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: Mr. Amit Kumar Das, Director - Human Resources, Allergan India

Tell us something about Allergan?

Allergan is a global health care company focused on specialty Pharmaceuticals products. Founded in 1950 in US, it is currently headquartered in Irvine, California. Allergan was launched in India in 1995 as a joint venture with Nicholas Piramal. The inspiration for setting up Allergan came from the need to deliver value to the end consumer and to provide an improved and promising future for the life of a patient. The primary business focus of the company is in the Eye care, Aesthetics and Neurosciences areas of specialty pharmaceuticals.

What is Allergan popular for in the Pharma market? What are it's specialty areas?

Allergan is popular in the Pharma for Eye care products and treatment of eye diseases like Glaucoma and Dry Eyes. We are currently the market leader in eye care products and have taken the initiative to create awareness for the various treatments. Over a period of time, Allergan has also become extremely popular for Botox, a patented product, which enjoys 95% of the market share in India. Botox is used for both therapeutic as well as for cosmetology purposes. Botox is also approved for indications like Cerebral palsy, migraine and urinary tract infection to name a few. It is injected only by a trained medical practitioner.

What is your role in the company?

As the Director - Human Resources, I am responsible for developing and executing all the Human Resource policies for the company. Our entire Human Resources team is committed to ensuring an employee-friendly environment where each individual would be provided various opportunities to realize his/her dreams and goals. We partner with the business managers to ensure that the company’s goals and objectives are met.

What are the key challenges that you face in your industry and specifically in your role? 

The Indian Pharma market is characterized by companies with generic products who are quick in copying (or bringing out copies of the) patented products at lower prices and who have a large sales force reaching all corners of the market. Capability building, attraction of right talent, availability of talent pool and retention of employees are some of the high priority challenges for Allergan India. We have institutionalized right processes and taken active measures to address them.

What are some of the best practices in HR that have been implemented in Allergan?

Allergan has established a robust Performance Management System, Capability building and Career development processes. Our global recognition program ‘Hidden Gems’ recognizes excellent performers in the organization and the selected employees are flown to California to be a part of the recognition ceremony which is part of Allergan Quarterly meeting. Individuals who contribute significantly in any specific assignment or project are rewarded with Excellence Award and cash incentive. Employees who have been in the system for more than 5 years, also receive awards for their hard-work and commitment to the company. We also have excellent employee development initiatives.

What are some of the employee development initiatives?

Learning has been given a great deal of importance in Allergan. We have institutionalized the Allergan India Learning Resources Centre and Allergan Institute of Management to increase the competence level of the employees. We have also put in place a process to ascertain the knowledge level of the field sales team. Regular tests are administered to check if the sales executives keep abreast of the recent pharma industry developments. A knowledge allowance is also provided to them if they perform extremely well. The training programs are categorized as:


Integrate - focuses on bringing the new team together

Improve- focuses on capability building of the team

We believe that learning has to start from the time one joins the company. Hence the training provided at that stage covers all the basic aspects of selling and product knowledge with specific programs like Torque and Momentum. Torque is a fast-track 3-day program and Momentum is a 16-day product training program for new joinees. The intensity of the training programs increases as the employee moves up the ladder, focusing more on acquisition of essential competencies for the next role.

Tell us something about the real-time data capture software at Allergan.

‘Envision electronic reporting’ (PDA) was introduced to track and capture real-time data from the Sales executives who make regular sales calls with medical practitioners. The field sales executive carries a PDA which has a list of doctors that he/she has to meet. Once the meeting is complete, he/she updates the PDA. These details get captured onto the main database.

How significant are Research and Development activities for Allergan?

In this growing age of incurable diseases, it is vital for any Pharma company to pursue and continuously do research on new cures for diseases. We invest a great deal in research and development because that’s what we believe will give us our edge over other pharma competitors. Every year, the investment spent on R & D has been significantly increasing and will continue to increase in the years to come. The kind of Product pipeline we have is a matter of envy for all our competitors. We also have a Clinical research set up in Bangalore, India.

What do you think are some of the key success factors of Allergan India?

Allergan India is the acknowledged leader in the eye care segment with roughly 21% market share. Low input costs and customized formulation for Indian markets have also helped us to sustain large volume production. Our competitive advantage over other Pharma companies in India is the trained, knowledgeable and motivated field personnel. Precisely this is the reason for us investing heavily in development and empowerment of our employees. World-class infrastructure and use of innovative technology cannot be discounted from our success factors.

What are some of the future plans for the company?

The company plans to rapidly move into the health care segment with emphasis on Botox. We intend to introduce state-of-the art products for reducing morbid obesity in individuals. We will continue to leverage our expertise in R&D activities to create new and better products for consumers and ensure an improved life for them.