Mr. Kaushallendra, an alumnus of IIM Bangalore, Product Manager in Digitization and Innovation Department of Ultratech Cement has worked in diverse sectors at the Aditya Birla Group. “Aditya Birla is a conglomerate with many different businesses and they focus on cross-learning a lot.” He cherishes the amount of knowledge he has gained by working in a great cross-cultural environment and the ease with which a business is carried out when all functions come together. "If all functions are in sync, then only we can have a good balance sheet and good profit.”
Mr. Kaushallendra: My Introduction – I am a Product Manager in Digitisation and Innovation Department of Ultratech Cement. I am an alumnus of 2017 batch from IIM Bangalore Campus.
Mr. Kaushallendra: And during my training in Aditya Birla Group Leadership Program I had two stints. One for three months for Retail and the next three months for Logistics in Ultratech.
Okay. So, our first question to you would be “What makes waking up and going to work on a Monday morning exciting?”
Mr. Kaushallendra: Opportunity to explore something new and come up with some innovative solution to solve difficult problems every day is what keeps me driving. The reason being that I work in the Digitisation and Innovation Cell so my job is to explore new technologies and opportunities that are coming up and how do we leverage that to increase our business and generate some new revenue streams for Ultratech.
My job is basically exploring what new can be done and then fitting it back to our domain and seeing what new innovation can be sought out. If you want an example, so the type of projects that I am working on is, suppose, how to give experience to our channel partners - the dealers, retailers of Ultratech, how can they be digitally corrected and how can Ultratech empower their business status. So that is one way. So, I need to explore every day what new can be done. Similarly, for any person who is going to build his house, how can we digitally engage with him to help him do everything that is required. To register a plot, find an Architect, to find a Contractor and connect him with a Dealer and supply him materials. So, in his complete lifecycle of house building what are the different challenges that he has and how can Ultratech, as a leader in building solutions help him solve these problems.
So, these are the challenges that have not yet been solved and we are working on problems and maybe we will be the first in the industry to come up with some solutions in these fields.
Okay, that’s nice.
Mr. Kaushallendra: Nothing like this has come up in the industry yet. Suppose you or your parents are planning to build a house, there is no end-to-end solution provider to help you with your complete journey. So, these are the challenges that we keep on taking up and then we do our normal customer-return, user-experience study and we are soon coming up with solutions for these.
Okay, that’s amazing.
Mr. Kaushallendra: Ultratech is always above the industry curve because it is the number one in the Cement Industry, number one in the Manufacturing Sector, so whatever Ultratech does the Industry will follow. So, we need to be ahead of the industry and we need to introduce new innovations in this country. So that is the challenge that we have and my department focuses on that.
So, in that way, every day I work on something on which nobody has worked until now. So, solving those problems which nobody else has solved until now, owing to the reason that all Aditya Birla companies are either number 1 or number 2 in the industry. Hence, they need to solve problems which have not yet been solved. So, this is what keeps me driving to go to the office every Monday.
Okay, thank you. Now, let’s move on to the second question. Could you walk us through the cross-functional communication systems at ABG?
Mr. Kaushallendra: Aditya Birla is a conglomerate with many different businesses and they focus on cross-learning a lot. Example, so as to substantiate, what are the mediums in which they do. So first is within a business, suppose if someone is hired directly by Ultratech, they go through a cross-functional training covering all the functions of that business - sales, marketing, logistics, everything. So any new hire in any Aditya Birla company goes through cross-functional stints of two months each across all six functions within that business. That is mandatory for Year 1 for any new hire. So in this way, everyone gets an exposure of different functions of the company.
Then there are many leadership programs at Group level like Aditya Birla Group Leadership Program where people hired by Aditya Birla Group mandatorily go through different stints. So you spend two months in Retail, completing a project then two months into Ultratech where you do a project then you may end up spending another two months in the financial industry, Aditya Birla Capital for two months. So all the new hires get that exposure.
So, after you get that exposure, do you get to actually figure out, in which business function you want to work in for the rest of the career?
Mr. Kaushallendra: The reason for this cross-functional learning is you get to explore what it is that suits you better. Which business is good for you, which function is good for you during your SIP, then it is your job to ask the person under whom you are working to ask the Aditya Birla Group HR team and then the HR team working at the group level to ask for an evaluation of the performance. If both the candidate and the business agree, then you are allowed to work in that business. You can change after every three years.
After working for two-three years, you can change your role, function, business, location, etc. For that, there is a seamless working culture in Aditya Birla. To become a leader, you should have at least worked in two functions, like Sales & Marketing or Sales & Finance and in two geographies like North zone and South zone. Basically, two functions, two geographies and two businesses (suppose Ultratech and Retail). These people only qualify for the roles of MD or Head of any vertical. For that everyone in Aditya Birla is, in fact, asked to switch their current role after three years. Either you should change your function or the business or your geography. People doing that only go higher in the organization, those sticking to one role or one function don't. This is the culture at ABG.
The third part, how does cross-learning play in the organization. We have ABG Management corporation, group-level company, under that we have a different company, Retail, Hindalco, Madura Fashion, Aditya Birla Capital. In the Group level, there are various Corporate Functions, like Group Finance, Chairman’s Office etc. There are many small bodies at Group level, they work closely with all different businesses and do the work of spreading knowledge from one business to another. At the Group level, they have a complete overview of what businesses are doing.
One concept of feedback system used by Madura Fashion at Pantaloons, Van Heusen, is now used by other ABG companies, like Ultratech, who started calling their Dealers, Suppliers, Transporter for feedback, NPS score for promoters and contractors for a complete view of who is happy and who isn't. A good project started by one business is shared with other businesses.
Alright. So what values have you learnt in your time with ABG?
Mr. Kaushallendra: Seamlessness, how to coordinate with different stakeholders and get your work done. That is the most important thing I have seen within ABG. How there is seamless communication between different functions, different business. Reason being all of us have experience in cross-function, so all of us have idea of what is happening in a different business. This gives you a lot of strength.
So, in all the new projects that we do, we need the support of other companies. Suppose, I am taking a project that is good for sales but might affect the logistics, for that you need to have a culture where all these people need to sit together and brainstorm and come up with a solution which is a win-win situation for everyone. This makes it easier to take new projects, due to cross-functional seamless communication. If all functions are in sync, only then we can make good profits.