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How Top Guns of India Inc Mentor their Employees

A leader who lives his or her word and guides employees through major career transitions isn’t forgotten easily. Senior India Inc executives take ET through the most important lessons their mentors taught them, and the debt of gratitude they owe them.

From left to right: Krishna Kumar Natarajan, CEO and MD, MindTree and Azim Premji (MENTOR), Wipro Founder and Chairman

Attention to Detail

The Person Behind the Role

PREMJI is an intense person who, despite being the owner, brings in a lot of commitment and intensity to his daily work and is particular about execution.

Where the Learning Came From

In 1982-83, I was a marketing executive at Wipro. Premji would hire all the executives and conduct review meetings for up to three hours each. One such meeting was just before I got transferred to Chennai.

Premji had asked me for a detailed presentation on the market approach in Chennai, target markets and customer identification strategies. I had not included details about a few manufacturing clients. Post the meeting, Premji pointed this out. The message: Wipro’s founder was a stickler for detail and had prepared himself before the review as well.

LESSONS LEARNTDEVELOP an eye for detail.

DO thorough research before every meeting, even if you are not presenting.

EXECUTION is crucial to every task.

From left to right: Ganesh Natarajan,CEO and VC, Zensar Technologies and Harsh Goenka (MENTOR), Chairman, RPG Enterprises

Waiting it out

The Person Behind the Role

Ganesh Natarajan: GOENKA is one of the reasons I stayed with the company for 13 years. I joined Zensar from Aptech in July 2001, during the dotcom bust. I had expected to turn around the business in a few months but that did not happen. Exasperated, I went to Goenka to reason out why strategies were not showing an impact.

This is what he told me: “It is wrong to believe changes will happen overnight, and no one expects that out of you. You cannot be the monkey on a flagpole who has to perform all the time.”

I learnt that some strategies need patience, and reap benefits a few years down the line.


LONG-TERM investments along with short-term fixed ones are needed.

RESULTS cannot be achieved overnight.

ONE needs to invest in employees.

From left to right: Vivek Gambhir, MD Designate,Godrej Consumer Products and Adi Godrej(MENTOR), Chairman, Godrej Group

An inspiration

The Person Behind the Role

ADI consistently leads by example, and has played a significant role in helping improve my effectiveness as a leader. Through his strong sense of fairness and integrity, his disciplined approach and laser focus on value creation, he has greatly inspired me and my colleagues. He is always accessible, is a wonderful sounding board & is ever willing to provide support.

Where the Learning Came From

OVER the past few years, we have been working on the transformation of the group. The group has made several acquisitions and expanded rapidly into new geographies like Indonesia and Kenya. At the same time, we have divested non-core businesses so we can focus better on areas where we have a competitive advantage and drive our portfolio fully.

DURING the course of all this, there have always been discussions on whether we should deviate from our strategy or the merits of going in for an acquisition that is a stretch for our core business. Through these, Adi has been a guiding force, providing confidence, dealing with uncertainties and willing to roll up his sleeves and get down to business.


ONE of Adi’s favorite sayings is: “Sales are vanity, profit is sanity and cash is reality”.

This has taught me the importance of focus and prudence.

KEEPING in mind our competitive advantages

FINDING a way to create a ‘win-win situation’ with our partners in business.

From left to right: Manish Sharma, MD, Panasonic India and RT Rajan(MENTOR), then VP (consumer electronics),Haier India

From left to right: Manish Sharma, MD, Panasonic India and RT Rajan(MENTOR), then VP (consumer electronics),Haier India

Grounded to reality

The Person Behind the Role

ONE of my earliest lessons came during my days in Haier India. Rajan was instrumental in making me join Haier India. He was an aggressive leader, very proactive, and good at strategy. His biggest strength was in leading from the front.

Where the Learning Came From

AS a product marketing head for consumer electronics at Haier, I was from a technical background and always considered sales people to have it easy. My boss helped me make the transition to understanding ground realities.

ONCE, our Kerala branch manager had a medical emergency. My boss gave me that responsibility. Not only did my interaction with sales executives and trade partners give me immense learning, I got to see first-hand the day-to-day challenges they faced. Thanks to my boss, my thinking about sales counterparts witnessed a major shift, which held me in good stead in later years.


IT-based decision support systems are the backbone of an organisation.

THE grass is green everywhere – it all depends on which side you’re on.

Via : ET ( Text: Sreeradha D Basu and Devina Sengupta; ET Bureau)


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