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What led to the departure of RS Sodhi, Amul's former MD?

What led to the departure of RS Sodhi, Amul's former MD?

Decoding why R.S. Sodhi, under whose watch GCMMF’s revenues saw a near 6x jump, stepped down suddenly

Sodhi had been at the helm of affairs since 2010. Sodhi had been at the helm of affairs since 2010.

In January, R.S. Sodhi stepped down as MD of Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF). It was a development that evoked interesting reactions. Sodhi had been at the helm of affairs since 2010. A product of the first batch of the Institute of Rural Management, Anand (Irma), he joined Amul right after graduating in 1982. It then had revenues of just `121 crore. When he was given the top job (he was then Chief General Manager, a position created for the first time), it was a Rs 8,000-crore organisation. Under his leadership, Amul embarked on an aggressive growth path. Sodhi’s appointment in 2010 was for a five-year period and in 2015, it was renewed.

Once that ended in December 2020, Amul’s board had given him an extension and said this would be the case till the next appointment was made. “I was already on an extension and had turned 64 by then,” Sodhi tells BT. The decision to step down, he says, was one “mutually arrived at between the board of GCMMF and me”. At that stage, Amul in FY22 had a turnover of Rs 46,662 crore (almost a 6x growth since he took charge) and was on track to cross Rs 55,000 crore for the following fiscal. If the decision to step down was expected, the terse note to Sodhi from the GCMMF Chairman Shamal Patel and Vice Chairman Valamji Humbal was perplexing. “In the Am[1]ulFed Board meeting held in Gandhinagar on January 9, 2023, it has been decided, as per resolution No. 2, that your services as managing director of the federation have been ended with immediate effect. You are therefore directed to hand over the charge of MD to COO Jayen Mehta immediately,” it stated.

Why was there a need to rush into it if Sodhi himself wanted to go, notwithstanding Amul registering a sharp growth under him? The suddenness of the development brought back memories of how his predecessor, B.M. Vyas, quit in 2010 under controversial circumstances after two successive board meetings to pass the financial results and discuss the budget could not be held due to a lack of quorum.

Within the cooperative, insiders speak of Sodhi having been “very high-profile and larger than life”, which did not go down well with the board, and there were also differences over operational issues. “I had completed my second five-year term; my decision to step down was overdue,” counters Sodhi. Since moving on from Amul, Sodhi has stepped into an advisory role at Reliance Retail and sits on the boards of Escorts Kubota, IB Group, International Dairy Federation, and Irma. He is also President of the Indian Dairy Association and Chairperson of the National Institute of Food Technology, Entrepreneurship and Management, Thanjavur.

Also Read: Amul's big pivot: How the dairy major is looking to make a big play in the foods space

Published on: Oct 27, 2023, 2:53 PM IST
Posted by: Arnav Das Sharma, Oct 27, 2023, 2:48 PM IST