Employee Speak: Binno Joseph, CEO, The HR Practice ; V5 Issue 1

About Binno Joseph

Binno Joseph an alumnus of XLRI has a decade and half experience that cuts across five diverse industries. He started his career with Madura Coats, at their Madurai Plant. He joined The HR Practice in the capacity of a CEO on June 1st, 2011. He has worked with Hindustan Times Media, Accenture, HCL and Pepsico amongst others. In his own words every now and then he loves to push himself into ‘higher planes of discomfort!’ Here is catching up with him as he shares his moments of truth with the ‘Prerana’ readers.

  1. Have you always wanted to be in the field of Human Resources or were there other dreams that you had while growing up?

    Honestly HR was something I heard of only in the final semester of my engineering. My first dream was to be a pilot, then to be somewhere with the services. I almost joined the air force clearing SSB, in the engineering cadre.

  2. What challenges did you face in pursuing your dreams? How did you tackle them?

    I am not sure whether many people are endowed with clarity of what they are good at and not so good at in black and white. In that sense the first step was to know what/where I want to be. But I guess it’s always there at least as a hazy image. The challenge was to translate that to a touch and feel picture of where one should invest the 10000 hours that Malcolm Gladwell talks about.

    I started with engineering because I was good with numbers. But then I realised that talking to machines was not my calling, I wanted to get to somewhere that gives me legroom to use my right brain a bit more. So I got into the management stream which again was somewhere in that hazy image I talked of before.

    In reality one has to deal with a variety of constraints; for e.g. in a designated role, you have deliverables in domains which might not be in adherence to where your heart lies. For one, I kept seeking opportunities within the constraints of a designation to see if I can bring value in ways unique to me. To me, that was slightly different from looking at it say, as “I seem to be dragged into this for a living …”, and when I did manage to, those were moments of satisfaction and pride.

  3. That’s interesting! So then, how did you stumble upon HR?

    Sometimes I think planning ahead is a lot similar to driving in peak traffic. A regular person behind wheels sees the three buses blocking his/her way ahead, whereas a good driver can visualise the path and he is not concentrating on the constraints ahead. When that split second opportunity comes, he is ready with the right engine speed and is on the right gear to propel. Everyone else loses out while he advances.

    Two values are central to me – courage and pride. Thanks to my parents, I did not come under extreme pressure to be always orthodox in my outlook. Hence I had the freedom to take some risks earlier on in life. Pursuing HR was one such adventure for an engineering graduate as was seen by my near and dear ones. Though my dad did not use these precise words, he more or less conveyed to me “I will not hold you guilty of failing, if it is from trying out something that you believe in.”

  4. What factors helped you succeed in this alternate professional life you adopted?

    I guess there are multiple perspectives possible to every single situation. If one extends that a bit, there are multiple ways of coming to the same end result also. As Dr Kalam puts it, the peaks are crucial, but one should be able to enjoy the sides of the mountain too! In other words you always have the opportunity to bring in that unique value to whatever you do rather than waiting for the D day and the perfect role.

  5. Having worked with large Corporations what prompted you to join a boutique HR consulting firm like The HR Practice?

    Despite being an engineer I am someone who listens to my right brain a lot to the extent of someone saying “That’s a pie in the sky!” And I believe it.

    On one hand it was a belief that you can bring ‘original’ ideas to the table as against say enjoying excellence in execution. Execution excellence is characteristic of big organisations with set practices and thoughts. And on the other, the realisation that one has probably reached a milestone on the learning curve and here is the time to dip into that gold mine and unlock potential. My initial conversations with Anu reaffirmed these thoughts…here was a model where success is measured by how well one strays from trodden paths rather than a vision that is built on compliance.

  6. Did you encounter naysayers, people who discouraged you from pursuing an unconventional career? How did you deal with them or are dealing with them?

    Not naysayers so to say but well wishers who encouraged me to look at it clinically. Well actually prodded me to use my left brain as well! Having said what I have said about listening to my heart, I am also someone who does consume a lot of data and enjoy doing my own analyses with as much inputs as possible. So, most of these conversations with my well wishers included a presentation of two things. One was certainly my desire and conviction. The other was an assessment from a logical point of view. At no point in time was I telling them “This is my decision …this is none of your business” or that “You won’t understand”, it was rather on the lines of “Let me take you through my line of thinking.”

  7. Having joined and been with The HR Practice and its team for a month now, how does it feel?

    If my boss is not reading this …let me just say this is still the honeymoon period and I want to enjoy it for a few more days!

    On a more serious note, the last one month has put me through as many different contexts as I would have gone through in the last decade. The Positive side of that is.... this very same scenario has induced me to exercise my own thinking much more.

    The effort that goes into getting into the client organisation’s shoes and mind amazes me. There was this young girl who said she is associated with manufacturing industry assignment for the first time. I have crisscrossed industry landscape with years in manufacturing too. She taught me a few things that I did not know…well, looks like I am in for some exciting times that would stretch my limits! Looking forward to it ….

  8. In your experience what is the single biggest factor that stops people from following their dreams?

    In my view the biggest riddle of life is making a decision (does that make me sound like Socrates or Plateau?). Life always presents one with multiple scenarios and one goes through the fear of having to regret a decision later on. I say this truly is the battle; constraints are there everywhere. Rather than saying one is constrained by such and such …...it is about taking your own decision and staying on course far enough to be able to realise your dreams.

  9. Instead of living their dreams, many are stuck in jobs they do not like, with bad bosses, and nightmarish workloads. They want to be independent and do what they like, but they don’t want to step out of their financial security zone. What can these people do to build a life of their choice?

    It is important to be armed with awareness; awareness about self as also awareness about what one is getting into. If the surprise factor has not been taken into account then that will be one more demon to deal with! “Forewarned is fore armed!” And if I may add, everything starts with a desire though ‘hope’ is not a management tool! As Robin Sharma puts it “The road to hell is paved with good intentions!”

Employee Speak: Dhruva Dubey, Vice President Human Resources, July Systems; V4 Issue 4


Meet Dhruva Dubey, VP, HR, July Systems

Dhruva Dubey heads the Human Resources function at July Systems. July Systems offers the industry’s No.1 mobile internet platform to media publishers, advertisers and enterprises. Pioneers in mobile internet, July Systems supports more than 80 of the world’s largest brands and delivers over 2.5 billion page views to 40+ million users. With offices in Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, Bangalore, Mumbai and Kuala Lumpur, the company has a service footprint in over 100 countries today. With July Systems’ innovative MiTM Platform businesses can publish, distribute, market, monetize and personalize services for their consumers on the mobile internet and offer them rich and interactive experiences across 7000+ device models. July Systems’ is a privately funded company with a 100 member R&D team and a 200 member Delivery and Operations team.

Dhruva’s responsibilities include driving strategic organizational goals by creating strong HR systems and processes. Dhruva brings with him 10 years of rich experience in the area of People Management in a wide spectrum of industry verticals including Manufacturing, FMCG and Banking. Before joining July Systems, Dhruva worked with BTR Automotives, AXIS Bank and HSBC in multiple roles. He has successfully led large teams, made key contributions in setting up businesses and has been instrumental in contributing towards the business success. Dhruva has a Mechanical Engineering degree and did his Masters in Personnel Management and Industrial Relations from XLRI School of Business and Human Resources, Jamshedpur.

  1. How would you define a high potential employee?

    Most people confuse performance with potential. In my experience 70% of employees are not be able to perform in their new roles. There is a high probability of them then getting disengaged or resigning.  To me a high potential employee is someone who is able to perform at a higher level than others in the current role and has the potential to perform in a higher role through a vertical or lateral movement. I am including lateral movement since vertical moves are not always possible given the flat organization structures most organizations currently have and because lateral moves also require a high degree of learning. For instance in July Systems some roles are very difficult to hire from outside since they are very technical. So, a technical person may be groomed to take on a sales role. Basically high potential employees are people who show eagerness to learn new skills and grow continuously throughout their career. They don’t hold stereotypes of how their career would progress and hence are more open to new and challenging roles.     

  2. According to you what is the best way to identify high potential employees?

    One must first identify employees with consistent high performance ie., demonstrated high performance for a period of 2-3 years. Typically consistent performers will constitute 20% of the employees. Then one must cull out from this set of employees, those who satisfy certain other criteria like having demonstrated the ability to play a variety of roles, showing inclination to take on new roles etc. After that an objective process must be used to identify among them high potential employees i.e., those who demonstrate competencies for higher roles. In my opinion a 1-2 day assessment centre is a good tool to do this. Some may emerge as being excellent at one or two competencies and some may demonstrate an average level of competence on all competencies. There has to be clear criteria as to who are ones who will be shortlisted as high potential.

  3. Once you have identified them how do you plan nurture these high potential employees in July Systems?

    There are two ways to nurture high potential employees-through on the job initiatives and off the job programs. A 3 month rigorous off the job program spread over a period of 1 year will work well. These can include real time projects, short term assignments, internships, workshops and exposure to people who are doing this role. Individuals should understand the key success factors for the role they are going to play in future. It is also important to customize the potential development program to the person and the role he/she has been identified to play in future.

  4. In your experience what are the challenges in managing the development of high potential employees?

    One of the biggest challenges in managing potential development programs is the difficulty in measuring the ROI of these programs. Since there is considerable investment of time, effort and money there is an expectation that a huge pipeline of leaders will be created. But realistically speaking out of the identified high potentials only 5% emerge as leaders after about three years. Some of the high potentials will resign; some roles for which talented employees have been identified will no longer be there due to changes in the business. The results should not be measured in terms of volume, but quality. Even if a few CEO material individuals emerge that is really good. The key is to build realistic expectations at the beginning of the program itself.  

    Making the potential development a dynamic process is the other challenge. As you know one does business in a dynamic environment with markets, technologies etc evolving continuously making it imperative for the organization also to evolve its business focus. A standard potential assessment and development process then will not be able to cater to the evolving business needs. Typically the potential assessment and development process is designed to be static. Once it is institutionalized, it becomes difficult to change. Ideally the process needs to be in alignment with future business needs. This calls for a process review once in two years at least. 

    Generally we find once we have identified the high potential employees we don’t know what to do. High potentials want to see action. They want to be engaged. So it is best to identify not more than 3-4% of employees since they require a lot of effort and investments. Also if only 5% of employees have been identified for the potential development then there is bound to be a dip in morale among the rest. This can be taken care to some extent by making the program aspirational. There should be a clear distinction between these people and the rest for everybody to see. It is important to engage positively with people who have not made it now, but can do so in future. Communicate in advance about the criteria for selection, give employees feedback on where they lack and tell them that they can apply next time.

  5. How critical is the Managers role in nurturing high potential employees? What are the key contributions they can make to support the growth of high potential subordinates?

    It is absolutely critical. The success of every HR initiative is determined by the support it receives from the managers. We need the managers’ buy in and feedback on their subordinates to make the program a success. Managers need to engage with their high potential subordinates positively. The managers themselves may not be comfortable managing these resources. They may feel that the current work is getting hampered on account of the potential development initiatives. So, it is important that in parallel to charting out a development program for high potential employees, their managers are also educated about the same and given the required support. Managers can contribute by carving out larger roles for these high potentials and delegating more to them to make them grow.

  6. What role can Top Management play in nurturing high potential employees of their organizations?

    Top management has to be the sponsors and should play an active role. They should conduct a review of the potential development program once in 6 months. They are the role models for the high potential employees. So avenues for these employees to engage, discuss, debate and interact should be provided. It can be through participants going for lunch with them, presenting their projects, sharing their thoughts on important organizational issues etc. This will accelerate the learning and motivate the participants.

  7. With attrition levels being high nowadays, do investments in high potential employees pay off? Are retention levels higher among those covered by the High Potential program?

    Yes definitely, since the organization is engaging with these employees over a longer period of time retention among high potential employees on an average will be more than double that of other employees.

Employee Speak: Phanindra Sama, CEO, redBus ;V4 Issue 2


About Phanindra Sama and redBus: Phanindra Sama “Phani” is a Founder and the CEO of redBus.in, India’s largest bus ticketing company. Founded in August 2006, redBus today has operations across 15 states and offers services for 5000+ routes and has built a robust distribution of over 75000 outlets! redBus is amongst Forbes top 5 start-ups to watch in 2010.

Phani has been ranked No. 3 amongst India’s Most Promising Entrepreneurs by Business World. He was awarded Star Entrepreneur of the year at 3i summit, Mumbai and BITSAA 30 under 30 award. He has also been selected as Endeavor Entrepreneur (www.endeavor.org) and TiE Entrepreneur (www.tie.org). Phani, a State ranker in Intermediate examination, Andhra Pradesh Sr. Secondary Board, graduated with distinction from BITS-Pilani, and worked with Texas Instruments, Bangalore before co-founding redBus.

1. redBus closed 2009 with a bang by featuring in Forbes India year end edition as one of the top 5 hottest start-ups to watch in 2010. What are your focus areas for the coming year?

We are scaling up. We have just crossed 200 employees. We will be adding another 75 people. To sustain the past growth rates we will need to be organised differently. So we are restructuring the organisation. We have a good set of people and a desired culture is already in place. So right now I am not as panicked about the quality of people as I was in the earlier days. I believe the current team and our culture will ensure we get in quality people. Now, how we architect the system or how we use each manager’s talent is important. I am trying to implement a matrix organisation with an innovation. There will be only solid line reporting. Functional Mangers will have no reportees. There are a lot of talented people who are on top of state of art technology etc, but they fall flat when they need to manage people and processes. So in our new organisation structure such people will be the functional experts whose entrepreneurial skills company will leverage. Only staff managers will have reportees.

2. Would you agree that the managers have a big role to play in an organisation’s success? Considering the phenomenal success redBus has had in the recent years, which characteristics of high performing Managers do redBus Managers display?

Yes I do. The entrepreneurial characteristics of redBus Managers have contributed to our company’s growth and success. By entrepreneurial I mean the ability to be creative, think out of box, not taking lack of resources as a hindrance but as a challenge. Our managers are quite mature. They roll up their sleeves and are quite hands on at work.

3. Before founding redBus what kind of Managers did you consider as effective Managers and now that you are the CEO has your perspective changed?

Before founding redBus I was a reportee and I thought a manager who was considerate, who would help me learn and grow is an effective manager. Now when I am on the other side, I appreciate those managers who can get things done. In our office we have a photo of JRD TATA with a quote that says “We have to manage people as people ….” Effective Managers are Managers who can influence teams to results and drive performance without losing human touch.

4. Is it necessary for Managers in a start up to have a different set of skill sets as compared to Mangers in an established company, to be effective in their roles?

Yes, certainly. While in mature organisations one has to be good at handling complexity, entrepreneurial skills is what is necessary in a start up.

5. How can Managers who have not been trained in mature organizations build their career and credibility in growing companies? Also, what do Managers of that profile find attractive in working for start ups?

The only way to build a career and credibility, regardless of whether you are working for a start-up or not, is by working sincerely. It is more so in a start-up as the Senior Management has very clear visibility into people’s performance. Managers in start-up find this visibility attractive in working for start-ups.

6. Please share your thoughts on how can small and medium sized organisations groom and grow their Managers?

Start ups can’t afford to invest a lot in formal training. However there are other ways to develop managers. Communication is one such tool. We communicate a lot. CEOs should take every opportunity to talk about and give examples of the management style they would want to build in the company. Even naming a conference room as JRD TATA room, affects the way one behaves when one is in that room. I read a lot of management books. In my one-on-one meeting with my managers, I give them copies of the pages of the message I want to give them. This I find is more effective than giving books. I also believe that people react to mails. People come to office in the morning with a blank mind. So I send a mail in the morning which can influence their behaviour for the day.

One should try and discover good training institutes that charge very nominal fees. They are the ones with no frills, but provide good value for the money one pays. Then there are the networks that technology teams can be part of. These are groups such as Bar Camps, Head start, Open Coffee Club, AMC etc., who interact on the internet and meet up also to exchange ideas. Participation is absolutely free. For instance there is a mobile Monday focusing on mobile Technology, geek night outs that discuss latest software technology on Friday etc. I don’t actually need to participate in these networks since I am not directly dealing with technology but I make it a point to pull my team members along to such meets. Another thing we do at redBus is that every 2nd Saturday we invite people to talk about their favourite topic. My schoolmate spoke about Google maps and earth last week and it opened up new thought processes. Every CEO would know at least 24 talk worthy people and that would take care of topics for 2 years at least. Next Saturday we are having a person talk on software testing and quality.

7. What do you feel are some of the measures, which organisations and leaders in small and medium sized organisations, can take to support and ensure effectiveness among Managers?

I would say stretch as much as possible in terms of paying Managers salaries to get good guys in. Cut down somewhere else, maybe air conditioning, marketing etc. Earlier I made a mistake by saying “This is my budget and I can’t afford to pay more”. I used to spend more on real estate etc. But good people deserve good money. Also, I would say making Managers effective is a lot to do with the CEO’s behaviour. The CEO’s behaviour is mirrored in the company culture and employee behaviour. Hence it is important for CEOs to behave in a way they would like their teams to behave. And do give them all the possible freedom.

Employee Speak: Sunil Kulkarni, COO, Akshayini Oorja

A brief on Sunil Kulkarni: Sunil Kulkarni has a bachelors’ degree in Mechanical Engineering from IIT Mumbai. He has an extensive ‘Power Sector’ experience that spans a period of about 26 years primarily in the hydro sector. He has spent about 13 years with BHEL, 11 years with Tata Power and 1.5 years with Reliance Power. Apart from the technical expertise in hydro power domain, Sunil has had opportunities to develop keen insights into project management. He is currently looking forward to putting his expertise and insights in to the development of a healthy small hydro sector.

1. Can you explain Akshayini Oorja’s unique business model for the benefit of our readers.

With the increased awareness about environmental issues and growing energy needs of large populace, Renewable Energy Sources are receiving additional attention. Governments are increasingly offering incentives in the form of subsidies and assured purchase at reasonable rates. Carbon credits are also available to many of these projects under emission control regime. This has de-risked the business to a considerable extent and hence has generated a lot of investor interest. In spite of this, you do not see many projects coming up. This is mainly because of the lack of proper technical expertise, project management skills and inadequate financial resources. This opens up a good window of opportunity.

To capitalise on this opportunity, India Value Fund (IVF) has formed the company Akshayini Oorja recently to manage (by providing technical, project management and financial expertise) their investments in renewable energy sector, with primary focus on small hydro power projects. We look forward to building a portfolio of about 300 MW in a period of 3 to 4 years.

2. Akshayini Oorja is about to invest in the first hydro power company. Apart from acquiring hydro power companies what would your focus areas for the coming year be?

Now we are in the start up phase. So our main focus areas apart from the core business activities would be to establish the company in the true sense. So we would invest in building the team, setting up processes, developing the competencies of the team etc.

3. According to you will performance management of the organization be a challenge for your kind of set up? In what way will it be a challenge?

This is a start up with a difference. The team has no entrepreneurial stake in the business. A professional team would be meeting the entrepreneurial ambitions of IVF. Recruiting the right people, getting them to work together and leveraging their expertise and experience to meet the business goals are the challenges in the first year. In the first year building a strong team will be important.

4. How are the performance parameters different in the kind of business model that you have as compared to other types of organisations?

The parameters will be more related to desirable behaviour patterns like team spirit, integrity, holistic thinking, leadership etc. Things like domain specific skill excellence will come later. Encouraging cross functional skills will be an important parameter. Everybody needs to understand what the other person is doing, so that he/she can support and stand in for his/her team members when the need arises. Team performance will matter more than individual excellence.

Performance management has to be informal initially. Later the companies in which we have invested can replicate our model in them. Ultimately their performance will be a critical parameter for assessing our performance.

5. I know it is early days; but what are some of the mechanisms you are planning to put in place to ensure you achieve your organisation vision?

We are defining processes in HR, Finance and Project management with help of experts in these areas. When the full team is on board, all the relevant structure would already be in place. This will help us ramp up quickly.

In the initial days informality would be the key. Maintaining the cordial environment for the team to coalesce as one unit and each member to find his/her slot itself would be good Performance Management. Pre-defined KRAs and evaluations based on them will be counterproductive in the beginning. It may even generate performance anxiety.

6. What according to you are the characteristics of high-performance teams / individuals?

While the usual ‘Never say die’ attitude etc is important, there are a few characteristics of high performing teams that are not talked about. One is diversity in the team, not only in terms of skill sets, but also in terms of temperaments. In a team everybody can’t be a Virendra Sehwag, Rahul Dravids are also required and one person cannot be the match winner always. So while somebody could be of a brooding nature, another could be bubbly. Essentially they should be able to support and complement each other. The second characteristic is the basic cross functional appreciation that team members develop across functions. Sehwag knows what Bhajji does and understands Bhajji’s value for the team.

7. Based on your experience how can organisations and leaders encourage and support high performance among teams and individuals?

Every organisation and leader do encourage and support high performance. Some over do it, some under do it. There are various ways…

  • The key is to having at most transparency in the process of measuring the performances.
  • Non monetary avenues can work well. It could be a mention in an assembly, nominations for conferences, exhibitions etc.
  • Special Reward and Recognitions programs for both individual and team performances were developed by HR in one of my previous organisations. That was received extremely well.
  • Delink the process of reward from annual increments, bonus etc. According to me this creates unnecessary division in the team.
  • Fast track schemes where talented people get higher responsibilities and rise faster in the organisation, can motivate higher performance in the individual.
  • Job rotation also helps in acquiring the cross functional appreciation and acts as a motivator. Cement industry is a good example of this where an engineer works in all important departments in the span of 10-15 years and understands his strengths to choose the right career path at senior levels.
  • Performance Management System should not just be a measurement process. One needs to go beyond it and actually focus on managing and improving performance.
  • We need to adapt Performance Management Systems to the nuances specific to the sectors and industries. For example, the Performance Management System mostly designed for FMCG or Software industries are imposed on the hapless people in the power sector where output is difficult to quantify. Smart people always develop a method to cheat the system and sincere ones can get deterred from taking on challenging goals.
  • Getting the ownership, of the people running the business, for the Performance Management is very important.
  • One also needs to nurture diversity in the team.

Employee Speak: Tiger Ramesh, MD, Vignani Solutions; V3 Issue 4


1. What is the importance you place on building good business relationships for your company’s business? Why?

Relationships are built on trust. In any business, people buy from people. People conduct business with people. Organisations come later. Thus, it is very crucial to build good business relationships to further your company’s business.


2. What according to you helps a company build a great business relationship?

The 3 successful ingredients of building a great business relationship are:-

  • Having a transparent approach
  • Understanding the customer’s problems
  • Helping the customer win

3. Are the ways used to build great business relationships different in different geographies?

The approach has to be different in different geographies. Each of the geographies has a very different culture. Thus, it is highly critical that one must understand the social and cultural aspects of the geography while approaching someone from that geography.

4. Business relationships are increasingly being built online. Is Vignani as a company using any of the social media tools to build business relationships?

According to me relationships can’t be built online. Only introductions can be made/gained through online media. Social media tools shorten the time period required to connect with people, but they do not guarantee a relationship. Relationships are still built through a person to person contact, face to face. Building good relationships take a long time and do not happen overnight.

5. How important has building business relationships been in your own professional life? Can you share an example of how it has made a difference?

Over the last two decades, I have developed a few significant business relationships based on transparency, trust and promise of delivery. These have helped solve customer problems. Some of these business relationships have resulted in good friendships. Even though some people changed organisations, we have ended up working together because of the relationship we had developed. An instance that readily comes to mind is that of a CIO of a large banking organisation. He had so much confidence in me that when he moved to another banking organisation, he invited me to do business with him.

6. Please share a few ideas that our readers could put into practice which would help them improve their business relationship building skills.

The first thing that one should keep in mind while developing a business relationship is that he should not try and sell to the customer.

One should understand the pain points of the customer, organisation and of the industry as a whole. If you are unable to solve the customer’s problems, then don’t approach him. Successful business relationships are built when you have been able to solve the pain points / problems of the customer. Else you would have made a sale, but no relationship would have been built.

One should understand the customer’s business thoroughly. The customer should clearly understand what you are offering him / her. If this is achieved, the customer will look to you for help.

Assess how you can make your customer win and look good – in business, among peers and in front of his boss.

Make a little extra effort to keep in touch constantly / periodically even though there maybe no immediate business opportunity.

Employee Speak: Ankit Patel, CEO, Ankit Fasteners; V3 Issue 3

1. In 2007 Ankit Fasteners received the Society of Aerospace Manufacturing Engineers (SAME) National Governing Council Gold Medal award? What factors contributed to Ankit Fasteners winning this prestigious award?


SAME set up to coordinate with all companies in the aerospace industry, is promoted by ISRO and VSSC (Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre). Our relationship with VSSC started way back in 1991 when we started Ankit Fasteners. Ankit Fasteners has played a major role in indigenization which was a major national requirement in mid-nineties especially in the context of nuclear blasts and a lot of sanctions that were required. Overtime ISRO has become completely self-reliant in fasteners which even though are small value items, have always faced critical bottlenecks.


The efforts put in by the entire Ankit Group during the last 15 years have been remarkable. I think the following factors helped us win this award.

  • We are pioneers in the country for aluminium rivet manufacturing.
  • We use Russian alloy. Russian markets are difficult to penetrate on account of language disparity etc.
  • We make Alloy steel fasteners for which we import material from France.
  • We have been competitive as far as price is concerned.
  • We offer time advantage. Manufacturing lead time that used to be close to 12-18 months way back in mid-nineties when ISRO used to import fasteners has come down to 3 months.

All this was only possible due to the efforts and leadership of my father and the continuous employee support.

2. For organizations typically to achieve good results they need to develop execution excellence across the organization. Considering the growth that Ankit Fasteners has had despite recession, would you say this has been so in your company too?


Yes you are absolutely right! Even if a company has a robust goal setting process at the senior level, what is important is the execution across the company. In our case despite recession few good things helped us going and reach where we are today. We picked up a good industry and have always maintained good choice of products. We have some solid customers like ISRO. We lay strong emphasis on Continuous Improvement Process. Our business strategy has always been to not run behind low margin businesses. Despite taking a cost conscious decision like downsizing, our net sales have gone up by 10%. Financially not being a leveraged company helped us during recession.

3. An important managerial skill is ensuring execution excellence. According to you what is execution excellence?


What I have tried to do here is break down goals into targets / milestones. We have completed a detailed KRA setting exercise this year for all employees. At Ankit we have 20 performance measures like Sales, Customer service, Rejections etc to meet our 3 values namely Customer satisfaction, People focus and Safety. In a month where we meet targets our score becomes 1 and failure to meet makes it. So the ratings help us get a clear picture of where the company is heading. That according to me is an execution excellence wish list that management across companies possesses.

4. What programs and initiatives do you have in place at Ankit for leading, supporting and encouraging effective execution by your team?


Our focus on stringent Continuous Improvement (CI) programs ensures that each employee undertakes CI projects and CI training programs which help them evolve as effective executors. We also have mandatory training programs. Each employee is ideally required to go through 3 hours of monthly training i.e. 36 hours of annual training. By this we ensure that our human assets appreciate in terms of performance quality and flawless execution

5. What are the challenges you foresee for your company in the coming years? What are the key managerial skills that you want your managers to develop given these challenges?


We definitely need human resources to take us ahead in our growth path. Currently we do a lot of external hiring. The challenge here, especially in senior level hiring is the time taken for the new hires to internalize and adjust with the organizational culture. I would prefer building a system where in we can identify and facilitate movement of employees to bigger roles and expanded job responsibilities. Our middle management needs to improve their people management skills – communication of expectations and ability to set goals. We have some good resources at the junior level, but they expect a fast track growth. Their attitude is that of biting more than they can chew. We can probably look at identifying few good resources and training them meticulously to fit into the middle management role.

6. To meet the external and internal challenges of a changing world, managers need to develop their capacity to lead. At Ankit how would you like to build this capacity in your managers?


Firstly we believe that every manager should be held accountable for self and the team. This inculcates responsibility amongst team managers towards the team.


Secondly we encourage functional managers’ inputs and active participation in the recruitment process. If the individuals hired fit into the expected skills set then we can ensure a healthy organization in terms of skill building.We are also planning to organize technical development programs once we reach a certain headcount because we believe that managers need to be abreast of new technological innovations which can then result in knowledge sharing. The lesser you work more work gets done. The key to this is to hire good people who would work for you and help the organization grow.

7. Personally how do you ensure that you continuously develop yourself as a leader and as a manager?


I make it a point to attend the mandatory company training programs because I feel that in order to be a successful leader you must be one amongst the team and always accessible to your team members. I always read up on new technological advancements and new manufacturing processes. When you yourself are well informed and aware of the happenings, you can add value to your team members as well. I attend seminars wherein I can interact with fellow entrepreneurs and take their inputs. We have much older board members. I look at them as my mentors and they help me a lot with their experience. As a leader I also believe in following my instincts.

Employee Speak: Name: Sunil Lulla, Director & Group Chief Executive Officer, Alva Brothers Entertainment, Miditech: V3 Issue 2

1.  Your leadership has acted as a catalyst for the success of TV channels such as MTV, Sony and Times Now.  What was your success mantra for these channels?

I would not say it is my leadership or a mantra. I happened to work with some very smart people, good companies, great business partners and clients. The fortuitous mix clicked. I have passionately followed a few diktats and shared them at the cost of sounding old fashioned.

  • Dream and follow your own dreams. Set the rules, own the game. Win !
  • God is in the details and atheists don’t survive to be successful.
  • Don’t just work hard. Work harder. Eventually the other guy just gets tired.


2.  An old adage says “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”.  What made you launch the ‘Real’ channel during difficult times? 

Well you don’t choose tough times. But one cannot remain “pregnant” for long either. So we thought why waste a recession. It is easier to make market entry under such circumstances. However it also makes the revenue climb steeper. Tough times test you and makes one tougher. In the case of REAL, the channel was ready to roll and given its differentiated offering we wanted to take it ahead.


3.  People make companies. How do you energize and motivate your team in these challenging times?

I try and inspire people to think differently; challenge their own expectations. Make sure they eat well. I am a walking, wondering, doing kind of manager. Encouraging, pushing, making them laugh. (Ask them, I would like to know what they honestly think). Making friends, but being tough when needed.


4.  How do you get different teams or for that matter even different people to work together in synergy?

Understand their dreams and give them a common one to chase. High enough to stretch and close enough to reach out too. Involve their passion and their strengths. I do not ask people what their weaknesses are, as you don’t pay to work on their weaknesses. Team players are more important – but you always need the one solo maverick to score the goal. Noah’s Ark of complementary differences is a great example.


5.   In the course of your career you would have worked with many teams. What do you feel contributed to the success of the best teams you have worked with?

Pressure to be innovative and the genuine respect and care people have for other members of the team. Their belief in the goal has made them stronger.


6.  What hampered the productivity of the other teams that were not that successful?

Deafness – not listening to the wind that is whispering in one’s ear, all the time. 


7.  What are some of the things you typically do to motivate your team to deliver exceptional results?

Create an experience for them. It’s not 9 to 5 – it’s the joy of creating something magical and being applauded for it.


8.  What message would you like to share with our readersto enable them to build teams with greater commitment to the team objectives and more contributionto the company?

Don’t copy anyone’s style. Yours is great. Just practice it with honesty and originality.

Employee Speak : Neeraj Roy , Managing Director and CEO, Hungama Digital Media Entertainment Pvt. Ltd.: V3 Issue 1


1. Congratulations on Hungama’s new visual identity!  It is very interesting – do share your thoughts on what prompted this change in identity?

The new logo is more contemporary and is represented by a triangle, which is actually a depiction of the ‘PLAY’ button.  It is formed by the intersection of three triangles represented in blue, green and orange indicating forward and continuous motion. It is also synonymous with the entertainment world, which we are into, be it mobile or online entertainment. The three colours are derivatives of the primary colours from a digital perspective. They actually represent the three digital screens that make up the world today – PC, mobile and Internet TV. The brand name, Hungama, is written in lower case in blue. Blue is a universal, natural and sky colour indicating infinite possibilities. The letter 'G' in the logo is incomplete and will remain so in the quest for perfection, adding irreverence to our brand identity and indicating our urge to challenge convention and define our own benchmarks. It also highlights our desire to innovate and represents a work in a state of motion.


2. You were the only Indian to address the Mobile World Congress at Barcelona in February 2008? In hindsight, has the mobile entertainment industry progressed as envisaged?

Yes it’s been good but it could have been much better had we taken decisions on certain infrastructural related investments earlier.  It’s been now 3 years and we are still talking about introduction of 3G whereas the world is already moving into more advanced environments of 3.5 and 4. The government has aided certain parts of it but has created some kind of an over competitive environment right now. Scenarios where you have 11 telecom companies in 1 single market and another 5 coming up rarely exist.


3. Are you as a company ready with products centered on the 3G technology?

Oh yes! There is a suite of products and services that we have. Essentially, 3G or broadband will enable more people easy access to the internet through the phone. If you look at the internet today as the new form of education and not as a medium of information, then this will not only enhance people’s livelihood but also overall economic prosperity.  Research conducted all over the world shows that there is a direct correlation of enhanced and deeper broadband penetration with GDP growth of those countries.  So I think in that context what it leads to is a more digital lifestyle.  For e.g. young couples using an internet enabled 3G product can keep an eye on what is happening with their children. If a country like ours understands the platforms and technologies for this then as a company we will definitely be  at the forefront of enabling and leading to a digital and mobile lifestyle.


4. Considering that 3G phones are fairly expensive wouldn’t this technology cater to only a certain section of the urban population?

Not true!  In the mobile business niche is the new mass and everything is mass as it were if you see this thing more holistically. Globally the mobile data business will be 124 billion dollars next year, of which Mobile Entertainment will account for 42 billion dollars. In that, music, imagery video, gaming are principal constituents to it.  Now there are two things.  One is the device - the mobile phone, the laptop, the PC, or the television. It has an ability to store more now because memory is becoming a commodity. The second is that connectivity is becoming faster and therefore you can access a lot. And once you start thinking in that manner that’s really what this ecosystem is all about and in many ways convergence is becoming a reality.  You are on your PC or laptop and then you move forward into your blackberry, you are connected and you get into your Tata Sky.  The adoption of this is of course related to price point because it has to be viable for a large enough audience. But today a 3G enabled phone is available for Rs.5000/-.


5. As the new chairman of Mobile Entertainment Forum (MEF) what are the top two initiatives on your agenda?

MEF, a body that founded in the UK about 8 years back is made up of 250+ of the most prolific companies across a range of businesses that are all a part of the entire mobile and digital entertainment ecosystem - content owners, broadcasters, record companies, companies like ours, a whole host of technology companies etc. Among the numerous initiatives our thrust areas in 2009 are:-


6. How do you see the economic slowdown impacting the mobile entertainment industry globally and in India?

I think there is not an individual or business in this world which has not or will not continue to be impacted in some manner or the other and I mean it.  Whatever has happened, is happening and is likely to happen can only be best described as unprecedented and certainly somethingwhich there will be very few people who can turnaround and say that I have witnessed something of this nature before in my lifetime.  Even the economic depression in 1929-33 etc did not have this enormity and the world was not as flat or as connected as it is today. The scary part is of course that whatever is about to happen is likely to be even more dangerous in many ways than what we have witnessed till now.  So that’s a given.  So everything gets calibrated, adjusted and has a caveat attached to them in the current circumstances. 

But when you look at the mobile telephony data in India, the last 3 months have consistently been record breaking months.  The reason for that is that the mobile phone today has become such a utility that it not just makes you connect with people but has the power and potential of changing economic lifestyles.  For eg: If there are 350 million people currently accessing mobile services, even ITC and Unilever don’t reach more than 250 million customers.  Now to a customer in a small town, even basic information like electricity today will come at 3 pm empowers him to utilize the time before 2 pm to do other work rather than just wait by the pump.  Even something as elementary as that opens people’s mind. So even if one has to save 1000 Rupees to get a phone connection one will do so.  It is no longer a luxury.  So I think in that context the trend is positive and insulated from the rest of the world.  If the condition deteriorates then there is bound to be more pressure. Therefore ME growth is very closely linked to customer acquisition growth. If customer grows and gets on to a service there is no reason why he will not want his music, video etc.


7. What about the Digital Entertainment Industry? How do you see it getting impacted by the economic slowdown?

People may not want to change their music so often. Until now, that is the first few months of this blood bath; we have not witnessed that trend.   This is unlike a lot of industries which have literally cramped up like the realty industry.  Because construction is cramped up, steel goes through a crunch, cement goes through a crunch.  You cannot produce. And even if you do how do you stock that because there is lack of space.  Whereas our products and services being digital do not have a physical element to it and can exist somewhere in the ecosystem.


8. What are some of the measures that you have taken for managing the impact of the economic slowdown on Hungama?

All CAPEX is being very closely reviewed. We are preparing our people in a fair way, giving our employees a chance to enhance efficiency or pull up their socks if required.  The investments related negotiation process has seen a very hard nosed approach and as a result, we have seen a tremendous amount of positive fall out.  For example when we were looking for an office space in Delhi, we just stalled saying we are not buyers in the market right now.  And within a matter of four weeks we have seen as high as a 30% drop in prices.


9. Please share your thoughts on what you think business leaders should be doing differently to be prepared for or even prevent another economic meltdown like this in future?

I would like to talk about this more from an entrepreneurial perspective rather than how to avoid an economic crisis of this nature.  In my mind there is a very simple straightforward two word solution “Prevent Greed!”   I think that’s essentially what has resulted in this.

What can businesses do?  I think conserving cash is the first on the agenda for any business at this point in time.  It is going to be a commodity which will be fairly scarce.  It will certainly be available for businesses that have robust profitable pieces because it is not as if liquidity is not there but you have to be very tight fisted the way you approach it.  The second part is that you have to at times like this, talk more, both internally and externally. You have to communicate a lot more, both good and bad news.  You should not be shielding and protecting people from bad news or hiding things because I believe these are times which call for demonstration of even higher levels of transparency and trust to the internal and external stakeholders. This will ensure you come out holding hands, forming human chains and saying that we will not succumb to scenarios like this and we will overcome. That brings about a certain sense of motivation and drive. And the third part is that if you are fundamentally in businesses that you are confident about, then I would urge and encourage businesses to demonstrate pragmatic aggression. So you should certainly be on the look out for assets, whether it be human capital or in businesses. But do not necessarily jump to concluding deals right now because you are likely to get some very very good deals at this time so you can consolidate and strengthen your position even more.  In our own small way that is also the practice we are following.

    • Mobile Internet initiative: This is related to what you can do with getting more access to internet through mobile. To give you a perspective - there are a little over a billion people who are accessing the internet mostly through their PC, where as there are 4 billion people who have access to mobile phones, there are only 4.2 billion people who have access to toothbrushes in this world.  So you know it is the highest adoption of any form of technology in the world.  It is our belief that the next 2 billion people will access the internet not necessarily through the PC but through a converged mobile device of sorts. 

    • Ad-funded mobile entertainment: Until now this 30 to 35 billion dollar industry has largely been very transactional in nature i.e., it’s a consumer buying a product from a telecom company. Now the telecom companies are themselves becoming media companies thus reaching 85 to 87 billion consumers.  When you become a company of that size, you are also in that zone where you are a media company and when you are a media company, brands naturally need to participate in that entire ecosystem. So we feel that this wholebusiness of ME which is currently a transaction between a consumer and the operator will soon get a big boost because the brand will then turn around and say… “You know what, you want this video?  This game? This music? This service? I will give it to you or subsidise it for you” and that is what is called Ad-Funded mobile entertainment.  That is another thing that we are looking at and within that mobile advertising will be another area. 

Employee Speak: Saurabh Chandra, Co-Founder and CEO, Neev Technologies

1. According to NasscomIndia’s IT industry is insulated from the financial crisis that has hit many economies globally, and companies here have not stopped hiring either. According to you what will be the impact of the current economic slowdown on software services industry in India?

This economic slowdown is surely going to have an impact on the software services industry as with all industries. People who claim that the IT industry is not going to be affected are fooling themselves. Cost cutting is the order of the day. At the moment confidence is shaken in businesses and new projects are going on hold. A contrary view is that more outsourcing will happen since people want to save costs.


2. In what ways will the economic slowdown impact Neev Technologies?

There will be no immediate impact on Neev Technologies, as Neev is not highly US centric. The United States accounts for only a small chunk of Neev’s business. Neev has clients spread across Europe, the Middle East and India. Europe is not yet saturated in terms of outsourcing and businesses there are looking at outsourcing more work to cut costs on account of the recession.


3. What steps are you taking to minimize the economic impact to your business?

Neev too has taken a few measures proactively to minimise the impact of the recession. We are cutting costs aggressively and reducing overheads. For sales, we are shifting from the retainer model to a commission model. We have started sharing risks with our vendors and partners.

We are trying to become more efficient as a ‘Software Development’ organisation. The focus is now on increasing profitability, rather than increasing revenues.


4. What steps are you taking to minimize the impact on your employees?

At present, we do not see any direct impact on employees. The economic slowdown has not yet come to that level in India where individuals will get affected. I do not see a problem at an individual level in the near future. We are not looking at downsizing at the moment, but yes growth may be slower. We are still recruiting for a few positions.


5. How have your priorities changed on account of the downturn? Will you continue to focus on adding more client accounts and setting foot in newer geographies?

Yes, our focus has shifted from the top line to the bottom line. We are trying to increase our focus on every aspect of the business. We are focusing more on fewer geographies. We are paying more attention to our existing clients, to deliver more value for their money. We are also tapping our old clients for new projects. As always we are getting referrals from our clients.


6. There is a silver lining to every cloud. So while people are talking of the various negatives of this downturn, what do you feel are the positives of a downturn?

People will now realize the value of money, especially people in the IT industry. Earlier companies hired for numbers rather than quality. Correction was required in the mindset of people. People will now focus on performance. The quality of work will improve. Employees are becoming more conscious of their drawbacks and are looking at learning new skills, technologies etc.


7. What are some of the opportunities you foresee for players in your industry during a time like this?

This is a time when the genuinely strong companies will prove themselves, and emerge stronger. Weaker companies will perish. We, at Neev, see this as a time to excel and get ahead!