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Most business leaders have a mental blueprint of how to successfully run a business. Along the way, however, unique situations pop up and call for unprecedented thinking and leadership. Some leaders step up to these challenges and make unexpected decisions, essentially thinking outside of the blueprint (or a “box”), and shining through as great business leaders.
The Indian business sector has seen several such men and women rise above some of the stiffest business challenges in the industry. Here are their stories.
1. Punit Goenka, MD & CEO, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd
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How he led differently. Punit Goenka adopted a people-centric approach to cause a dramatic turnaround for Zee TV.
The story. The television network was performing poorly at the time of Punit Goenka’s joining as Business Head. The network was close to hitting rock bottom, as the TV shows being aired were being rejected by audiences. In a desperate bid to stem the failure, Goenka and his team pulled off a masterstroke. Recognizing that people were the real deciders of the channel’s fate, they directly approached people for feedback on the content being aired on the network. They learnt that people wanted to see social dramas, and not the 90’s upmarket style shows that were currently being aired. Using this feedback, Goenka and team began airing bold social dramas, ultimately causing a rise in the network’s ratings.
Today, Zee TV caters to over 670 million viewers globally, in over 169 countries, and proudly serves as a socially conscious channel.
2. Umang Bedi, Managing Director, Sales and Marketing, South Asia, Adobe Systems
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How he led differently. Umang Bedi identified and seized on the opportunities that lay before him after joining Adobe.
The story. Umang Bedi grew Adobe by sensing opportunities in other industry verticals such as education, government, and the creative sector, and formulating smart market strategies that catered to these verticals. As a result, he became the man behind Adobe India’s stellar performance, when it was adjudged “the top territory for five quarters in a row,” as reported by The Economic Times, in May last year.
Umang Bedi is now focusing on areas like customer engagement, media advertising, and social media interactions, as reported by Digital Market Asia. He is looking forward to the new platform being developed at Adobe, Adobe Document Cloud, which is set to transform how documentation and filing is done in India, in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Digital India initiative.
3. Simeran Bhasin, Chief Marketing Officer, Wildcraft
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How she led differently. Simeran diversified Fastrack’s product offerings from just the one product — watches — to wallets, bags, belts, and sunglasses, causing a massive increase in the company turnover.
The story. When Simeran joined Fastrack in 2003, she was asked to reposition Fastrack as a brand for the college audience. At the time, Fastrack was only selling watches. Simeran and team quickly realized that, to cater to the youth audience, the products being sold needed to find appeal among the youth. Subsequently, Simeran expanded Fastrack’s product offerings to include additional categories like wallets, bags, belts, and eyewear. This led to an astounding increase in Fastrack’s turnover, from Rs 25 crore in 2003 to Rs 800 crore in 2013.
Simeran is now Chief Marketing Officer at Wildcraft. In this new role, she has already diversified the company’s offerings to include footwear and clothing.
4. Anand Mahindra, Chairman and Managing Director, Mahindra Group
How he led differently. Anand identified the practically non-existent market for the modern SUV, and made all the right moves to make Mahindra & Mahindra a market leader in the SUV and utility vehicles segment.
The story. In the 1990s, global auto majors entered the nascent Indian market to introduce a new variety of vehicles in India. Knowing that they lacked the technological capability and financial resources, Mahindra decided to join hands with Ford Motor Co., and together came up with the Escort sedan in 1996. But since the sedan was expensive for most buyers, and was pulled up several times for quality problems, Mahindra began diluting its holdings in Ford, until they completely exited the joint venture with Ford in 2005.
In a bold decision, Anand Mahindra decided to direct a part of the company’s financial resources to develop a new SUV themselves; one that would be geared for the Indian market. Thus came Scorpio — the bestselling SUV for years in India — and its multiple versions. Subsequently, Mahindra became the leader in the SUV and utility vehicles market in India.
Under Anand Mahindra’s leadership, M&M is now entering new segments. Already one of the largest sellers of tractor globally, Mahindra is now putting his bets on defence, renewable energy, aerospace, and retail sectors.
5. Siddhartha Lal, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Eicher Motors, India
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How he led differently. Siddhartha Lal believed in the idea of Royal Enfield, and caused a turnaround for the company when it was registering massive losses and at the brink of being sold.
The story. In 1997, the then CEO of Eicher Motors and majority shareholder in the company, Vikram Lal, was contemplating selling Royal Enfield after it had been recording losses for years. But, his son Siddhartha Lal believed he could change Eicher Motor’s fortunes, thinking “how difficult could it to be to sell a few motorcycles?” That was year 2000. This naïveté, as Siddhartha himself called it, helped him not only change Royal Enfield’s fortunes, but also restructure the flagship group Eicher Motors. He did this by making specific changes in the bike’s design, and especially the crucial change in the engine. This led to an increased demand for the motorcycle.
Lal is now committed to selling the bike in larger numbers, with a target of 4,50,000 bikes this year, quite a leap from the 82,000 units sold as recorded in the third quarter sales of 2014-15.
6. Vineet Nayar, Former CEO of HCL Technologies and Founder of Sampark Foundation
How he led differently. Vineet Nayar dared to adopt the Employees First, Customers Second management approach at HCL Technologies.
The story. Vineet Nayar adopted this approach after identifying “the value zone” in the company — the zone of interface between HCL and its customers. Nayar realized that the employees working in this zone were very capable of influencing the kind of value HCL delivered to its customers. So he decided to provide the employees in this zone with whatever they needed to deliver the most value. This included making management accountable to employees — a radical management approach, but one that was sensible and in line with the company’s functioning.
The strategy worked wonders for HCL, as they won several awards under Nayar’s leadership, including for best upcoming company and best employer.
7. Devi Prasad Shetty, Chairman and Founder, Narayana Healthcare
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How he led differently. Devi Shetty adopted the low-cost, high-volume model of business so as to make healthcare affordable in India.
The story. Devi Shetty felt that the wealth of the nation was best disassociated with the quality of healthcare available to its citizens. Charity was an option, but it wasn’t scalable. So, he decided to adopt the concept of economies of scale to make healthcare affordable. He began building healthcare centers at very low costs by using pre-fabricated materials and designing for natural cross-ventilation (as opposed to installing air conditioners), using technology such as the Cloud, and creating repeatable procedures. On the other hand, he and his team of medical professionals began conducting numerous heart surgeries every day, thereby using the power of volumes to reduce the overall cost of healthcare.
Encouraged by this success, Devi Shetty built healthcare facilities across India. Recently, he crossed the shores to set up a center in the Caribbean, in the hope of setting an example for low-cost healthcare to Americans, who usually pay hefty amounts for availing medical treatment. Plans are adrift to launch more hospitals in Africa and other parts of Asia.
8. Schauna Chauhan, CEO, Parle Agro
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How she led differently. Schauna Chauhan relentlessly pursued innovation, expanding Parle’s product range and entering new markets.
The story. Schauna Chauhan realized that the way up for Parle was to create and grow brands, innovate more and create new products, and increase the market share and distributorship in countries where Parle was exporting its products. She put in place an aggressive international market capture strategy, through which Parle Agro began exporting to several other countries. On the innovation front, the company diversified into pure fruit juice, confectionery, and baked snacks under he aegis, boldly taking on Pepsi with its lemon-based drink LMN and PepsiCo and ITC with its snack Hippo.
Currently, the number of countries to which Parle Agro exports its products exceeds 50. With the ongoing expansion strategy, this number is set to rise in the coming years. Rest assured, the innovation isn’t going to slow down anytime soon.
9. Kunal Bahl, Co-Founder and CEO, Snapdeal
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How he led differently. Kunal Bahl took the risk of moving from a safe and profitable coupons and deals business to creating one of India’s largest online marketplaces.
The story. Kunal Bahl had initially started with an offline coupons business called MoneySaver, along with Rohit Bansal. They went online a couple of years later, in 2010, by which time they were the largest player in the deals market in the country. But inspired by Alibaba.com, they decided to embark on creating an online marketplace, at a time when eBay was the only player in that segment. Fast forward to two years and Snapdeal was one of the largest online marketplaces, with even eBay having invested in the company.
Snapdeal is now a household name and valued at over a billion dollars — a success story that reaffirms the importance of listening to your instincts, taking the necessary risks, and not stopping till your vision’s fulfilled.
10. Ameera Shah, MD and CEO, Metropolis Healthcare
How she led differently. Ameera Shah used the power of ambition and business acumen to turn Metropolis Healthcare into a leading diagnostics company.
The story. Back when Metropolis Healthcare was just a single pathology lab, Ameera Shah — the daughter of the lab’s owner, Sushil Shah — would sometimes help out by welcoming people into the lab and taking phone calls. Several years later, after completing her studies at UT, Austin, she returned to work at the lab and transformed it into a 125-lab multinational chain earning a revenue of $90 million. She did this, together with her dad, by approaching doctors running their own pathology practices and buying out majority stakes in them, growing Metropolis Healthcare in the process. Not too long after, she started partnering with international hospitals situated in various regions abroad, including Sri Lanka, UAE, South Africa, and so forth, and growing the business globally.
Ameera Shah is now working towards increasing the company’s revenue earned from global labs to half the total revenue — a big step forward for Metropolis Healthcare. Her eyes are now firm on Africa, and that’s yet another step towards making the company a global leader in diagnostics.