulting firm McKinsey to develop a new management strategy for the company going forward. He discusses at length the process through which the company went from family to professional management, including both successes and failures, and the ways in which family members learned to reconceptualise their roles.

Burman also discusses the company’s growth outside India, into the Middle East, Africa, and the US, as well as Dabur’s diversification strategy to broaden its consumer products portfolio.

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In this interview, Dr. Anand Burman, chairman of Dabur India Limited, reflects on the over 130 year history of his family’s diversified consumer products business. The company was founded in 1884 by his great-great-grandfather, Dr. S.K. Burman, a medical doctor living in Calcutta who specialized in ayurvedic medicines. Over time, Burman explains, the company grew into now-iconic products like Dabur Amla hair oil, and Red toothpaste.

Burman was in many senses born into the family business. Growing up, he recalls, family and business were “completely inseparable.” Officially, however, he earned a PhD in pharmaceutical chemistry at the University of Kansas before returning to India and joining the business in the 1980s. At that time, he worked under the mentorship of his uncle, Mr. Gyan Burman, who taught him how to translate his formal education into practice at Dabur.

Burman speaks at length about the central role that ayurvedic tradition continues to play at Dabur. Several decades ago, he explains, the company made efforts to delve into the science underpinning the ancient ayurvedic tradition in order to perfect products and make them widely available to the Indian consumer. He emphasizes that this is the key to the company’s success, as Dabur didn’t invent ayurvedic products. “We have taken an age old remedy, and we have standardized it,” he explains. “We have put it into a very modern format.” Even with non-medicinal, every-day consumer products, the company works to integrate ayurvedic and other elements.

Burman also touches on some of the struggles of maintaining high quality ayurvedic products. For one thing, he says, the company constantly battles competitors who undermine the legitimacy of Ayurveda by making outlandish claims about products that have no basis in science. He also reflects on the increasing scarcity of certain essential ingredients. In the interview, he talks about how the company has been working actively with the United Nations on CITES—the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora—to cultivate several species in greenhouses.

In the interview, Burman reflects on major changes to the company that took place in the 1990s, when Dabur went through its first IPO, and shortly thereafter brought in the consulting firm McKinsey to develop a new management strategy for the company going forward. He discusses at length the process through which the company went from family to professional management, including both successes and failures, and the ways in which family members learned to reconceptualise their roles.

Burman also discusses the company’s growth outside India, into the Middle East, Africa, and the US, as well as Dabur’s diversification strategy to broaden its consumer products portfolio.

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Video Clips by Topic

Sustainability

Anand Burman, Chairman of Dabur, one of India’s largest manufacturers of natural medicine and consumer products, discusses the Ayevedic tradition behind his company’s products, how the company overcame shortages of fresh herbs and plants by establishing nursery greenhouses in India and Nepal, and the role of IP protection.



Diaspora

Anand Burman, Chairman of Dabur, one of India’s largest manufacturers of natural medicine and consumer products, discusses the role of the Indian diaspora in the international growth of his company.

Keywords: India, Diaspora


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Additional Resources

Additional Resources

Interview Citation Format

Interview with Anand Burman, interviewed by Suraj Srinivasan, December, 21, 2017, Delhi, India, Creating Emerging Markets Project, Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard Business School.