Anu Aga, also known by the name of Arnavaz Rohinton Aga is an Indian entrepreneur who is best known for her social work and her never give up attitude. She has stood strong after facing multiple difficulties in her life. She also holds her name among the top richest women in India.
Anu Aga was born on Monday, 3 August 1942 (age 79 years; as of 2021) in Matunga, Mumbai. Anu did her schooling at Wadia Vachha High School. Later, she went on to pursue her Bachelors in Economics at St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, and Post-graduate studies in medical and psychiatric social work at Tata Institute of Social Sciences.
Height (approx.): 5′ 4″
Eye Colour: Black
Hair Colour: White
Family & Caste
She comes from an upper middle class, Parsi family, and she follows Zoroastrianism.
Parents & Siblings
Anu’s father’s name was Ardeshir Sorabji Bhathena, who was an Entrepreneur, and her mother, Jini, was a homemaker.
She has two elder brothers.
Relationships, Husband & Children
Anu fell in love with a boy, Rohinton Dhunjishaw Aga (In 1996, he died because of second heart attack), he was a Cambridge graduate and was working at Wanson India with Anu’s father when she met him. They dated for some time and later, they got married to each other on 3 May 1965.
They went on to have two children together, one daughter, Meher Pudumjee (Chairperson of Thermax Ltd), and one son, Kurush (Died at the age of 25 in a fatal car accident).
She lives in 701, Brahmaputra Apartments, Dr B.D. Marg, New Delhi. 110001.
In 1996, Anu’s father, Ardeshir Sorabji Bhathena, founded a company. At that time the company was in a collaboration with a Belgian company, Wanson. Previously the company was known to be a hospital equipment company. Later, it came up as a boiler manufacturing company. After Anu got married, she worked in a Child Guidance Clinic in Mumbai while her husband, Rohinton worked at Wanson with her father. After some years, in 1980, Wanson India parted with its Belgian partner and renewed as Thermax private limited; moreover, within a year, Anu’s father retired and handed over the responsibility to his son in law, Rohinton Aga, who was appointed as the next chairperson of the re-established firm. Later, in 1985, she got indulged in the family business at the post of the heading HR of the company after her husband suffered a heart attack and a paralytic stroke.
National Film Awards
- Padmashri Award for social work in 2010
- Lifetime Achievement award by MAEER’s MIT group, Pune in 2015
- BML Munjal Awards for- Business Excellence through Learning and Development in the Private sector (Manufacturing) category in 2015
- Zee Astitva Business Woman of the Year Award, 2007
- Honoured with ‘Power Brands: Bharatiya Manavata Vikas Puraskar (BMVP) – Edition 2019’ for her business leadership and philanthropy.
Note: She has many more awards and accolades to her name.
- After Anu’s marriage with Rohinton, the couple gave birth to their first child, Meher. Unfortunately, they had to suffer the loss of their second child who could not survive due to some undetected ailment. In 1972, another boy child was born who had a hole in his heart.
- A series of misfortune hit Anu’s life one after the other. In 1982, Rohinton suffered his first heart attack when he was bedridden for two years. According to Anu. amidst his recovery, he suffered various mood swings and multiple temper issues. During that period, Anu began involving in the business. Rohinton took over the charge as soon he recovered. Rohinton and Anu shared interest in reading and writing; moreover, he also wrote a book while he recovered.
- In 1995, their company got public. The company was leading well under the leadership of Rohinton Aga unless a devastating incident occurred in their life. In 1996, Anu was returning India from the UK after a gap of six months as her daughter had delivered her first child, while Rohinton was on his way from Pune to Mumbai to receive Anu. On the way, he suffered a massive heart stroke for the second time in which he lost his life. This brought a major setback to Anu. While she was grieving the loss of her late husband, shareholders came up accusing her of letting them down as the share prices of Thermax had steeped from Rs 400 to Rs 36 within no time; moreover, the company had gone public only a year before. Talking about this, In an interview, her daughter, Meher, said,
It was a huge responsibility. The board had to make the tough decision of her heading the organisation within 48 hours of dad’s demise. My mother’s courage of conviction surfaced and she had to come up with a turnaround plan.”
- It was just the second day of her husband’s demise and the board had set up a meeting and came up to her appointing her as the next chairperson the Thermax Private Limited. Anu was not ready for the responsibility yet. According to Anu, she was made the Chairperson of Thermax as her family owned the 62% shares of the company and she could easily be bullied. Examining the loss of the company, Anu decided to take over the command. Earlier, she was not ready as she was not from an engineering background. Soon, she conducted various training sessions to get an idea about the working of the company. In an interview, she said,
You don’t have to know everything…in fact, one of the beliefs I have is that skills can be hired. The leader has to show wisdom- that cannot be hired.”
After she became the chairperson, she made multiple amendments in the functioning of the company. She hired Boston Consulting Group and initiated the “Project Green.” She dissolved the full board along with her daughter. She introduced fresh members who could restructure the companies business. She eliminated the non-essential investments made by the company. In the beginning, many members apposed her decision, even her own family, but later, it brought better results.
- Within a year, another tragedy occurred which turned Anu’s life upside down. Anu’s had to bear the loss of her mother in law. Soon after that, her son Kurush met a car accident and lost his life. Her son’s demise occurred after 14 months of her husband’s death. According to Meher, it was one of the most difficult phases of her family.
- According to Anu, it was difficult for her to manage her professional and personal life after all the traumas in her life. To deprive of those, she began to practice Vipassana, a Buddhist form of meditative penance. This provided her with a lot of strength and positivity. In an interview, elaborating her experiences, she said,
Another important lesson I learnt after Kurush’s demise was to stop asking why it happened and, instead, start acknowledging the Almighty’s design of things, which can sometimes be inexplicable. As soon as you are born you are going to die. The sun rises and it sets. Similarly, all of us have to vacate this earth and if we don’t, can you imagine the chaos? So, we cannot shy away from death. This acceptance will teach you to take out time and do things when people are alive. Not to postpone it, not to procrastinate.”
- Over years, Thermax successfully established as a profitable organisation with an income of 1281 crores. In 2008, Anu retired from the company and appointed Meher Pudumjee as the next chairperson of Thermax Limited.
- Anu, since early in life, supports philanthropy. Even after her retirement, she continued with the same. She chose to work for the betterment of the underprivileged children. She financially supports those organisations and is mainly working for the spread of education and is associated with many organisation, Teach for India, give India, and Akanksha, an NGO that directly provides education to around 4,400 underprivileged children. Amidst 1996 to 2004, Anu already had decided to donate one per cent of all her company’s profits for charity. The Thermax Social Initiative Foundation (TSIF) runs more than nine primary government schools in Pune and Mumbai. In an interview, Meher, supporting it said,
We believe that given an opportunity and equal access to education, everyone can make something of their lives if they choose to. The relevant term here is given the opportunity and most people don’t get it. So through Teach for India, Akanksha, she is trying to bring about a change.”
- Even after the retirement, Anu Aga follows a fitness regimen. She thoroughly practices Vipassana and exercises, a mix of walking, cycling, and yoga to keep herself fit and positive. She is also fond of aerobics but the doctor has prescribed her to stay away from heavy exercises since she had undergone her back surgery a couple of years ago.
- In an interview, Anu Aga expressed her thoughts on being religious, saying,
I’m not a religious person though I was born Zoroastrian, and I do go to the fire temple. But it doesn’t mean anything special to me. I don’t feel God there. Sometimes though, when you cannot make sense of things on earth, I feel there must be someone up there that has a master plan. Just like when you scold a child, the child may think you are cruel; but you have a plan and your intention is good. So too, God’s intention is good. You come to this life to experience what you have chosen to experience, be it death, poverty, or disability. So you might think: why is Anu suffering so much? But I think of it as an opportunity, a learning process. And when you take the perspective of a thousand rebirths, of what significance is this little pinpoint of time here. But the beauty of life is that each one must find his own meaning. There is no right or wrong answer. You must keep searching to discover what makes sense to you.”
- Despite all the miseries in life, Anu tries to stay positive. According to her, her greatest support are her close friends and her family. She loves spending time with her grandchildren, grandson, Zahaan, and granddaughter, Lea. Talking about them, Anu quoted,
The time I spend with them brings pure, unadulterated joy.”
- The former president of India, Pratibha Patil nominated Anu as the member of Rajya Sabha in April 2012. She held the position for two years i.e.May 2012-2014. She was also the member of the National Advisory Council of India that was headed by Sonia Gandhi and the former Prime Minister of India Dr Manmohan Singh. She also worked as the Member of Committee on Empowerment of Women from September 2012 – September 2013.
- A writer, Gunjan Jain, wrote a book, Arnavaz ‘Anu’ Aga, that was published in November 2018. It is a summary of Anu’s life and the hardships she has went through.
- She was listed among the top 7 richest women of India in the year 2007, according to the Business Today magazine.
- According to her, she is not much into technology. She doesn’t have an interest in fancy cars and gadgets.
- Anu also isn’t fond of wearing jewellery, even her husband didn’t like her wearing ornaments. According to her, jewellery is a waste of money; moreover, she likes to wear clothes that are not very bright or shiny. She dislikes nylon stuff. She likes to stay understated rather than being overstated.
- As claimed by Anu, the happiest day of her life was while she was dating her late husband, Rohinton Aga, talking about which, she said,
Well I was very happy during the days when I was courting my husband (I had a love marriage) And when my daufhter got married I was very happy…”
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