We got this wonderful opportunity to interview managers at Aditya Birla Group who were a part of the Aditya Birla Group Leadership Program (ABGLP). They shared their experience of working with the Aditya Birla Group and their journey so far.
Mr. Amit Bhojane is currently working as a Manager with Aditya Birla Chemicals. He has done his MBA from IIM Ahmedabad and B.Tech from IIT Kharagpur and has been working with the Chemicals Business at Aditya Birla Group since the last 1 year.
Biswadip from our team interviewed Mr. Amit and here are some excerpts from the interview.
Biswadip: How do you think that the work culture at ABG fosters creative and innovative thinking among the employees?
Amit: I have been here for 2 years now and have seen some changes in the infrastructural setup in the office. Initially, there was a cubical setup with high walls and has now been changed to more like an open office with common activity zones. The meeting culture has now changed into an infrastructure where people can come together and collaborate freely.
While this is a physical change, ABG still promotes a culture of asking questions and innovating. It is not so hierarchical, even though being an Indian conglomerate. They encourage you to ask questions. You can always ask for resources and, if you are rational about it, they are happy to provide those resources. During the Chemicals Award Function for Chemical business this year, one of the topics was about barriers to innovations in the chemical business. Our CEO asked us youngsters to be a part of the panel. One of the Presidents was moderating the panel and 6 of us were in the panel. It was a very lively discussion. They encourage you to talk about your problems, the challenges you face in innovating. Almost all of us were pretty upfront about what we think are the real issues that stop us from innovating more.
Everyone liked the event and the business director, who is a very senior leader, during his speech at the closing ceremony said that he was really inspired by the innovative ideas we gave. He assigned 2 million dollars to us to work on new, innovative ideas as well as to make the culture more innovative. We were given free hand on how we want to do it. We have put together a team of 30 people representing different units. We have a plan for what we should do and make it more innovative. This showcases how the organisation and the senior leaders promote innovation here.
Biswadip: There are a lot of new innovations that have started right?
Amit: Yes. In addition, more than 10 years ago ABSTC was started. This, the Aditya Birla Science and Technology Centre is ABG’s core R&D centre. And from an innovation point of view, we have always been encouraged to go there and try new things. The people there are very open about it and it definitely helps us.
Biswadip: There are various stints initially when you joined. Can you take us through a brief on each of these stints? Also, how long were these stints?
- My 1st stint was with Aditya Birla Retail. This company is no more with the Group as they divested it. So, my work there was with their buying and merchandising team where I was working with the category managers.
- My 2nd stint was with Chemicals business with the strategy team. It’s like a conglomerate inside a conglomerate where all the ABG’s chemical companies come under one umbrella and one of the major companies under chemicals is Chlor-Alkali manufacturing. This was the business I was working with and I was a part of the strategy team. We wanted to get into new products and my job was about which ones should we get into and what business model should we follow.
- As I really liked the work there in the chemical manufacturing businesses, my 3rd stint was then again with the CEO of Chemicals who liked the work I did. I decided to finally stay back in the chemical business for my long-term role.
Biswadip: How do you get stints? And after it gets over, do you get to select where you want to work? Like as a proper part of the department. Is it up to you or does the company decide it?
Amit: For stints, The Young Talent Management Team (YTM) reaches out to businesses for projects on which ABGLP can work on. They have a fixed format of a project charter they fill, and they send back to YTM. At the start of the year, YTM takes our preferences as to which businesses and functions we would you like to get experience in. So, looking at available projects and looking at your preference, they basically allot stints.
Once you finish all your three stints. If you liked working in a specific stint, want to stay back for a long-term role and if that business also likes your work, then they make the decision right there and you get that job. In some cases, people might not like any of their 3 stints and they might want to explore other business that they didn’t get a chance to explore during these three stints. In that case, the process is like the placement process, in which businesses come out with job descriptions and if you are interested you apply and interview with them.
Biswadip: It is a really great opportunity that you get to understand what’s your calling as each stint is in diverse sectors. There must be some challenges that you must have faced. So what are those challenges and how did you overcome them?
Amit: I think the biggest challenge is when you really want to create a significant impact and you want to showcase that you are a good performer, 4 months is not enough. It may be enough in certain cases if you know the business & industry segment beforehand and so you spend more time on the project but usually, everything is new. For example, when I went to retail, I did not know anything about it. I had to basically understand what retail was from scratch. When they said that I was going to be a part of buying and merchandising team, I didn’t even know what that team did. So, you end up spending about 2-3 weeks to understand what the work is, what the thumb rules are and by the time you realise its only 3 months left, which makes it a bit of a struggle. They do not insist that you create such a big impact in 3 months that you get an award for it, of course, they understand. But then you as a person want to create an impact.
Biswadip: What do you think ABG expects from its management trainee, people who are in their final year or who have just joined B-Schools?. What could be the expectation of ABG?. What qualities would they be looking for that would help them to ace the interviews and be a part of the program?
Amit: I will just share from my experience from interviewing with them. I did not intern with ABG. Most of the people intern with them, perform well and get a PPO. However, I interned with another start-up and during the final interviews, I got picked up by ABG through campus placements. They were looking for people taking initiatives and people who were not putting others down.
Collaboration as a quality is very important here. I had a long team activity as a part of the process and it got tiring and heated up in between, they were looking for people who were respectful, listened to people. It was a team activity so you must work as a team. The following day, we had a series of interviews and they were not looking for people who were correct about everything. I think they are looking for someone who was being honest than expecting the person to already know in and out of the industry. Another interview was with a very senior person from the leadership who asked me about various general things. They are looking for more diverse people who could give some logical answers, people who have a well-rounded personality.
Biswadip: What would be your advice for someone who wants to build a career with ABG? And how is life different after ABG?
Amit: ABG invests a lot in people. They have very strong processes to spot and refine talent. It will happen naturally. The culture is really good as the senior-level employees interact with the new joiners and make sure they have great projects. I think the whole point is that, as a part of ABGLP, you will keep getting new opportunities and you need to make the most out of it. Make sure you make it count. If you feel that you are not challenged enough, you can go and ask for challenging things to work on. If you give your best and an honest shot at it, then you can easily make it. I think my advice is to be on your toes. They anyway make sure you keep moving and growing.
Biswadip: Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us. This will really help students to know more about ABG.
We would like to thank Mr. Amit Bhojane for such an insightful interview.