R Gopalakrishnan studied physics at Kolkata University, engineering at IIT Kharagpur and attended the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School. He has been a professional manager from 1967. He has served as Chairman of Unilever Arabia, as MD of Brooke Bond Lipton and Vice Chairman of Hindustan Lever, as Director of Tata Sons and several Tata companies. He serves as an independent director and non-executive chairman of Castrol India and also as an independent director of Hemas Holdings PLC, Sri Lanka.

R Gopalakrishnan (Gopal to his friends) spends his time

Writing Advising Speaking Teaching

Writing : Gopal has been a newspaper columnist and continues to write every month for financial papers. He has also authored nine books since 2007, the titles of which are:

  • DOODLES ON LEADERSHIP - Experiences withing and beyond tata
  • CRASH - Lessons from the entry and exit of the CEOs
  • The Made in India Manager
  • A Biography of Innovations - From Birth to Maturity
  • The case of the bonsai manager - Lessons from Nature on Growing
  • When the penny drops
  • What the CEO really wants from you
  • A comma in a sentence
  • Six lenses

Speaking : Gopal is an international speaker who also speaks extensively in India and is actively engaged in both instructional & inspirational speaking.

  • Speeches: Business in India, Market and Customers, Governance and Strategy, Organisation and People, Innovation
  • Thought Classes: Reflective leadership, Putting human back into relationships, Manager to transformers, Innovation - barriers and triggers

Advising : Gopal has been a corporate leader for 50 years: 31 years in Unilever and 17 years in Tata. He served in Jeddah as Chairman of Unilever Arabia, in Bangalore as Managing Director of Brooke Bond Lipton and Vice Chairman of Hindustan Lever, and as Director of Tata Sons. Apart from serving as a Director on the TATA parent board, Tata Sons, and he also served several group companies. Currently he serves as an independent director of listed companies, Castrol India, and Hemas Holdings PLC, Sri Lanka. Gopal mentors a few start-ups.

Teaching : Gopal studied physics at St Xavier’s Kolkata, engineering at IIT Kharagpur and attended the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School. He is a past president of the All India Management Association. Gopal has a wide repertoire of subjects, specifically – Business in India, Markets and Customers, Governance and Strategy, Organisation and People, and Innovation. He relies on practical examples, rich with anecdotes rather than theory or analytical frameworks. He has taught an unusual course titled ‘LWNT-Learning What Nobody Teaches’ at B-schools.


Gopal serves as Distinguished Professor of IIT Kharagpur and as Executive-in-residence at SP Jain Institute of Management & Research.