Biswadip: So Sir, firstly, I would like to know more about you, like what stints you did as a part of ABGLP. Can you just walk us through the stints that you were a part of?
Prathmesh Deshmukh: So, I was part of the HRLP program and I underwent three stints of four months. One was with Birla Carbon which was overseas in Brazil. The second was with Aditya Birla Retail which was the food retailing business. And then, the third one was with the Group Rewards and Benefits team, in Bombay.
Biswadip: So Sir according to what you told, these stints were in various diverse sectors right?
Prathmesh Deshmukh: Yes, they were in different HR functions and different businesses.
Biswadip: There must be certain challenges that you must have faced during these stints since they were in very diverse domains, how did you overcome these challenges?
Prathmesh Deshmukh: More than challenges these were learning opportunities because the projects that you are given in stints have a certain degree of ambiguity so you have to work from scratch, design an action plan to achieve what objective you have set. You have to continuously interact with stakeholders, you have to interact beyond HR because these projects involve different functions so these were good learning opportunities because there were areas of improvement for me like stakeholder interaction. These were the generic challenges I faced and I overcame them by understanding what exactly is required, how it contributes to the business, being in HR you need to know the business impact because what value your work brings to the business at the end is important.
Interacting with business stakeholders, establishing a good rapport with them as they have a lot of ideas to contribute to help with your project. Always writing down points on exactly what my deliverables are, tracking them periodically are some of the things you can do irrespective of the kind or nature of the project. Understanding where is it heading and what are the current challenges that the business is facing and the timing of the project always help give a good presentation and personally give better output
Biswadip: My next question is that ABG actually fosters creative and innovative thinking among its employees. So, any instances where such things were experienced by you?
Prathmesh Deshmukh: The main thing is that it allows me to experiment work with ideas so there is lot of appreciation for challenging the status quo. For example, during my stint with Birla Carbon in Brazil, the company was planning to make a repository of initiatives for L&D so I proposed to make it in their local language, Portuguese which is the local language in Brazil – this would require a translator to be brought in. But the business gave a go-ahead and was happy to try it out and ultimately it helped because a lot of people in that region don't speak English and English repository won't have an impact like a local language repository. People were actually opening that particular repository, doing the courses because it was in their local language. Although it was a cost-focused initiative, in the end, it is adding value to your employees. The employees were engaged and happier.
The bottom line is that ABG allows you to experiment, they will take risks for you if you have a logic behind your initiative and will definitely allow you to explore outside the regular processes.
Biswadip: What are the specific qualities would ABG actually look in a candidate who is an aspirant for the ABGLP program?
Prathmesh Deshmukh: The basic functional competency is something which is already present in most students as they are from good colleges and they have the technical competency and functional knowledge. Apart from that, the hunger to learn, humility, to learn without any prejudice or bias. An organization will have a lot of people who are not MBA graduates, some may be engineers, some may just have years of on-ground experience but as an ABGLP member you have to develop a rapport to learn from them, to learn from their experiences, and obviously the tagline is “Willing to make a difference”, you should really have the passion to make a difference because the projects always challenge you to think more.
ABG is a very humanitarian company and it works for the well-being of the society too so that component is also looked upon as your social quotient. So the hunger to learn more, the humility and the versatility is what counts because it will always throw you in deep waters and also you will not be in particular business for long so it is about how do you adapt to geographies, how you adapt to your stakeholders which is a key quality that ABGLP looks for in a candidate because there is a lot across business and ABGLP Candidates, how you perform consistently over different changing environment. Versatility is one of the key components that ABG looks for in a potential candidate.
Biswadip: What advice would you give to someone who is actually planning to make his/her career at ABG since you have been in the organization and have experience of working at ABG itself?
Prathmesh Deshmukh: The main advice I would like to give is ABG is a very diverse group, with a large number of businesses, so always be on the lookout for new challenges. Don’t be afraid to take new challenges and projects and even if you don’t succeed, there’s a lot of learning. So, don’t be restricted to a particular silo and always be on the lookout for challenges and change because that’s what ABG looks for in its potential leaders. Anyone can perform in a stable environment but then the person who is willing to do things in unstable, ambiguous and vague environments, those are the ones who succeed. So, my advice for a long-term career in ABG would be that one should always be ready to challenge himself or herself and be ready to take on change.
Biswadip: Thank you so much, sir, for your time. It was a pleasure interacting with you.