Gajendra Chandel, Founder, Viribus Unitis Consulting

“The greatest of strategy is only as good as its execution” – Gajendra Chandel, Ex- President & CHRO – Tata Motors, Founder, Viribus Unitis Consulting

Gajendra Chandel is an experienced Start-up coach and a Business Strategist focussed on Growth and Transformation strategy. Ideal as an Independent Board Member with strong background in Strategy Development Execution, Organization Development. A professional with a Masters in Public Admin., PG Dip Business Admin, Diploma Labor Administrative Laws.

In an exclusive interaction with SCIKEY, Mr Gajendra Chandel speaks about strong value system being a very crucial aspect for a business, how talents must understand the vision of startups for being highly competitive alignment with the business objectives and how digital transformation is a great enabler for businesses of today.

As a Business Strategist focused on Growth and Transformation strategy, how do you ensure that the transformation goals and objectives support the business strategy? What are the key steps you ensure you implement in the process of transformation?

As a business strategist, my first step is to understand what transformation we are looking to bring about, in the industry it operates in. If for eg the industry is growing at a certain CAGR of say 10-12% with a certain returns rate, but the company is unable to keep up to this speed, it means that they are losing out over a period of time in terms of competitiveness in that market, in terms of growth and / or profitability. So, initially, it is best to build deep insight of where you are vis-à-vis the industry and then build foresight ie looking at the things you wish to do. In layman terms, transformation is nothing but defining the ambition and opportunity in a direction where you re-think about your business and operating models that you have currently vis-a-vis the future state. This is because you will look at value-creation over certain time frame. I always advise to look at the value-creation and wealth creation rather than giving weightage only to valuations. This is because the former is what you focus on over a longer period and is sustainable. Therefore, the management team has to do “manthan” – a transparent SWOT analysis to understand the current status. Post this one, you can look at the opportunities that exist in that adjoining markets.

Transformation is also about going beyond incremental changes. Also, it is important to look at what strategic decisions can one take to grow the company and perform beyond the competitors. This is where the top management must come together to not only decide on their destination but also how to get there. It is easy to think of a great strategy. But it is tough when it comes to the execution bit. Once the team that is working on developing this strategy understands them thoroughly, only then can it work on it effectively. When we talk about ‘learn fast and fail fast’ it is in the design of the strategy itself. This is because every plan has some fundamental flaws that any designer (strategist) makes. When you are thinking and analysing certain strategies, one also needs to take into account a lot of assumptions as part of this design. There is always some apprehension that one can go wrong with some of these these assumptions. Even if the premises are right, but execution turns out to be a failure, it can affect the strategy, overall.

The frequency of reviewing making changes to the strategy depends on the industry and the pace at which it is moving and amidst the disruptions that gets on the way. Even then, once in a quarter or at least half yearly, it is essential to revisit your strategy. Though, this may be followed differently for different industries. For industries that have long gestation periods, especially the capital intensive and RD intensive industries such as the automotive, it takes many quarters or perhaps years for anyone to see results of the strategy implementation; hence the strategy does not need a fix every now and then.

As a business HR leader and a coach to startup companies helping them converting into high-growth sustainable businesses, what are a few important foundation elements you coach them to deploy to acquiring talent building teams especially in a startup environment where work dynamics change very rapidly?

There is a difference between start-ups and matured or even maturing companies which may go thru so called “mid-life crises”. That’s why the talent that’s needed too differs between the two. For example, if graduating engineers are looking for stability with minimal risk then the established corporations incl. MNC’s may just be the appropriate fit. The basic fundamentals of the business remain the same everywhere. Startups are in a hurry to grow and have inherently big risk-taking appetite, which can be maddening or even chaotic too. Since they do not rely on any fixed or time-tested formulas they visualise and are determined to redefine their industry. Since they do not have any time-tested formulas to rely on, hence they go in for “visualise – implement – fail fast and learn fast – make changes and get further, faster”. In such a scenario, where Start-Ups treed, talent needs to have a hunger for learning and growth. They may not be concerned with immediate revenues although that’s what every company aims to achieve but what startups look at is little different ie the customer acquisition, data they can build around customers and change in the quality of revenue, at a speed what others can’t match. The talent that is being hired in these startups also need to have a similar mindset that’s primarily tech driven. If the mindsets don’t match, the clashes can affect the business. When startups scout for talent, they look for people who have the similar vision, hunger and risk-taking as them. They may have high risks but the rewards are worth it too.

In one of your interviews, you mentioned that you decided to move on to start your own venture, you said you are” looking forward to work with startups and entrepreneurs with strong ethics and values that are keen to grow big”, Being ethical has multiple dimensions, could you elaborate your version of it. Are there any other parameters for you to decide on which startup to coach?

There are high reputation risks in business today because of various issues such as social privacy issues, government issues or even regulatory issues that a business may be facing. Reputation is the bedrock of any sustainable successful business which creates value sustainably over a long period of time. If ethics and values are not ensured, it not only impacts the valuation of the business but its very fundamentals itself and hence its survival. I always advise business founders Executives to create and sustain a strong foundation for their business. Any business can only be as strong as its ecosystem to which they not only contribute to but are accountable to. It will be a huge challenge to sustain a business where ethics and values are compromiised. It is essential to not only take care of shareholders but all stakeholder ie – The entire ecosystem that actually begins with its employees and includes customers, suppliers, various institutions, government regulatory authorities.

Businesses that are transparent and build the ecosystem based on care for society and the environment sustained over a long period of time are really sustainable. I always say that it doesn’t matter if the growth rate is somewhat slower as far as the growth is sustainable and the foundation is strong stable. Organizations that have built their foundations on trust, a strong value system and accountability to all stakeholders, generally these are not the people who are looking for a sell-out based on valuations. The ones who are looking at sell-outs wants to grow at a break-neck pace and pay most attention to valuations.

How has your view of transformation concerning talent changed over the years, in your years of involvement in leading and running the people-show at several large organizations?

The fundamentals of conducting business remain the same irrespective of the size of the business. I emphasize on the concept of SEDUCE- Stocks, Expenses Debtors Under Control Eternally, to all businesses. It is essential that companies, be it a startup or established ones, should be able to do that and maintain it. When companies feel challenged in terms of their growth, is where my support intervention is called for by many companies. Before the steps to transform the business are to be taken, I always emphasise that the leaders of the company need to transform themselves first else they become the bottlenecks.

What’s your take on the digital transformation initiatives organizations are going through?

Digital transformation is very normal, in fact a necessity for any business today. It is a part of every business now because every business is in more than one way connected to or enabled by technology. Digitization is not the end in itself but means to running the business effectively except in case of certain technology development companies. It is a great enabler necessity for any businesses today.


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