Transition Tales

Yasmin Taj, July 2, 2013
Rajat Jain, MD, Xerox India: "It is important to retain the entrepreneurial streak in your thinking"

My journey: In a career spanning 25 years, I've worked in diverse sectors such as consumer, media and entertainment, telecom and technology in both start-ups and established multinationals. Prior to joining Xerox India, I was with Mobile2win India as MD, CEO and non-executive chairman since 2007. In the past few years, I have served as the chairman of a Hollywood-based entrepreneurial venture, co-founded a boutique management consulting firm and have been on the board of advisors of CyberPlat India.

The big shift: The ability to move from one sector to another depends on the business understanding and demands of the newer environments. I have learnt a lot every time I decided to step out of my comfort zone and wanted to do things differently. In fact, my entry into Xerox was at a time when the company was going through a strategic transformation. The task cut out was dual – strengthening the position in the printing industry, while enabling the shift into the realm of services. It is important to retain the entrepreneurial streak in your thinking and never allow yourself to be risk-averse.

Debasis Chatterji, CEO, Netxcell: "My doctoral research training always keeps my left brain agile"

My journey: I was completing my doctorate from IARI in New Delhi during 1990-91. I took a plunge in the private sector by joining a biotechnology company. Then, for the next decade, I continued to work in different companies in the biotechnology sector before moving to telecom and landing up in Netxcell. At that time (2004-05), telephony was deregulated and mobile revolution got initiated. I took the plunge in the mobile VAS field.

The big shift: My burning desire to learn new technologies and contribute with a different thought process, were the key drivers. Out-of-the-box thinking comes from a mindset, which is open, analytical and experimental. My doctoral research training always keeps my left brain agile. The biggest challenge was winning the confidence of the new team. I had to earn it brick by brick by guiding the team, exhibiting leadership qualities and gaining subject knowledge.

Nikhil Arora, vice president & managing director, Intuit India: "Every change brings with it an opportunity to learn and adapt"

My journey: I served as the vice president and head of operations at Laureate Education. Prior to Laureate Education, I was vice president, corporate strategy and global strategic business development at ADP. I have worked with Microsoft's business solutions group. I have also led M&A and joint ventures for new growth segments and international markets at General Motors and the Delphi Group.

The big shift: The move to becoming a solution and service provider for small businesses was an opportunity for me to positively influence and accelerate the progress of the small business ecosystem in India. In the past, the triggers for change in career were driven by my need to learn new best practices to solve big customer problems as well as train myself to work under ambiguity and uncertainty that comes with every new industry. Every change brings with it an opportunity to learn and adapt and I have ensured that at every stage in my career, I am open to listening, learning and understanding the environment in which my company's business and customers operate in. It's important that one develops the aptitude to unlearn things from the past to adapt and succeed in the new environment.

B S Shantharaju, CEO, Indus Towers Limited: "A new industry always poses some learning challenges"

My journey: I started my career as a management trainee in Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and left after six years to pursue my MBA. Then, I had a brief stint at Eicher, followed by a long stint at SmithKline Beecham (SB) Pharmaceuticals. Then, I moved to BG Group as MD of Gujarat Gas. A chance encounter with an old friend resulted in a new job with GMR Group as the CEO of Delhi Airport after privatisation. Destiny then gifted me an opportunity in the middle of 2009 to lead Indus Towers.

The big shift: When opportunities came my way, the only question I asked myself was: ‘Can I make a positive difference to the lives of people on a much larger scale than my current role?' If the answer is ‘yes', then I make the shift. The new industry always poses some learning challenges but inherent requirements of the leadership role are the same – build a good team, create a strong foundation for delivery of objectives, bring passion to the leadership team to deliver superior results and create an environment and cultural fabric in which employees can see a meaningful contribution to the larger good of the society and consumers.

Premkumar S, group CEO, Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Ltd: "There was nothing like a ‘comfort zone' in my career"

My journey: I began my career as a management trainee at HCL and went on to become the senior corporate officer and president. After a sabbatical, I came back to HCL as the president of HCL Technologies. My present stint at Apollo Hospitals Group involves aligning cross-industry expertise to a mission-critical sector.

The big shift: I think the IT industry in the 80s, 90s and the new millennium is a perfect example of dynamism. To be ahead, one had no choice but to adapt to changes. There was nothing like a comfort zone. Oddly enough, post 2011, the IT industry became predictable. The healthcare sector per se is exactly where IT services was 20 years ago – high on opportunities and low on innovation, with significant room for productivity and most importantly, a lot of talent play. The only challenge was walking out of HCL.