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In Conversation with the CEOs

Read the excerpts of our interviews with CEOs from CEO India Magazine editions.

A Reel Legacy!

June 5, 2018
India’s greatest showman – Subhash Ghai and his daughter Meghna Ghai Puri speak to us about jointly running the film school – Whistling Woods International, the unique father-daughter bond, the Indian movie industry and how the senior Ghai still breathes films, like no other… Even though it has been 40 years since Subhash Ghai stepped into the big, competitive and fabulous realm of Hindi films, the memory of his tinsel-town blockbusters is still very fresh in our minds. Whether it was the rebirth theme in Karz, the serious goofiness of Jackie Shroff, Anil Kapoor and Naseeruddin Shah under the strict tutelage of the legendary Dilip Kumar in Karma, the budding romance between Mahima Chaudhary and Shah Rukh Khan in Pardes or the undying love portrayed by Akshaye Khanna in the unforgettable Aishwarya Rai-starrer Taal – Ghai’s movies were a mix of everything that an audience ever wanted. There was a solid central theme, strong characters with distinct personalities, music that continues to occupy air space on radio stations even now and lots of adventure, fun and life. The reason Ghai was able to give us such cinematic gems is because he started honing his skills to become a complete filmmaker from an early age. “I was always more attracted to dance, drama, and music than textbooks. I never missed a chance to participate in extra-curricular activities in school. Once, I even bunked a class with friends to watch Ten Commandments,” he says. His mother, a teacher also greatly contributed in making him the man he is. She had a habit of making him read and summarising moral stories from The Ramayana and The Mahabharata. She introduced him to mythologies that fascinated him as a child. He used to love watching the ever-popular drama Ramlila at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan. During his days at Vaish College, Rohtak, he optimised every opportunity to broaden his horizons as a playwright, actor and what not. He started singing and acting and was crowned the undisputed “hero of Punjab University!” By doing so, Ghai was trying to kill two birds with one stone. On the one hand, Ghai was regaling everybody with his histrionics and zest for drama. On the other, he was silently putting all his energy into creativity, turning every failure to his advantage. He even received a gold medal in dramatics at college. Armed with such a passion for drama, Ghai like the happy, heroic protagonists of his movies used any hardships that came his way to create value via the medium of acting, humour and song. His parents decided to separate when he was 12. But there’s not an iota of self-pity about the incident in him. Speaking about it, Ghai says, while growing up, he got a chance to experience a unique childhood and spent time with different families with a different set of values, views about life, rules, and regulations. “If I grew up in one family, I would have been a reflection of my parents! However, my whole upbringing

WHEN SUCCEEDING IS THE ONLY OPTION

May 22, 2018
Cvent CEO Reggie Aggarwal is a certified phoenix who has brilliantly risen from the ashes of failure. He tells us his story to never back down… Rajeev or Reggie Aggarwal’s life is worthy of being made into a movie by a film director like Mira Nair who likes to dabble with different subjects and stories. But it’s not going to be a too good-to-be true tale full of Bollywood masala. It’s a story of patience, passion and perseverance and a well-deserved victory. His parents immigrated to the US in 1965. His father went to Kansas State University for a Master’s in Mechanical Engineering followed by a job at the Department of Commerce. His mother, a Masters in Sitar, became an executive with the US Government after moving to the States. Reggie has two siblings — a sister called Manjula; she worked at Cvent for 15 years as Senior Vice President, Client Services — and his brother Sanjeev is a cancer specialist. While still young, his family moved around a lot and lived in seven to eight different cities before settling down in Alexandria, Virginia, where his parents still continue to live. Growing up in the US was initially difficult for the family. “My father came to the US with very little money and went for his Masters. To make ends meet, my father worked at a fast food restaurant and my mother cleaned houses and sold Avon door to door. It was tough living during our first decade in America. But once my family adjusted they got more professional careers and ended up working for the US government,” says Aggarwal. The Aggarwal household was a middle-class environment that gave all three siblings a happy childhood despite the struggle. From the beginning, their father was involved with them and ensured they played a lot of sport including basketball and soccer. Since Reggie was slightly shy as a kid, he challenged that through debating; it instilled confidence in him and enabled him to truly enjoy academics. It also gave him the self-assurance to become the student body president. That’s also the time he started to develop leadership skills. “I became comfortable with who I was. As I grew older and went to college, I began to embrace being Indian and began to understand the Indian culture. It came full circle when I graduated from law school and became president of the Indian American Bar association, met my wife at the network of South Asian professionals and started the Indian CEO Technology Council. I fully embraced my Indian heritage and maybe went overboard,” he recalls. It seems like he was born with an entrepreneurial streak. He learnt how to cook at the age of seven and started engaging in small businesses from removing snow, lawn mowing to painting when he was all of 14. “I was always entrepreneurial,” he says. During college breaks while all other students headed for internships, he would run businesses with his friends. As a Finance major from the University of Virginia,

Turning the Tide

January 18, 2018
Ananth Narayanan came to Myntra with little experience of fashion but he is well on his way to making the online retailer a force to reckon with. In 2015, when Flipkart hired Ananth Narayanan, then a 38-year-old director from McKinsey, to run its newly-acquired fashion retailer Myntra, the young CEO set up a herculean task for himself: To make Myntra India’s  first profitable large e-commerce company. At a time when the top e-commerce companies in India, be it Amazon, Flipkart, or Snapdeal were bleeding, such a proposition sounded quite far-fetched. Discounts to lure customers and keep sales volumes high were piling up losses for most e-commerce players. Myntra wasn’t an exception. A little over 2 years later, Narayanan’s mission, while not achieved yet, looks well on track. In August 2017, the company declared its private label business, called Myntra Fashion Brands (MFB), profitable. MFB makes for 23% of the company’s business. Myntra now expects to turn EBITDA pro table soon, perhaps in a month or two. “We are ahead of target in turning EBITDA positive and will announce that soon,” says Narayanan. How did Myntra’s young CEO manage to get his company on track? He certainly got his initial priorities right — to cut costs, streamline processes, and shift the focus on higher-margin businesses. Through careful inventory management, Narayanan was able to cut discounts and supply chain costs by a few percentage points. While discounts were slashed on popular products that customers were willing to pay full price or near full price, supply chain costs were brought down by increased use of technology and economies of scale. A big boost to profitability came from Narayanan’s drive to reinvigorate the private labels business. The company owns 13 in-house brands, or MFB, whose margins are higher than those of third-party brands. In the past, these brands contributed a decent 14% to the platform, but weren’t scaling up. Narayanan felt their potential was not fully tapped and there was room for growth. “One reason they weren’t growing was lack of importance. The moment you declare them important, people pay attention to them. Shining a light on MFB was one big reason it started growing. Second, we genuinely improved the products,” he says. MFB is today a profitable business and the company expects to grow it to about 30% of sales in the days to come. The strategies Narayan implemented at Myntra have been geared to the rapidly growing e-commerce market. “My initial objective was to build upon the strengths and offer greater value, which I knew would help us have a large set of repeat customers, along with a steady focus on acquiring new customers. I focused on improving unit economics, improving the NPS and bringing more brands, which has helped us on our journey to becoming the first profitable e-commerce company in India,” he says. How does Myntra position itself in the larger fashion space, a burgeoning market expected to grow manifold in the coming decade? “From a macro perspective, brands are

AUROVILLE’S SIMPLE LEATHER MAN

December 26, 2017
Hidesign CEO Dilip Kapur traces the journey of his iconic brand that has risen from very humble beginnings. It was the late 1970s when Puducherry-born, Sri Aurobindo Ashram-schooled Dilip Kapur came back to his hometown after studying at Phillips Academy, Andover and Princeton. His return was well-timed. On February 28th, 1968, some 5,000 people from 124 nations and 23 Indian states congregated to inaugurate the future township of Auroville in a solemn ceremony. “We believed Auroville would create a model to change the world. There were people, rebellious and innovative, from all over the world. Puducherry itself was a quiet town, culturally led by Auroville and the Ashram,” says Kapur. In the last 49 years, this quaint little town on the Southern coast of India has certainly made a mark for itself in terms of heritage, travel and hide! Kapur has given Puducherry its most famous shopping address in the form of his internationally-acclaimed luxury brand – Hidesign, which has a current turnover of ₹160-170 crores. Meant for those who want to indulge in genuine leather goods that are sturdy, stylish and almost ageless, Hidesign was established in 1978 with a two-person artisan workshop once Kapur moved to Auroville from the States after completing his PhD. Thereafter, he started experimenting with leather as a hobby. “Friends and friends of friends started buying and selling them in Australia and the US. One day, I received a large order and realized I needed a workshop.” Interestingly, up until then, he had never thought of starting a leather business. But during his stay in the US, to sustain himself during the summer, he applied for a job at a Denver-based leather shop called Poor Richard’s. This nine-month stint resurrected his love for leather that was “somehow in his blood” because of his father whose leather shoe factory burnt down during the Partition. “I had never seen him work with leather. But I loved working with leather at Denver, learning how to hand dye leather, cut it and assemble bags,” says Kapur. Today, Hidesign products are made in three factories in Pondicherry, Ranipet Baddi, and Sikkim. Known for its craftsmanship and innovative design, in India, Hidesign has 81 exclusive stores; it is also present in 160 shop-in-shops and major e-commerce platforms. Internationally, their distribution and franchise stores are spread across 23 countries that include Russia, Sri Lanka, Prague and Kenya; Indonesia and Dubai are in the offing. Since leather is the star of Kapur’s show, he goes to great lengths to procure it from tanneries all over the world like Brazil, the highlands of East Africa, Europe, and New Zealand. From the time, he started working wholeheartedly with leather his curiosity has led him to explore the traditions of vegetable tanning in south India, probably the greatest centre in the world of vegetable tanning traditions. No wonder, he prefers, “Kerala as the climate and educated farmers ensure healthy animals,” and a good quality hide. Apart from the leather, Kapur is equally stringent about the

INDIA’S AD MAVERICK

November 24, 2017
Before he became the most illustrious man in the Indian advertising industry, Piyush Pandey was busy, playing cricket and tasting tea for TM & MC. The latter activity was part of a friendship pact between him and his dear friend, the cricketer and commentator Arun Lal. “We decided that whenever we work, we will be together no matter where it is. That’s how I joined him as a tea taster in Kolkata,” shares Pandey, who eventually said bye to chai, after a two-year stint. He also gave up cricket after realising that he “wasn’t good enough to play beyond Ranji Trophy.” But he still has deep affection for the gentleman’s game. “For the last 10 years, I have worked on the IPL, Mumbai Indians and World Cup campaigns. Today at my age, I may not be able to play it but cricket is in my blood!” After being bored of tea leaves and the bat-and-ball sport, Pandey entered advertising by chance and a little encouragement from his wingman Arun and his wife Reena. “They both observed that I was very good at writing one liners and asked me to try my hand at it. Since nothing was planned, I decided to give it a shot.” In 1982, Pandey was interviewed by then Ogilvy boss Ranjan Kapur. Since he couldn’t decide which department to put him in, he joined as an account executive. “I was doing well in client servicing. In 1982, with the advent of colour television, a lot of people couldn’t come to terms with writing for the masses. I used to write for clients who wanted ads in Hindi. My bosses Mani Iyer and Suresh Mullick got a whiff of it and put me in writing copy.” His transition to the creative side wasn’t as easy as he makes it sound. Since there was an existing team, the bosses couldn’t afford to bring him in as a senior resource without upsetting the apple cart. So, they created an absolutely new position for him. Pandey became copy chief, Indian languages, as here was an opportunity for him to write Indian content in the Indian context. He went on to write unforgettable tag lines like Chal Meri Luna, Dam Laga Ke Haisha and Mera Wala Cream and give brands like Luna, Fevicol, and Asian Paints a much-needed impetus. Welcome to the world of Piyush Pandey — India’s most decorated ad man; creator of the campaign of the century and writer extraordinaire. Most importantly, a man of humour and humility, and passion and perseverance! His ads are like him — steeped in simplicity. “An ad becomes great when it appeals to people and they approve of it. In the case of Cadbury, the brief was very simple — to enable older people to eat it openly without feeling shy. For Fevicol, it was making people have a role to play with glue and the carpenter. And with Luna, it was about bringing mobility to the Indian masses. Throughout the campaigns, I

Zia and Jaidev Mody

September 6, 2017
She was merely 13 and he 14. In their hearts, they knew they were meant to be, though they would not proclaim it. They would pretend to play cricket when the sun had long set, just to be with each other. They would play till 7 or 8 pm, though they would not see where the ball was being thrown. He was the handsome boy next door and she the prettiest girl in the neighbourhood. It was around 1969 when they first ran into each other and simply fell in love. Forty-eight years later, their love story is still being written. Zia and Jaydev Mody — reckoned as a power couple in the corporate world — have been each other’s strongest pillars ever since and their love hasn’t faded a bit. Zia, as we know her today, is one of the country’s finest legal brains, an authority on corporate law, and Jaydev, a business tycoon who runs a casino empire. “We just fell in love and couldn’t stand to be apart,” recalls Zia of the days when the two, in their early teens, had got acquainted in the Mumbai locality where they lived. It was a case of opposites attract, she reckons. “He was terribly handsome, intelligent, very impulsive, intense and very different from my own character, which was cautious, conservative and slightly nervous about things unknown.” Her good looks apart, it was Zia’s insatiable drive to excel at everything that fascinated Jaydev at age 14 and continues to even today. “As a child, she was always determined to be the best in whatever she did — whether it was topping the class or riding as a jockey at the gymkhana.” Even at 60, he says, she is still determined to be the best and doesn’t settle for any less. Among the memories Zia treasures the most is when Jaydev would come to the racecourse early in the morning and ride horses, just to be with her. They would ride every morning until 6.30 before she would go to school. Another, she recalls, is that of Jaydev writing her love letters in his scrawly handwriting — there was no internet or fax in those days — when he was off to Europe for many weeks or when she was travelling. Zia’s inspiration to study law and become a lawyer, of course, came from her father Soli Sorabjee, one of India’s most distinguished jurists and former attorney general. “I never wanted to be anything other than a lawyer. It was certainly my father who provided the inspiration. He was an obvious role model, which led my career choice being an easy decision.” She recalls how her father would often be at the dinner table making calls to his solicitors, talking about legal issues, and discussing with colleagues what the judges said in courts. “It always sounded challenging and exciting,” she says. Talking about her father’s nurturing, Zia recounts some of the key learnings from him as hard work, honesty and the

CP Gurnani

May 30, 2017
Challenging conventional thinking has been our north star In 2009, when Anand Mahindra acquired the scam-hit Satyam Computer Services — the IT major whose founder B Ramalinga Raju had cooked its books to the tune of $1 billion — he handed over the momentous task of bringing the company back from the dead to CP Gurnani, then heading the international operations at Tech Mahindra. Within a year-and-half, the company that most industry pundits predicted would not survive, now christened Mahindra Satyam, was back on track. In the next several quarters, it reported a ten-fold increase in its year-on-year profits. Gurnani had taken the bull by its horn, turning around the crisis-hit company into an opportunity. He had then said, “We knew that as Tech Mahindra, we were hugely into the communications space and we wanted to saddle the ICT (information and communications technology) industry. We had to find some kind of a game changer and Satyam was an opportunity.” Satyam brought with it customers in the banking, healthcare and retail industries. In 2013, Mahindra Satyam merged with Tech Mahindra, and it is today the fifth- largest IT services company in India with $4.05 billion in revenue and $477 million in net profit (March 2016), and over 100,000 employees. Gurnani, the CEO and managing director of Tech Mahindra and chairman of Nasscom, is today the poster boy of the Indian technology industry, known for his outstanding leadership abilities, be it transforming businesses, developing international business, handling mergers and acquisitions, or nurturing start- ups and responding to disruption. Most of all, he stands out as a people’s manager, who always leads by example and tends to focus on people’s strengths to bring out the best in them. His leadership style encourages entrepreneurship and empowerment, rewards and recognition, open communication, and transparency. In an interview with Amit Ranjan Rai, Gurnani speaks on his priorities for Tech Mahindra and how he plans to keep it ahead of the game in this age of disruption. You started your career as a chemical engineer, you have not done an MBA, and yet today you are leading one of India’s top IT companies and are responsible for one of the biggest turnarounds in corporate history. How do you see this journey of your life? What do you think have been the defining or key moments/decisions shaping this journey? My childhood was fairly nomadic as my father was in a transferable job. This required me to change schools and places in every few years. Strangely, living out of suitcases and sleeping on beds made of trunks didn’t seem odd actually! While that meant fewer friends forever (this was pre-social media… social and media had different meanings), that also meant that we learnt to fend for ourselves and survive swiftly in any given situation. During my days as an engineering student at REC Rourkela, I got to experience cultures and explore multiple opportunities, be it through Rotaract or through campus programmes, and experiment with several new ideas. And that

Schauna & Nadia

May 23, 2017
We Complement Each Other & Together We Can Make Anything Possible In 1985, Prakash Chauhan of Parle Agro gave India its most loved mango drink, the fresh ‘n’ juicy Frooti — the iconic brand which has since been one of the country’s highest-selling beverages. Three decades later, Chauhan’s daughters have turned Parle Agro into a food and beverages behemoth that the father couldn’t be more proud of. Schauna Chauhan, the CEO of the company, and Nadia Chauhan, its joint managing director and chief marketing of cer, have diversi ed the business into a number of food and beverages brands — Frooti, Appy, Appy Fizz, Bailley, Bailley Soda, Café Cuba, Hippo, Frio and Frooti Fizz. Many of these have been market leaders in their categories and grown exponentially. Under the two sisters, Parle Agro has grown from a humble Rs 300-crore company to a Rs 3,000-crore heavyweight. The vision is to make the company the country’s No.1 beverages player. What makes Schauna and Nadia click as a team? They say they are two very different personalities and their way of working is just as different. What they have in common, says Schauna, is the passion they have in driving the organisation, the genuine and honest values with which they work for it, and the perseverance that they have in doing what they do. “It is a blessing that we are as different as we are, because we complement each other’s skills and together we can make anything possible,” says Nadia. In an interview they discuss their father’s influence in shaping them as business leaders, the passion they work with to achieve their vision for Parle Agro, and the way they make a perfect team.   Entrepreneurial spirit seems to be in your DNA. How has your father, Mr Prakash Chauhan, and his life in uenced and shaped you as an entrepreneur/business person? Schauna Chauhan: Business was already chosen for me and I well accepted it as I grew up learning the business. I was never pressurised by the expectations. Getting up when you fall and being a good human being were something that I learned from my father very early. Another advice by him that shaped me as a business person was doing these few important and very simple things: Listening, being aware, knowing the details of the situation, understanding the complete issue and then taking the decision together as a team. Nadia Chauhan: My dad has had the biggest influence on me as an entrepreneur/business leader. When I was just a kid, between 8 and 12 years of age, I’d be restless and always wanting to start a business of my own. Do something entrepreneurial and enterprising. I started a few — a baking business, sold tie and dye clothes, garage sales — and each of these was encouraged by both my parents. But my father, especially, never treated it as a childish initiative; he’d always treat it as seriously as he’d treat his own business. He’d give me various

Vinod K Dasari

December 20, 2014
Our transformation has been fundamental to our turnaround from the brink of collapse Last fiscal year was a record year for Ashok Leyland in many ways. The commercial vehicles (CV) giant achieved its highest ever sales volumes and turnover, its highest ever market share and operating pro t as also its highest shareholder value. Its turnover grew by a good 39 per cent to Rs 18,822 crore, as against Rs 13,562 crore, a year ago. The sales volume grew by 34 per cent to peak at 1,40,457 units, and the net pro t rose by a remarkable 115 per cent to Rs 722 crore, as against a year ago. The company’s market share in medium and heavy commercial vehicles (M&HCVs) reached an all-time high of 31.3 per cent. Just over two years ago, when the CV industry was grappling with one of its worst recessions, Ashok Leyland was faced with what managing director Vinod K Dasari calls “nearly existential challenges.” The industry demand between FY12 and FY14 had plunged by about 50 per cent. As a result, in FY14, Ashok Leyland’s sales plummeted by 22 per cent (over FY13) to a low of 89,337 units, the turnover dropped to Rs 9,943 crore and the net pro t was a mere Rs 29 crore. The scenario called for radical measures to reverse the fortunes. Says Dasari, “We used this as an opportunity to transform ourselves into an agile player.” The company restructured itself into six businesses, with each responsible for not just its market share but also its EBITDA and working capital. This, says Dasari, drove ef ciency and a greater focus on return on capital employed. Massive programmes were launched to cut costs and reduce working capital requirements. Importantly, the company brought its focus back on its core business of commercial vehicles, chalking out a clear plan to exit from non-core and non-performing businesses. “Our efforts in pruning costs while at the same time investing in new products and network have helped us transform the company. We are now poised to seize the opportunity the market presents in the immediate future,” says Dasari. In an interview with Amit Ranjan Rai, he talks about his transformation drive to turnaround Ashok Leyland and his plans to achieve its vision to be among the top 10 in global trucks and top 5 in global buses. Ashok Leyland has delivered solid performance in FY2015-16 with a 39 per cent growth in revenue. Your earnings have increased to a healthy 11.5 per cent of total revenue and are perhaps the highest ever. What have been the reasons behind this robust performance? What factors — in terms of both your strategy and demand — have contributed to the performance? Which segments have been the key revenue and profit drivers? The Indian commercial vehicle market had a period of continual growth from 1999 to 2008, when it got struck by two back-to-back recessions. The second one between 2012 and 2014 was one of the longest, deepest recessions

A Vaidheesh

May 23, 2014
Indian Companies Have The Adequate Genetic Makeup For Being Innovative A Vaidheesh, GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals’ vice president, South Asia and managing director, India, is a successful senior business leader with over 28 years of diverse experience in the healthcare and FMCG domains. He has a strong track record of leadership development and building leading brands/franchises across various categories and multi-cultural locations in the Asia-Paci c region. At GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals India, which contributes a third of the volume of GlaxoSmithKline’s global sales, Vaidheesh is leading the company for its next stage of growth. GSK India’s UK-based parent is investing £100 million in expanding the Indian arm’s manufacturing capability — it is setting up a green eld factory in Bangalore which will help it double its capacity to manufacture tablets and capsules from 12 billion to 24 billion a year. Says Vaidheesh, “It’s time for India to put together a strategic map to go beyond generic drugs manufacture and play a bigger role in drug discovery and innovation and move up the value chain.” In an interview with Amit Ranjan Rai, he discusses his plans for GSK and how innovation is likely to be the next growth driver for Indian pharma companies. From a Bachelor of Physics and Masters in Marketing Management to a top leadership position at a global pharmaceuticals company, how do you see this journey in your life? What have been the key moments shaping this journey? I have always looked at my future in a bundle of 3 years forward. I have ensured success in every leadership position that was presented to me. I never worried about the future. Werner Erhard significantly helped me change my view of the world. The early stage of my career played a vital role in building my future. Saibal Saha and Supratim Bose were my inspirational leaders from whom I learnt the technical aspect of running the business as well as being a caring human soul before being a leader in a corporation. I am grateful to the almighty for providing me with an opportunity to express myself and be of value to society. What has been your vision and mission for GSK Pharmaceuticals in India? What has been your strategy to achieve this vision? We will make a positive difference to patients and the community by being a preferred, affordable and trusted partner of choice for key stakeholders in preventive and therapeutic healthcare. We will achieve this as “one team”, upholding our GSK values to become the fastest-growing pharma multinational and the most admired company in the industry How do you see GSK CEO, Sir Andrew Whitty’s leadership in making GSK a better organisation and company – one which is transparent, responsible and has high ethical standards? Sir Andrew Whitty is unquestionably the best leader I have ever worked with. I really admired the way he handled a business crisis in the region and converted an adverse situation into a path-breaking new paradigm for the pharma industry. He really walked the talk

Binod Chaudhary

April 21, 2014
India needs to promote its business houses to evolve into Zaibatsus and Chaebols Binod Chaudhary is the rest and sole billionaire from the neighbouring Himalayan nation of Nepal. He is the chairman of the Chaudhary Group (CG), a multinational conglomerate with a portfolio of 122 companies spread over ve continents and with 26 renowned brands in the global market. A respected figure in the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry, he is best known for his popular instant noodles brand Wai Wai. Chaudhary saw an opportunity in noodles when back in the 1980s he saw large numbers of instant noodles cartons being own from Bangkok to Kathmandu. Today Wai Wai is sold in over 30 countries and claims to be the No.2 noodles brand in India with a 27 per cent market share. The company has eight Wai Wai plants in India, six in Nepal and four are under construction in Serbia, Saudi Arabia, Kenya and Bangladesh. The combined production is 2.2 billion packets a year. Chaudhary’s other business interests include electronics, hospitality, infrastructure, education, telecom and realty, which are among the 15 business verticals he runs within the Chaudhary Group. His biggest asset is a controlling stake in Nabil Bank, Nepal’s largest private-sector commercial bank. The other key assets include a string of hotels, and joint ventures with the Taj (Tata Group), Alila, Fern and the Farm at San Benito, to name a few prominent brands. Besides, there are power projects and cement plants in East Africa and property developments in the Middle East. Chaudhary is also a leading philanthropist in Nepal; he has made signi cant contributions to rehabilitate the survivors of the earthquake last year and is involved in shelter and school projects in the earthquake-affected districts. In an interview with Amit Ranjan Rai, Chaudhary talks about his growth story, the relations between India and Nepal, priorities for Indian companies and the government as well as his focus on nurturing and supporting disruptive ideas and start-ups. He believes that India needs to promote its business houses to evolve into Zaibatsus and chaebols — companies like Mitsui, Daewoo and Hyundai. “These corporates were able to become global players not entirely depending on their internal resources, but the countries backed them as their own global arm,” he says. He also asserts that India has the potential to become a hub for inventing disruptive technologies and business models but it needs to be highly proactive on this front. You are the most successful corporate leader in Nepal. Please tell us about your growth story. I was maybe 14 years old and I was attending a vocational school in Nepal where we were being taught secretarial skills. I was a good student and one of my teachers encouraged me to set up a tuck shop inside the school. I borrowed a few rupees and with some of my classmates we would go shopping, buy a few items and then set up a table and resell the items inside the school. Looking

Deb Deep

March 5, 2014
Leading From The Front Deb Deep Sengupta, the president and managing director of SAP Indian Subcontinent, is credited with putting SAP, the world’s largest business software provider, on a high-growth trajectory in India. He has been an integral part of SAP India’s leadership team for over a decade and is responsible for doubling SAP’s enterprise business in the country as well as taking the SAP brand to new heights in the region. He is also credited with building the SME (small and medium enterprise) and channels business for SAP India, which is rated amongst the top SME businesses within SAP globally in terms of revenue contribution, pro tability and customer satisfaction. Today, SMEs account for nearly 80 per cent of SAP’s client base in India and the successful model is being replicated in many other countries. Sengupta is known in the industry for his excellent leadership skills and as a thought leader. He is a great believer of the player-coach leadership style where the leader not just coaches or gives directions but also rolls up his sleeves and gets on the playing eld when needed. In an interview with CEO India, Sengupta talks about what does being a CEO/MD means to him, his leadership style and the work culture he’s created, work- life balance, and his outlook towards life and success. He believes, “As a leader, you have to give back to your people, the ecosystem and the society at large; you have to contribute to a greater cause than just yourself or your organisation.” He says, if he is able to change someone’s life for the better, he would consider that a success.   From various roles at IBM, HP and SAP to becoming the top executive of your company… how do you see your professional journey so far? What have been some of the key learnings? When I look at my career, I have experienced many learnings and challenges. I have realised that the insights which you get from the learnings make you stronger as a leader and as an individual. Whereas the challenges of your career give you the courage and faith to persist despite barriers if any. Most importantly, I have learnt that as a leader, you have to give back to your people, the ecosystem and the society at large; you have to contribute to a greater cause than just yourself or your organisation. What does being at the top (as CEO/ MD) mean to you? How rewarding is the experience? I consider this opportunity of leading an organisation like SAP as a platform to inspire and foster the inner entrepreneurial spirit of each employee. I take each day as a learning experience, meeting challenges and delivering my best performance to discover a bit more about myself and what I am capable of achieving. This also provides a great opportunity to learn all the different roles that make up the team that helps run the company on a daily basis and gain a number of

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