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BALRAM GARG

balram-garg

Balram Garg

Managing Director
PC JEWELLER LIMITED

Describe your business in 10 words or fewer.
Our business is to make our consumers feel good and beautiful.

What is the big idea behind your business?
How to read consumer’s mind and be in a position to offer what exactly she desires.

It’s often said that leaders these days must operate in an environment of extreme volatility. Do you agree? How does that affect the way you lead?
Volatility is a way of life and we have got used to it. As a matter of fact volatility keeps us on our toes and makes us alert. Absence of volatility will make us complacent and complacency is bad for any business.

A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all. What is your prime focus for retaining customers?
Our strategy is three fold- (i) Creating Aspiration; (ii) Generating Inspiration and (iii) Providing customer service

Your Favorite Book or Quote of all time?
The GITA

What was your first paying job?
My first paying job is the same as what I am doing today

Do you have a formal mechanism for making sure you stay in touch with employees and customers on the organization’s front line?
Yes, I have a dedicated e mail id through which any employee can approach me directly. Similarly we have a separate email id for our customers. This e mail id is prominently displayed at every store. Both of these e mails are monitored directly by my office.

What is the best business advice you’ve ever heard?
Never hesitate from taking risks, but with a stop loss strategy.

What has surprised you about being an leader ?
I had always thought that being a leader means power, however to my surprise leadership forced me to become responsible and humble. Being a leader is not easy .It can be thrust upon you but a true leader is the one who is able to earn and retain the respect of his followers.

What strategies do you use in terms of planning your personal career progression?
My company is my career and I progress – both personally and professionally when my company progresses. So I do not have any personal career progression strategies, I am always thinking about new strategies and growth points about my company only

SCHAUNA CHAUHAN SALUJA

schauna chauhan saluja, parle agroChief Executive Officer
PARLE AGRO

Describe your business in 10 words or fewer.
Quality, Innovative, Creative, Safe, Reliable, Trustworthy, Efficient, Dynamic

What is the big idea behind your business?
Being innovative is the key priority for us. We like to be innovative in everything we do, be it in terms of launching a new product, or a different kind of packaging or anything else.

It’s often said that leaders these days must operate in an environment of extreme volatility. Do you agree? How does that affect the way you lead?
I think leaders should do couple of important and very simple things like listening, being aware, knowing the details of the situation, understanding the complete issue and then make a decision together with the team.

How do you have the confidence to know the right choice is to zig when everyone around you is telling you to zag? If I may ask you to share an incident.
You got to have guts to take on challenges and go with it if you believe in it. You must always know what everyone else is doing in your industry but you have got to spend time focusing on your goals as well.

Your Favorite Book or Quote of all time?
The Most Valuable Asset Is TIME

What was your first paying job?
Librarian

Do you have a formal mechanism for making sure you stay in touch with employees and customers on the organization’s front line?
We do not have doors to our cabin space. The open-door policy makes it easy to interact with people who feel that I am approachable.

What is the best business advice you’ve ever heard?
Failures are divided into two classes — those who thought and never did, and those who did and never thought.

What has surprised you about being an entrepreneur?
Business was already chosen for me and I well accepted it as I grew up learning the business. The thing that surprised me the most is to look at the fact that there is so much inspiration around me in all the people who are working for Parle Agro, seeing them involved in the company.

What was the most difficult lesson you have learned as an entrepreneur?
In an organization, you are always dealing with people’s issues. I think at the end of the day, it is the people who make the company anyway and without them you cannot do anything. Egos, insecurities, politics, these are also some of the challenges you deal with everyday. I am hands-on and it is important to be aware of it and feel the pulse.

SURESH NARAYANAN

suresh narayananSuresh Narayan

Chairman & MD
NESTLE INDIA

Please describe your business to us in a few words.
Well, we are one of the leading food and beverage companies in the country. Nestle manufactures and sells some of India’s best known brands for 105 years. We are part of the Nestle Group worldwide which is the largest food and beverage maker and is a very diversified company. Our brands include Maggi, Nescafe, Kitkat, Milkmaid and Cerelac to name a few.
What is the big idea behind your business?
It is a sense of purpose to ensure consumers get healthy and nutritious food and beverage products across the globe and in India. To provide the highest quality of products at all times.
Obesity is clearly becoming an issue in India, where over 60% of the deaths are now reported to be because of non-communicable diseases. Issues relating to heart health, obesity, lungs and respiratory infections are the main causes of deaths. Nestle is well prepared to deal with the issue as globally the company invests more than $2bn annually on its research and product technology centres. The primary purpose of these centres is to work on key food ingredients in response to demand caused by lifestyle changes and nutritional requirements. Over the last couple of years, in some of our products we have made 30% to 40% reductions in the levels of salt, sodium and sugar.

In today’s business scenario, market volatility is a reality, your comments?
To me, the challenge of leadership in a volatile business environment is a very positive challenge. Volatility is here to stay – more volatile the World becomes, more opportunities arise for both companies and products. A leader who thinks the World will always be calm and serene, really needs to think again.We welcome competition because it expands the segment and also helps us to differentiate ourselves. It is good if more competitors are coming so long as they are able to expand and sustain it.
But, Nestle is not scared of doing business in India. On the contrary, the entire episode will help us come back stronger and all new projects are aimed at that. A crisis of that sort could have worked both ways. There are very few companies which have been tested, shaken, twisted or turned the way Nestle has been (in the past one year). We gained strength and confidence from that and Nestle will grow further.
We are now more focused on being a fast and flexible company, which can take such challenges head-on. Our decision-making takes less time and we can launch products faster.

You were sent here to steer Nestle out of trouble. Today, after Maggi relaunch, where does the brand stand?
What happened in the case of Maggi was most unfortunate, The company’s whole foundation is on food quality and safety, which was sadly questioned. During the crisis, I was personally very concerned about the future of Nestle here. Bringing back Maggi was the top priority that my team and I had. We have successfully done that. We could relaunch Maggi within days after the green signal, a testimony to how serious our people were about the brand. For us, the entire project was a tribute to the kind of equity Maggi has in the minds and hearts of consumers. Evident in that within four months, Maggi regained its leadership position in the market, with 51 per cent share in March. The new Nestle is a resurgent and a reinvigorated Nestle. We will rather look to the future than cry over it.

Nestle is a global leader in packaged water, chocolates, ice-creams and others but failed to play a dominant role here. Is it due to lack of interest in the Indian market?
That is not correct. In chocolates, for example, we are constrained by the environment here. Higher temperatures in India, compared to our bigger markets, restricts us from launching some of our leading brands. But, we are looking at bringing in some of our global products in wafers and tablets, with selective distribution in India. We already have a number of products lined up for the next five years and packaged water or ice-cream are not among them. We could reconsider, if the situation demands.

Amul, an Indian company has made tremendous progress with its products, your comments please.
Nestle is also present in India’s highly competitive dairy sector, which is dominated by large farmer cooperatives and their associated brands, such as Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation’s Amul brand. These cooperatives have strong customer loyalty and an assured supply of milk. Nestle’s strategy is to focus on value-added products, relying on nutrition and technology, such as UHT milk, dairy whiteners, chilled dairy products and milk-based nutritional products for children, who helped launch Nestle chilled dairy business in India in the early 2000s. We are not competing in the plain pouch milk segment or segments where clearly there are other people who can do a better job our standards of food quality and safety are fairly high.”
But Nestle still needs milk and India’s milk production is notoriously inefficient. Nestle collaborates with around 100,000 milk farmers in the states of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, assisting them with cattle care and increase milk productivity.

What was your first paying job?
My first paying job was at Hindustan Lever in the year 1981 as a management trainee. My salary at that time was Rs. 1,100 and I was very very happy. I joined Nestle in 1999 and have been here for about 18 years.
Has there been a strategy behind your own career progression?
I have realized in life, things happen because of three things – First and foremost because of your own capabilities, own hardwork and initiative. Secondly, Luck also plays a big role – Being at the right place at the right time. And thirdly, support from your collegues, subordinates and bosses.

What would be your best business advice?
Take care of your people and the business will take care of itself.

What do you prefer to do in your leisure time?
In my free time, I love being with my wife and daughter, though she is oversees. I play a little bit of sport like cricket and a bit of golf when time permits. I also love reading books.

If you had to give a quote to the new generation of future leaders, what would it be?
The line that I like the most is by Harry Truman. He once said, “It is amazing what can be achieved if we do not care about who gets the credit “. That is definitely one quote which appeals to me the most.

RAMESH G.IYER

ramesh-iyer-Vice Chairman & Managing Director, President – Financial Services Sector & Member of the Group Executive Board,
MAHINDRA & MAHINDRA FINANCIAl SERVICES LIMITED

Describe your business in 10 words or fewer.
Entrepreneurial Empowered Lending Business Model transforming rural lives.

What is the big idea behind your business?
We serve customers who do not normally get credit from formal channels while they have phenomenal capability to earn and repay. We have developed a credit assessment model wherein customers are individually met and their credit capability is assessed on the basis of earning potential and a product design to suit their cash flow.

It’s often said that leaders these days must operate in an environment of extreme volatility. Do you agree? How does that affect the way you lead?
It is expected that disruption could come from an untold direction. In a business model as ours where people matter we have to ensure that all people are almost at all times trained and their capabilities are continuously enhanced to remain employable.

A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all. What is your prime focus for retaining customers?
We have our 4 Million customers spread across in and around 3 Lakhs villages of the country. We have a separate direct marketing vertical, who are directly engaged in understanding the needs of these customers and through these customers we had generated a lot of direct sales. We have special programmes for our existing customers and are using technology to provide services with speed at the customer’s door step.

Your Favorite Book or Quote of all time?
If you respect everyone you are associated with irrespective of the level that they are in, they do the best for you which helps you become the winner. Respect everyone equally”.

What was your first paying job?
I joined the Group as a Trainee and was working in the Commercial Department of a Project Cell.

Do you have a formal mechanism for making sure you stay in touch with employees and customers on the organization’s front line?
I undertake extensive travel to different states and spend a minimum of 2 to 3 days in each state doing a road travel of at least about 12 hours in a day meeting the executives at various branch levels, meeting customers on the way, having dealer meetings, etc. You get a lot of informal information about the market as well as the employees and customers expectations when you travel with the branch team in their vehicle from location A to location B. We also have interactive video conferencing with various functional teams engaging employees at all levels.

What is the best business advice you’ve ever heard?
At the end of any negotiation both the parties must be fully satisfied and having won the team in case you want to sustain a long term relationship.

What has surprised you about being an entrepreneur?
The risk taking ability that I have gained and gathered over a period and as you look at some of the decisions that you take can surprise you about your own ability.

What strategies do you use in terms of planning your personal career progression?
I have associated myself with certain very senior industry leaders as well as engage myself with senior leaders from the Group. You need to very transparently explain and express the challenges and should use the mentoring process for solutions and way forward.

 

KIM KI WAN

kim-ki-wan-Managing Director
LG

Describe your business in 10 words or fewer.
Our core objective at LG is to provide value to consumers. We aim to bring the concept of Life’s Good to every Indian home with our state-of-the art offerings and products.

What is the big idea behind your business?
To develop products that are based on consumer insights or the Outside-In Approach so that we can cater to the requirements of the consumers.

It’s often said that leaders these days must operate in an environment of extreme volatility. Do you agree? How does that affect theway you lead?
This is true. However, at LG this challenge motivates us to innovate, excel and deliver our best every time.

A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all. What is your prime focus for retaining customers?
We constantly observe and monitor what our consumers are looking out for and we then offer products based on their insights. The consumer feedback is valuable and it helps us give them the latest offerings while keeping pace with the changing trends.

Do you have a formal mechanism for making sure you stay in touch with employees and customers on the organization’s frontline?
Certainly, I am always keen to connect with consumers & employees; I travel extensively across India to understand consumer preferences and at our LG office, we have forums like town halls to interact with our employees. Every week, we organize a ‘pizza meeting’ with various departments to hear their suggestions while keeping the feel informal.

What is the best business advice you’ve ever heard?
That the customer is always right – so be a good listener to what they have to say.

What strategies do you use in terms of planning your personal career progression?
I believe that learning is an ongoing phase. This is the value I abide by. I am always interested in absorbing more information and implementing it in the organization’s interest.

T SUDHAKAR PAI

t-sudhakar-pai-Chairman & Managing Director
KURLON ENTERPRISE LTD

Please describe your business and your role as a CEO?
My business is a great brand, a superbrand, called “Kurl-on”, which is a 55 yr old company. I took over the company in 2002, when there were 2 factories and the turnover was Rs 130 cr. In March 2017, we have crossed Rs 1000 cr with 9 factories, 72 area offices and 8000 dealers.
It has been a great journey in the last 15 yrs. As the CEO, I am trying to build a great team within the company. I am trying to encourage youngsters to come and build Kurlon into a great organization. I believe that the best way to do that is to empower people at the grassroot level. I want to bring a culture where people, right upto the lowest level, are empowered and held accountable, so that they are committed to the company, and ensure that big opportunities are harnessed.
Our brand recall is over 90% without any help and with help, it goes beyond 98%. Mattresses have become synonymous to Kurlon and our dream is to upgrade ourselves from a mattress company to a home comfort company. In home comfort, we want to get into sofas, furniture and other allied areas. For the last 3 years we have been experimenting with that and we have recently got a big breakthrough, manufacturing world-class sofas for an iconic European furniture retailer.
We think India is a growing market and plan to go all out into the retail market. We have got 260 franchise stores under “Kurlon Mattress Express” and plan to put up 70 company- owned-company-operated stores called “Kurlon Home Comforts”. These showrooms will come up in 2017-18 and we feel this will give impetus to the brand and all our products. We are also trying to stitch our furniture and other home requirements into this and are keen to integrate textile products like curtains, upholstery, bath towels, bed linen, bed tops and other home requirements into the same.

Your Favorite Book or Quote of all time?
Jack Welch’s “Winning” has really impressed me a lot. Another book is “Maverick” by Ricardo Semler who built a great company in Brazil. But between the two books, it is the latter one gives the entrepreneurial quality whereas Jack Welch speaks about his own experience in building a great organization. My favourite quote is from Steve Jobs who says, “if you have not found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.

What is the big idea behind your business/What are the inherent challenges in your sectors?
The biggest challenge in the business is the price at which the customer wants to buy the product. The biggest number of mattresses that are sold in the country are still cotton mattress, which start at a price of Rs 800-900. Of course there are cotton mattresses selling at Rs 10000 also, but at the grassroot level, it is very difficult to give a mattress at Rs 800-900. We still believe that as the economy is growing and people are increasingly becoming capable of affording investing in their new houses. For them, a Mattress will become one of the important products because one-third of their lifetime they are lying on a mattress. So we will have to give them the best mattress for the best price – and we are working towards that goal.

It’s often said that leaders these days must operate in an environment of extreme volatility. Do you agree? How does that affect the way you lead?
Today’s world is so volatile because of technology & the internet and you see so many businesses – like Travel agencies – have lost their relevance. They need to reinvent themselves in many ways. Take the example of share-broking. There was a time when licences were sold at more than Rs 1 crore. Today licenses are available just across the table. People can trade on the internet. So margins even to the dealers have come down.
As far as our product is concerned, it has also gone into a lot of maturity over a period of time. The technology was brought by our Founder, Mr Ramesh Pai, from Germany & Austria because they used to make seats for the cars in Europe. We used it to make carpet underlay, cushions, seats and mattresses and used to say, “Stand on, Sit on, Sleep on, Kurl-on”! That was our first slogan. So we built the company with great technology from Europe and perfected the technology to such an extent today that our productivity on our machines are much higher than what the Austrians had given when we bought the machines originally.

A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all. What is your prime focus for retaining customers and acquiring new ones?
We always believe that the customer is the only person who can make our company survive. We also learnt from Gandhiji, that the customer is God and he feeds us every day. We make sure that our customer is happy and we definitely look after the dealer customer, who, in turn looks after the final customer. We try to bring out programmes, both, for the dealers, as well as the final customers. When the customer takes a Kurlon mattress, he goes happy that he got a good mattress for a good price. Towards this, we have got many schemes, including free gifts, not only during season time, but also during off-season. As a company, we believe that if a dealer and customer, both are aligned to us, we will be building a great brand.

Do you have a formal mechanism for making sure you stay in touch with employees and customers on the organization’s front line?
My mobile number is available with all our dealers. We have a very strong CRM team and I take at least a few CRM calls every month. We have an exciting programme for them and get in touch with them on a frequent basis.
We have exciting plans for our dealers, if they achieve certain targets. The best dealer of Kurlon gets a free Mercedes Benz from the company as an incentive. I am not sure if other companies give these kind of gifts. We try to keep everybody in the loop and happy. Our goal is to see that if a customer thinks of buying a Kurlon mattress, the same night he has to get a Kurlon mattress. My belief is that he should not lose a single day of his sleep without a Kurlon. That’s our goal and that’s what we have been trying to achieve and we have done this many times in our company – we want to make this into a culture.

What is the best business advice you’ve ever heard?
The best business advice that I have ever heard of, is to make the company such an enjoyable place that people never go on a holiday. If they start enjoying their work, they will give their best to the organization. And their family also will enjoy growing along with the organization because they are also a part of it. People are talking of work-life balance but I believe that work-life balance happens when all balances work too well. But work is in areas where people can only perform. I believe that you have to get the other part of your family as part of your work so that work-work balance will become more enjoyable than work-life balance.

What are the values you espouse in/as a Leader?
Honesty, integrity and dedication are fundamental requirements in an organization and I believe that if these fundamental things are taken care of, if a man enjoys the work, he will take his job to such an extent that he will do a superb delivery for the customer. Ramakrishna Paramahansa had told Swami Vivekananda, “Activity gets you busy, but Productivity gets you free”.
I believe that when the going seems to get tough, we should look at how far we have gone and count our blessings instead of focusing on what is missing – this would give us renewed confidence to perform better. I live and espouse the words of Ramakrishna dev – “Face your past without regret; handle your present with confidence; prepare for the future without fear”.
As an organization, I want to make sure that we bring in a culture of working with a lot of happiness. Unfortunately, happiness cannot be bought for a price, so, happiness has to be created and happiness challenges have to be given and people have to enjoy the fruits of those challenges. That is my belief to make this company a great company to work in.

 

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