Leaving HLL for Philips and then Nokia was emotionally draining because you put so much into a company and then you leave behind all these wonderful relationships. In India, we derive our identity from our company. For many people, the name of the company and designation is very important. So leaving a company is not easy if you have had a long innings and have invested a lot. But you need to move on. I had a serious disagreement on the strategy. Like a good soldier, I followed what the board wanted even though I could sense that this will not work. After it didn’t work, we went back to the strategy we had originally proposed and that grew volume and the business back again. I had always worked 24x7 thinking this was my company and I did what was right for the company. This experience just didn’t sit with my deep belief and hence I moved on.
I moved to Philips to run consumer electronics and the technology sector is a huge learning on cost management, on technology obsolescence and opening up new categories. And being the boss, you had no one else to pass anything to. The lonely days had arrived in my life.
Nokia interviewed me to death — I was interviewed by 13 people! But when I met the CEO, Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, and the HR head, I liked their humility and their focus on India. The final interview with Mr Kallasvuo was scheduled to last an hour. But after 15 minutes he said, “I’m giving you the job. Now, for the next 45 minutes let’s discuss how you are going to do your job.”
HLL shaped me for the future. I always wanted to do things very well and never wanted to be a run-of-the-mill manager. Carrying the team with me and ensuring you get things right is extremely crucial for me. Many people criticise me saying, I have a long fuse but that’s fine — it’s better than having a short fuse. If the situation warrants it, you should be tough and get the right message across, but if you are permanently on a short fuse, nobody will tell you the truth. In fact, that is one of the dangers of being a senior manag