Gujarat lost one of its most dynamic young business leaders on Sunday, with the tragic death of 50-year-old Parag Desai, scion of the Wagh Bakri Group. Mr Desai, who was the executive director of the Wagh Bakri Group, had suffered a brain haemorrhage from a fall outside his house last Sunday. He was in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of Zydus Hospital for seven days before passing away on Sunday evening. He is survived by his wife and daughter.
The son of Managing Director Rasesh Desai, Paragbhai looked after sales, marketing and exports at the Wagh Bakri Tea. The mishap occurred last Sunday, when he stepped out of his house to receive his teenage daughter, who was returning home from an outstation trip. He was reportedly attacked by street dogs and fell to the ground, hitting his head. The fall caused a brain haemorrhage and Mr Desai was rushed to Zydus Hospital, Thaltej, where he was under observation for the past week. His condition failed to improve and he passed away on Sunday evening.
As the head of marketing Parag Desai was the face of the Wagh Bakri Group. An MBA from Long Island University, USA, he returned to Ahmedabad in the 90s to spearhead Wagh Bakri’s growth efforts. He was responsible for the group’s expansion beyond Ahmedabad to other parts of the country and for exports to 40 countries. He was a tea evangelist and spoke about how he had often been called upon to teach foreigners the art of making a good cup of tea.
As part of the fourth generation of Wagh Bakri’s Desai family (his great grandfather started the business), Paragbhai took the lead in modernising the 104-year-old company. He expanded the brand into tea lounges and new products like iced tea, coffee and sugar. He led the group’s e-commerce initiative with a website called buytea.com, which was way ahead of its time.
Parag Desai was also associated with charities like Blind People’s Association (BPA). Bhushan Punani, general secretary of the BPA, is also on the Board of Wagh Bakri. He says: “Paragbhai was one of our biggest donors and took an active interest in our work.” Ironically, Mr Desai was also a big donor to the Jivdaya Charitable Trust, which runs an animal hospital in Ahmedabad and looks after injured strays. Wagh Bakri recently donated two ambulances to Jivdaya for the rescue and care of street dogs.