“Just Believe In Yourself” – Interview With Akshay Agarwal – IIM Indore Mumbai Alumnus And Corporate Strategy Manager At Videocon Group
Tell us about yourself, your educational and professional background.
I am a fitness freak, out-of-the-box thinker, lawn-tennis enthusiast, Salman Khan fan, Sant Nirankari Mission Representative, former school cricket team captain, former IIM Indore’s Cultural Affairs Committee Senior Member. I am an ideator, organizer and the performer of a new record in Limca Book of Records 2015 for IIM Indore Mumbai Campus “Most Dance Performances by any Group to bring awareness about Women Empowerment”. I have worked with NDTV and CNN-IBN on various campaigns and represented my college.
I am a combination of a business manager and a software engineer. I passed Level I of the CFA Program in 2016. I did my full-time MBA from IIM Indore’s Mumbai Campus with Majors in Finance and Marketing with a CGPA of 2.96/4.33. Prior to that, I completed my B.Tech in Information Technology branch from one of the most reputed Institutes of Uttarakhand- GB Pant University Pantnagar back in 2012.
From Aug 2015 till Present, I am working as Go-To-Market Strategy and Business Planning Assistant Manager in the CEO’s core team for Consumer Electronics division of the $6 billion Videocon Group. Prior to that, I taught Quantitative Aptitude at Career Launcher for one year from 2012 to 2013. I am experienced in planning, implementing & executing projects with end-to-end accountability of creating roadmaps & expected milestones for implementation of projects and delivery within time, cost and quality parameters.
What attributes are essential for a candidate to thrive in a career in Corporate Strategy?
It’s been only 7 months now that I have been in the shoes of a Corporate Strategy Manager. So, as per the experience, the quintessential attributes that an individual must possess to succeed in this domain are – Flexibility, Adaptability, Good Communication Skills, Self Confidence, Listening Skills, Leadership Ability, Problem Solving Ability- Excellent Excel working knowledge and Good Presentation Making; but I feel the most important one is Honesty and Integrity for the Organization as you are exposed to plethora of critical decisive information.
What are the best aspects of having a career in Corporate Strategy?
A career in Corporate Strategy involves helping an organization design a path to growth and profitability amidst competition and constant change. We identify the existing gaps and create New Business Systems and Processes for different verticals to increase organizational efficiency, analyze and evaluate Go-To-Market Business Plans which includes Sales Forecasting, Budgeting- Finance, Organization Structure, Competition Benchmarking, Marketing Plans –ATL, BTL and Digital, Product Planning, Geographic Expansion and Governance – Weekly and Monthly Business Reviews to ensure Strategy Implementation at the ground level.
At the entry level, you would work as a Strategic Planning Associate or Manager. You would work on assignments directed by more senior members of your group. Your work would focus on gathering and analysing data, putting together presentations, talking to different HODs of the organization to understand a problem. As you advance, you will be in frequent contact with senior management and will get the opportunity to see how decisions really get made in your organization. It is not uncommon for a Senior Vice President of Corporate Strategy Group to take the CEO’s job next.
How is a typical day at work for you?
Well once you are a part of Corporate Strategy Team, please be rest assured that you have to put in long hours at work on most days. My day begins at 9:15 am. I have been involved in managing Tertiary Sales (Product Sold to End Customers) from 270 In-Shop Promoters spread across the country. Gathering their previous day’s Sales Information, analysing and evaluating their Sales Performance to resolve Product Range Availability Issues, Inventory Management, Marketing Support, etc at each Retail Outlet after having meetings with the concerned HOD.
After that, for increasing Width of Distribution, I am involved in driving Secondary Sales (Billing from Distributors to Retailers) from 150 Sales Officers across 6 States. Preparing Territory Daily Dashboard of every Sales Officer Target vs Achievement, analysing the gaps and presenting to the CEO with probable solutions.
Analysing and Evaluating Primary Sales (from Company to Distributors) Business Plans, Market Share, Manpower Planning and the Geographic Expansion Presentations for the Senior Management is a part of my job whenever required.
What part of your experience in your B-school has been most helpful in your career?
I have learnt that place an Organization (or College or a team’s) Interest always above one’s individual interest, think big, believe in yourself, ability to persuade and never say die attitude.
We had a workshop of NGO Visit in the second trimester back in 2014. In evening, I was sitting outside a mall in Mulund, Mumbai. There, I saw students of TISS College performing a Flashmob and out of nowhere an idea came of IIM Indore Mumbai Campus students promoting Women Empowerment in different parts of Mumbai at a single day. From there on, I shared this idea confidently with some of the batchmates, and after getting a good response, decided to go ahead and execute it. We convinced the batchmates to be a part of initiative for the bigger goal keeping aside the individual interests, did lot of negotiations with Mall Managers for getting the Infrastructure and time-slots for 26 January 2014, Finally, performed on 26 January 2014 at four prominent Malls of Mumbai City.
In September 2014 during the trimester break, I was surfing records related to Dance and Women Empowerment on the internet and found that search record is 0. I said to myself that can we enter into Limca Book of World Records. I did lot of information search and found the Limca Team number. I kept on calling the same mentioned number for so many days but no response. I was determined to do it and eventually I was able to connect with Ms. Smitha Thomas, Editor of Limca Book of Records. Therefore, she told that submit the documentation of the record that you are proposing and after proper evaluation we would comment. But the biggest concern was that we don’t have required documents. I made a team, lead a team and decided to arrange all documents- went to 3 malls in a single day, persuaded each of them to give a Confirmation letter of our performance after 6 months, collected videos and photographs for validation.
Afterwards, got the confirmation mail from Limca Team that IIM Indore Mumbai Campus has set a new National Record for “Most Dance Performances by a group in a single day”. Again, I thought that all my team members who performed should receive Limca Certificate of the record appreciating their contribution. After lot of persuasion, I was able to achieve that and all performing team members got the National Book of Records Certificate.
I then coordinated with the Main Campus Media Team to ensure that this feat of IIM Indore Mumbai Campus must be covered in leading print and media- social and traditional.
What did you miss out on doing/trying at your B-school?
The only thing that I may have missed is interacting and spending time with a person for whom I had a soft-corner.
What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last six months?
When I made a Business Policy for In-Shop Promoters Deployment, Recruitment, and Incentives applicable Nationally and approved by the Senior Management, there were 50 odd people that had to be terminated because they were not fitting in as per proposed Business Policy. However, to grow Business we have to take harsh decisions sometimes.
What advice would you like to give to the forthcoming batches of your B-school?
Be humble, Just believe in yourself, you are one of the fortunate ones who will get this opportunity to learn from the best professors of the country, best peers sharing experiences from different walks of life and industries. Trust me, that your life would change for good and at some distant future, you would play a critical role in changing and improving the lives of so many people.