For our second segment, we have with us today Aakash Bhamre, Business Development and Strategy Manager at Swiss Singapore Overseas Enterprises (SSOE) PTE Ltd. Aakash always wanted to work internationally and with the Aditya Birla Group he was given an opportunity to take up a role in Dubai.
Can you tell us a little about your first year with ABG as a part of ABGLP?
As you know, in the first year of the ABGLP program, you are assigned three 4-month stints. My first stint was with Madura Fashion in Mumbai. My project was based on creating and implementing a turnaround strategy for few of the West India stores.
My second stint was an international stint. I was based out of Brazil working with the Central Strategy and Business Development Team wherein we were exploring new sources of revenue for the group and creating sales strategies for products that were manufactured by ABG across the world, to be sold in Latin America.
My third and final business stint was with UltraTech Cement in Mumbai. It was a strategy & operations based project. I was looking at the building product division (which included wall plasters, waterproofing materials, putty etc.) and trying to identify how we could capture the pan-India market.
Exciting opportunities these! What was your role like after completion of this training?
Oh yes absolutely. The best part of ABG is that there are a lot of opportunities for the employees. The width of the business ensures that the opportunities vary across sector, function and even location.
After completing my stints during the first year, I wanted to work internationally. I was fortunate that I was given an opportunity to work with the commodities trading business. The business operates primarily out of Dubai, Singapore and India. It trades products like iron ore, coal, petroleum products, fertiliser, Agri products etc.
In my current role here, I am based out of the Dubai office and look after strategy and business development. I have to identify new products that we can trade, new geographies that can be entered, potential M&A opportunities and inorganic growth in other portfolios. A major responsibility for me is also to identify opportunities for the business to evolve and grow digitally.
That’s interesting because generally, you would associate varied opportunities with Start-ups and their ilk, not conglomerates of this size.
That is very true. In fact for this very reason, a lot of my batchmates who wanted to experiment took up roles in smaller organizations. Some went to payments banks, some took up operations roles, some marketing. However, at ABG, businesses like UltraTech offer you exposure to multiple functions and roles. I have a senior who works as a forex trader in Hindalco! He hedges and trades foreign currency while being part of an aluminium and copper manufacturing firm. People who go through the HR Leadership Program do a mandatory plant stint before they move on to another role.
Considering that it’s such a longstanding group with a large employee base its remarkable that they are able to give such opportunities to people so early in their careers. You get responsibilities that would have traditionally been given to people considerably senior to you.
That must come with its own challenges though?
Absolutely. Stakeholder management is one of my biggest learnings at ABG.
Managing a business abroad when ABG is essentially an Indian Group must come with its own set of problems?
This is part and parcel of the challenge for any company with a growth mindset, I guess. When they look to move into a new geography, it's never easy. Typically, most companies look to acquire smaller establishments in various regions by which they can create a starting point for themselves in that region.
An interesting part however of the way ABG operates is that when they take over a new business, they don’t believe in overhauling the existing management of that business. They like retaining the management of the business and letting the ethos of the business remain. SSOE is a great example of this.
How different is the culture across the different offices?
While you definitely have to adapt to the different geographies practices that you work in, it isn’t extremely challenging or anything like that. For example, in Dubai (All of UAE) the weekend is a Friday and Saturday. However, weekend or weekday, that doesn’t really matter in the line of work I’m in. Also, being an Indian Company, there is international exposure provided with a familiar environment. There are adjustments to be made but then again there is a great amount of learning involved to compensate. The scope is massive, you are only limited by your imagination.
Keeping all this in mind, how do the businesses collaborate then, if at all?
Collaboration is an integral part of what we do. At SSOE, we trade a lot of coal and in turn supply to Ultratech. The carbon black business uses carbon black peat stock that we trade in. There are geographies that we operate in and other businesses want to enter. In such cases, SSOE helps in identifying the potential of a new market. All in all, synergies are always being tapped and the policy of “One ABG” is applied through the entire organization.
Any parting thoughts?
The Aditya Birla Group is a great place to start your career. There are multiple businesses to work for, and multiple roles to be held. It allows you to make mistakes and learn from them. My batch mates in other firms have been doing the same kind of work in the last few years whereas I have had the opportunity to explore and experiment. Whether one chooses to leverage such a chance depends on the nature of the person as well. An exploratory person would definitely appreciate the width of the group.