October 4, 2022
The Maverick Samir Modi
Cover Story

The Maverick Samir Modi

Jul 27, 2022

An endless quest of striking a balance between his family’s expectations and his own aspirations led Samir Modi to take charge of the family enterprise and drive it to dizzying heights. As the managing director of Modi Enterprises, he recalibrated the marketing and growth strategies of the brand, and also created a strong edge for himself by successfully launching several ventures such as Modicare, Colorbar Cosmetics and 24Seven Convenience Stores.

Modi Enterprises, a USD 2 billion conglomerate today, was founded way back in 1933 by Samir’s grandfather Rai Bahadur Gujarmal Modi. Modi Enterprises has a diversified business portfolio that includes cigarette manufacturing, education, agricultural chemicals and restaurants. A joint family set up that had 14 families, everyone in the clan looked up to Gujarmal Modi and his value system.

Born in 1969 to Krishan Kumar Modi and Bina Modi, Samir lived up to the legacy of his family, and chartered his own entrepreneurial journey based on his vision ‘soch badlo, duniya badlo’. He wanted to be acknowledged for his achievements and not because he was someone’s son or brother or grandson, and worked hard towards creating his own identity. “There’s a misconception that being born into a business family means you are born with a silver spoon. What people don’t see is the hard work required to keep this spoon from rusting!” claims Modi, insisting that his father believed in a continuous cycle of learning and made sure his son trained to be a manager and then an entrepreneur after he finished his education.

With Late father Shri KK Modi


Life in Modinagar

It was in 1933 when Gujarmal Modi set up a sugar factory in Begumabad in Uttar Pradesh. He had bought the entire village, as it had seemed like the perfect location for the factory. The industrial colony was officially named as Modinagar in 1945.

While Modi Spinning and Weaving Mill was inaugurated in 1949, a distillery was set up to convert molasses (extracts from the sugar mill) into alcohol in 1959. Modi Spinning and Weaving Mills, which had five units—two yarn mills, a rayon and silk mill, a thread and cloth mill—employed around 20,000 workers. For a person who always thought outside the box, Gujarmal Modi discovered how to increase the yield of sugar, when yields were low.

“Modinagar was like the first modern town. My grandfather created colonies with houses for all employees. These colonies had all amenities, from food joints to clubs and sports courts to places of worship. He also built schools and clinics, which were free for the residents of Modinagar,” he states with admiration. Apart from being an industrial township, Modinagar has now become an important education destination, with a number of education institutions opening up in the area.


The beginning of an era

Samir Modi remembers growing up in a Marwari household that lived together and celebrated all festivals together. Recalling the earlier years he says, “My grandfather was larger than life and way ahead of his times. People still try to emulate what he did back in the 1930s. My father KK Modi was no different. He had strong unwavering principles and believed in giving back to the community. Some of their qualities, even if not all, were passed on to me.” He remembers how his grandfather would encourage his children and grandchildren to work hard and to excel in life.

Elaborating on this, Modi goes on to share an interesting family anecdote. “A teetotaler, my grandfather refused to drink even when the Maharaja of Patiala was celebrating his birthday. Someone had complained to the Maharaja about this being an act of disrespect, to which the Maharaja warned my grandfather of dire consequences. My grandfather’s father asked his son to leave home if he wanted to avoid being punished,” he grins.

Samir Modi completed his schooling from The Doon School, Dehradun, in 1988, and then graduated from Hindu College in Delhi. It was later in 1992 that he pursued his Masters from Harvard Business School in Boston, Massachusetts. His stint in the US helped him get a global perspective and an innovative and multicultural approach to work. After finishing his studies, Modi started his journey as a management trainee with Phillip Morris in the US in 1989, a feat that continued till 1992.

As the Managing Director of Modi Enterprises, he firmly believes in the ethics and principles laid by his grandfather and father, and stays true to them till date. Narrating a story from 25 years ago, he mentions, “My father too demanded the same discipline and sincerity from us. Once, I had just landed in Washington in the USA, when I received a phone call from him, asking me to return to India immediately. I turned the car around, booked myself a return flight ticket and came home. I knew well not to question or disobey my father.”

Foundation stone laying ceremony for the KK modi Khwabgah Block SDMC School


The birth of Modicare

It was in 1996 that Samir Modi launched Modicare Limited and Modicare Foundation, which also marked the beginning of new concepts and ideas for the KK Modi Group. Modi was all of 25 years when he pioneered the direct selling revolution in India with a vision to enable economic freedom or ‘azadi’ for the people of the country. He had to join various organisations to learn the ropes of running a direct selling company, which went on to transform the lives of millions then and still retains its momentum.

“The decision to launch Modicare happened after I met with a US-based direct selling company consultant. I decided to start a similar initiative in this country, but I knew I had to make it bigger and better,” he says. What began with six products soon turned into a diversified portfolio that included personal care, wellness, skin care, food and beverage, consumer durables and homecare. Modicare currently offers more than 700 products from 17 different categories, all of which are high-quality and value for money.

The products, developed at the R&D Centre in Mumbai, go through quality control checks by a team of certified professionals before they hit the market. “All our products are ISO and GMP-certified and come with patented technology and ingredients. We guarantee 100 per cent satisfaction, but in case a customer is unhappy with the quality, they can even return the product. Our aim is to give the power back to our consultants and consumers,” he explains.


Raising the bar in color cosmetics

In the early 2000s, Modi felt the need for an Indian cosmetics brand that is on par with global standards. With his finger on the pulse of the consumer, he noticed a gap in the Indian cosmetics market for a brand that could offer quality products at an affordable price. He grabbed this opportunity by launching Colorbar Cosmetics in 2004.

Today, Colorbar is one of India’s most successful cosmetics brands, and at par with its global competitors. With presence in 1,300 stores, it plans to reach 2,000 stores by the end of 2022. In the next six months, 30 Exclusive Brand Outlets (EBUs) will be added to an existing 100 outlets. “With Colorbar, we want our consumers to feel confident and empowered. We encourage them to love and celebrate themselves, each and every day. Our aim is to deliver the right experience with the right products at the right time. Our wide range of products is all cruelty-free,” he throws light on the brand’s product portfolio.


Dabbling with convenience stores

Yet another brainchild of Samir Modi, 24Seven Convenience Store was established in 2005. The first round-the-clock convenience store was initially set up in Lajpat Nagar, New Delhi. Today, there are more than 100 stores across Delhi-NCR, Chandigarh, Mohali, Zirakpur and Panchkula.

The going hasn’t been easy for the enterprising giant. Speaking of the challenges of launching this one-of-a-kind retail chain, he states, “Since we were the first to introduce this concept in India, we had to work through initial glitches and find solutions along the way. Most of the difficulties that we had to endure were external and related to successfully administering 24-hour operations.”

In November 2018, he took over as President of the Confederation of Asia-Pacific Chambers of Commerce and Industry (CACCI). He also serves as a member of the NACS Asia Pacific Committee (National Association of Convenience Stores), the FICCI National Executive Committee and FICCI Steering Committee.


The philanthropic initiatives

Continuing the philanthropic tradition of his Marwari family, Modi took upon the onus of setting up Modicare Foundation in 1996, that does extensive work in the field of HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention as well as gender-related issues. The Foundation runs on the spirit of service, with the belief that small steps can lead to big changes. The basic focus is empowerment at the grassroots level through education, awareness and life-skills.

As the founder and vice-chairperson of the Foundation, Modi shoulders the responsibility of carrying forward his family’s charitable work. “We work with children, young adults and women on various health, education and gender-sensitisation programmes,” he shares.

While Khwabgah makes comprehensive education and development accessible for children and adolescents, Hizafat provides preventive and curative health services to women and children. Camps and clinics set up by the Foundation provide health checkups, dental and eye checkups and gynaecological consultations.

The Foundation runs Roopantar, a government school infrastructure improvement initiative under which safe and child-friendly schools are developed and maintained. Four schools under the Municipal Corporation of Delhi are also run by the Foundation, which provides for infrastructure, teachers and stationery supplies.

Ambassadors of Change (AOC), a flagship programme since 2000, provides life education for adolescents and addresses challenges like bullying, peer pressure, body changes and sensitises them on sexual behaviour, gender awareness and substance abuse. Partners in Change, on the other hand, provides technical support to corporates, institutions and NGOs, for them to develop comprehensive programmes on HIV/AIDS, reproductive health and POSH for their workplaces.


Staying relevant to the times

The recent pandemic times posed several challenges for the company, but the team at Modicare Limited worked innovatively to stay relevant during the ‘new normal’. Digital tools such as Chatbot Roshini, which communicates in English and six other regional languages, and an Instant Messaging Catalog, were introduced at the time. Modicare also introduced ‘Success Principles By Modicare’, an online training academy to help consultants during the pandemic-induced lockdowns. Another addition, My Modicare Shop, enabled consultants to create and operate a microsite on the main server and directly engage with customers.

The brand has expanded its wellness range and launched various products including a new ‘Sci-Vedic’ range inspired by ayurveda consisting of immunity-boosting products like chyawanprash, amla, tulsi and turmeric (in capsule form). Products such as masks, sanitisers and disinfectant sprays also got introduced. “The Sci-Vedic’s range is an amalgamation of the best of ayurveda and science. We wanted to fulfil our commitment of helping our consumers lead a healthier life, more so during the pandemic,” concludes the gold medalist in Delhi State Boxing Championship. Modi is married to Shivani, and the couple has two daughters, Jayati and Vedika.

That’s the unstoppable Modi for you. A man with a vision and mission, and one who believes in going the extra mile.


INDUSTRY MEMBERSHIPS

Samir Modi is a member of these industry bodies and organisations:

  • Member – National Executive Committee of Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI)
  • Member – Steering Committee, FICCI
  • Chairman – FICCI Committee on India-Taiwan Business Cooperation
  • Member – Direct Selling Committee, FICCI
  • Prominent Member – Retailers’ Association of India
  • Member – International Board of Directors, NACS (National Association of Convenience Stores, USA)
  • Committee Member – NACS Asia, Oceanic Regional Committee
  • Former Chairman – CSR Committee of PHD Chamber of Commerce
  • Lifetime Member of AIMA – All India Management Association
  • Member – PHD Chamber of Commerce
  • Member – Indian Merchants’ Chamber

AWARDS & ACCOLADES MODICARE LIMITED

  • Ranked 5 in Great Midsize Workplaces for 2020 and 2021 by Great Place To Work Institute Inc.
  • Best CSR Initiative of the Year – ET Now Global Awards for Retail Excellence 2019

COLORBAR

  • Recognised as Best Workplaces for Women 2021 by Great Place To Work Institute Inc.
  • Planman Media Awards 2012 (Future Herald Power Brands Hall of Fame)

24SEVEN

  • Ranked 14 in Great Midsize Workplaces 2021 by Great Place To Work Institute Inc.

Nominated amongst TOP 10 brands by NACS 2018 and 2019 for innovations and groundbreaking store design