The Conversation was conducted by the Corporate Relations and Placement Committee, IIFT Kolkata for ABGLP Woo ME Competition Season 2’s Second Round.
A conversation was held with Mr. Govind Haridas, Category Manager at UltraTech Cement Ltd. that helped in getting a sneak peek into the Aditya Birla Leadership Program (LEAP) and how it helped him in his transition & growth through various phases in corporate life to become the transformative leader that he is today.
IIFT Kolkata: Tell us a bit about yourself and your role at UltraTech Cement Ltd?
Mr. Haridas - After completing my mechanical engineering from NIT Calicut, I worked in the Jamnagar plant of Reliance Industries Ltd. for 2 years as a maintenance manager. Later I joined IIM Kozhikode and passed out as part of the 2015 – 17 batch with a gold medal as the best All-Rounder. I got an interview opportunity with Aditya Birla Group as a winner of the Economic Times Young Leader (B-School) in 2017. My key interest areas are in the domains of Marketing & Strategy, mainly in the manufacturing sector. Talking about my role, I currently work for the retail arm, namely UltraTech Building Solutions. This caters directly to the Individual Home Builder with a variety of building products. I also look after the MIS and analytics aspects of my division.
IIFT Kolkata: Could you describe your journey of professional growth at Aditya Birla Group so far?
Mr. Haridas - There were continuous training programs which enabled me to take up larger responsibilities. I am very passionate about the Manufacturing sector and I want to leverage my management skills to create a positive difference in this sector. After 1 year of training, and a discussion with my group HR, I got placed in a role of my preference, which stands as a testament to the complete freedom & world of opportunities which Aditya Birla Group offers.
IIFT Kolkata: Could you share your experience during a year of LEAP?
Mr. Haridas - The experience was singularly unique as we got a sneak peek into the different functions among the group’s different companies. My different stints were as follows:-
- Online engagements and driving sales through e-commerce channels through associations with players like Amazon, PayTM, Flipkart at Idea Cellular
- New product development manager with the Bakery/Diary/Frozen Division at Aditya Birla Retail Ltd. (More outlets)
- Sustainability measuring and reporting team – Birla Carbon
I witnessed first-hand how these different companies worked & also received hands-on knowledge. The deliverables for each stint were well-defined and I was continuously assessed and guided on these by the business teams & group HR.
IIFT Kolkata: Any interesting anecdotes you would like to share from your LEAP program?
Mr. Haridas - One of my tasks in my second stint in More was to introduce our own brand of Idli-Dosa batter in Delhi. I had set up a sampling station in one of our busy hyper markets and served our beloved customers fresh Idlis and Dosas. The live feedback I received in those 2 days would never have been obtained through any other form of product testing. So it goes on to show that management isn’t all about working in a particular domain or environment. You need to get close to your customers and understand what his needs/aspirations/expectations will be from a product.
IIFT Kolkata: How does culture play a pivotal role at Aditya Birla Group in shaping the leaders of tomorrow?
Mr. Haridas - As a management cadre recruit, Aditya Birla Group pays close attention to our development. We were assigned torch bearers (who are a couple years senior to us) in our stint businesses who helped us integrate well with the company. We were also assigned a mentor who would be a senior leader in Aditya Birla Group with whom we can plan and discuss our future career track. In addition, Aditya Birla Group has a completely meritocratic system where the expectations are clearly set at the very beginning and thoroughly kept track of.
IIFT Kolkata: What were your key takeaways from this program?
Mr. Haridas - I gained immense functional & sectoral knowledge, and I also got to discover hidden synergies within different companies in the group. I also learnt how to use my experience in one sector to lend a fresh perspective in a different sector. For example, I worked closely with e-commerce players during my stint at Idea Cellular, which helped me during my next stint in More Hypermarkets in liaising with Swiggy to list our bakery products on their widely-used platform.
IIFT Kolkata: What are some challenges associated with a General Management role/profile? What advice would you provide to future aspirants on how they can prepare themselves for this role?
Mr. Haridas - I would like to start off by dispelling the notion that general management means not being associated with any function. For someone starting their career, General Management means having adaptability to work with any function as per the need of the hour. It is expected that a general manager quickly picks up a working knowledge in the function he is currently serving in and exceeds all expectations in terms of deliverables. For this reason, General Management is very challenging as the dependency on you may be cross functional and many at times you are assigned to projects which demand you to play the bridge role between functions. There is no easy formula to prepare for such a role, but in general you need to go beyond what your routine tasks demand you to and keep yourself updated with the nuances and happenings of all the functions in your sector. In addition, your soft skills and project management abilities will also significantly help you in navigating the often ambiguous projects you may encounter, during which it will be necessary to set clear, measurable, time bound targets and get the buy-in from all the stakeholders.
We would like to thank Mr. Govind Haridas for enlightening the students of our Institute on the culture of Aditya Birla Group, LEAP and sharing invaluable career advice with budding aspirants at a very critical juncture of their careers.