-CEO Carbon Black Business and Director Group HR
ADITYA BIRlA GROUP
Please describe your business and your role as a CEO?
Carbon Black is a nano particle business with multiple applications in rubber, plastics, paints, inks and a range of such applications. We have 16 plants in 12 countries.
My role as the CEO is to ensure that the business grows sustainably as a preferred choice for the customers. I focus on building the right culture, capability and making the right long term Investments.
What is the big idea behind your business/ What are the inherent challenges in your sectors?
The big idea behind the business is to provide innovative solutions to the customers so that the products they produce are admired for their quality and functionality. The business in some ways makes wealth out of waste. We use refinery bottoms to produce value added a products.
The challenges are many before the business: global over supply; volatility of raw material prices; non-availability of quality raw material; stringent environmental regulations; long supply chains and of course , demand for specific quality from the customers.
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 only one aspects of the VUCA world. There is volatility in all aspects of life- raw material prices; foreign exchange; interest rates; regulatory shifts; changing demand patters and many more.
Every leader and management team must remain agile , adaptive, nimble to change course as necessary. No one leader can navigate you through such chaos. One needs collective and distributed leadership. So I need to constantly listen and seek inputs from my team and experts externally and yet quickly make up my mind and engage the others in the process.
A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all. What is your prime focus for retaining customers and acquiring new ones?
The strategy is basically two pronged: know your customer well enough to anticipate their needs and give them What they need at the best value possible. Knowing a customer well enough is a deeply engaging activity.
Please describe your corporate experience and the journey .What was your first paying job?
My corporate experience is a combination of multiple roles- been a researcher into corporates; a trainer; full time manager; leader of HR function; leader of IT function and then a CEO. The experience straddles pulp and paper industry, to FMCG to a conglomerate like the Aditya Birla Group.
My first paid job was as an Intern in Odisha Milk Federation Development Corp in 1985.
Do you have a formal mechanism for making sure you stay in touch with employees and customers on the organization’s front line?
I do not know what you mean by a formal mechanism. But regular visit to the front line to meet customers and our people has been a standard practice for me.
What is the best business advice you’ve ever heard?
“Top line is vanity bottom line is sanity and cash is reality”
What are the values you espouse in/as a Leader?
Courage and fairness.
What strategies do you use in terms of planning your personal career progression?
A simple strategy : work hard and learn harder
What was the last book you read / Your Favorite Book or Quote of all time?
” A society that scorns excellence in plumbing because it is a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity; will neither have good plumbing nor have good philosophy. Neither its pipes nor its theories will hold any water”. John Gardner