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. Gaurav Jain works in the Corporate Finance Division, Group CFO Office, Aditya Birla Management Corporation. He is a CA with an All India Rank of 35 and has been working with the Aditya Birla Group since the last 3 years.
Biswadip from our team interviewed Mr. Gaurav and here are some excerpts from the interview.
Biswadip: Hi Gaurav, we had a few questions regarding the ABG culture. The first question is, how does the work culture in ABG foster creative and innovative thinking?
Gaurav Jain: I would like to answer this in two ways – Innovation in Business and Innovation at Work. Aditya Birla as a Group is extremely innovative in doing business and it is very well evident from its range of products and solutions. There is in place a Group Innovation Cell with the objective to drive innovation in business and work processes.
As far as innovation and creativity at work are concerned, I would like to answer that in light of my experience as an ABGLP. I have spent around 4 years in the Group. There have been various initiatives by YTM, i.e. the governing HR team for the ABGLP, like Idea Studios, where various Business Heads would throw challenges at us seeking innovative solutions, and many other workshops on innovation, creativity and design thinking. ABGLP is highly regarded bunch in the Group and we get to work very closely with the senior officials of the Group. The kind of projects that we get during our stints are not mainstream, there is immense learning. We get the opportunity to suggest creative and innovative solutions which actually gets implemented as there is not a long chain to be crossed to get the suggestions through; it's direct and effective.
That is the advantage which the ABGLP program has.
Biswadip: So, you haven’t taken the conventional MBA route through which ABG usually hires from?
Gaurav Jain: ABGLP hires in 4 subcategories; one being the “LEAD” MBA programme with 4+ years of experience, the second is “LEAP” MBA with less than 4 years of experience, the third is “HRLP” for the HR MBA guys and the fourth is the “FLP” which is for CA rank holders. I am one of the India rank holders in CA so I am a part of the FLP i.e. Finance Leadership Programme.
Biswadip: The program is usually divided into stints. Can you throw some light on what stints you were given, and a brief idea on what you worked on in these stints?
Gaurav Jain: My first stint was in Idea Cellular NE and Assam Circle. Being a CA, my first project was into Sales and Marketing; I was to move around all the seven North East States, talk to the distributors, train the fleet on street and come out with solutions that can improve the distributor profitability. I was awarded with the Idea KAP Award by the Managing Director of Idea for the project and was asked to help other Circles to replicate the same. Trust me, this is what made the program special. It brings out your hidden skills and gives you the chance to try something different from your educational background and qualifications.
My second stint was in Grasim Corporate Finance. I was given a project which is typically given to Management Consultants. I spent more than half the tenure of my stint in the plants working on the optimization of in-plant logistics and doing work motion study. The outcome of the project brought in financial savings for the company and I was given an immediate offer to join Grasim Corporate Finance.
For my third stint, I went to Novelis. In Novelis, I was finally working on what a CA is normally expected to work on. I worked on the 10Q and actuarial computation for the Employee Benefits.
For my fourth stint, I moved back to Grasim Corporate Finance for my final role and continued to work on efficiency and cost savings projects. During this time, my project on Coal Study, one of the most successful projects for Grasim, resulted in savings of over Rs. 12 Cr for the unit. I was awarded the Grasim Pride Award and replicated the same across other units of the business. I was awarded the ABGLP Star Award for my performance across stints in the first year.
Biswadip: So how long did these stints go on for?
Gaurav Jain: I am from the 2015 batch and at that time, we had 4 stints of 3 months each. So, it went upto a year.
Biswadip: What are the challenges you faced in working in the stints and how did you overcome them?
Gaurav Jain: Luckily, I didn’t face any kind of challenge in my stints. But I feel the only constraint that could exist for many is approach to the project. Most projects that are given to us are unstructured and have no defined way of working. It is just like an objective that we have in mind, and we are given the tools and machinery to function and reach the outcome. So what I am trying to say is that we have to mend our own ways, find our means, talk to the respective people to reach our goal. We are given the optimum amount of freedom to talk to anybody we wish to. We were given a free hand, which as much as an advantage is it is a disadvantage. But this is where the leadership skills come into action and let one differentiate from the others.
Biswadip: Okay, Gaurav. So what advice would you like to give to an ABGLP program aspirant? What qualities do you think he should possess that will help him to get into ABG and specifically the ABGLP programme.
Gaurav Jain: The program is called Group Leadership Programme and when it talks about leadership, it really means so. The Group is actually looking for potential future leaders, which essentially doesn’t mean to be a master of the subject but possess leadership qualities. Of course an MBA graduate or a CA rank holder it is expected out of you to have the knowledge and basic skills. The entire selection process is driven around activities which helps the interviewers gauge whether the candidate has the potential of leading. They will focus on a candidate’s style of leadership and what difference they want to make. In my understanding, experience in college apart from the normal curriculum is also very important.
Biswadip: Gaurav, the last question I would like to ask you is that what would your advice be to the students who would want to build their career with ABG?
Gaurav Jain: What I have understood from the last four years that I have spent here is that ABG is looking for people who are diligent, high on integrity and are committed. Here it is not so that a Topper will certainly make it to the top, rather a candidate with the ability to break down complex problems into easier solutions and take everyone ahead inclusively will do very well.
Biswadip: Thank you, Gaurav, that was quite insightful. Thank you so much for your time.