Secret Diary Of A CEO 2017

"If you treat employees and stakeholders with respect, you can find your way out of any crisis"

Secret Diary of Suresh Narayanan Part-3

Photograph by Vishal Koul

The Maggi crisis had just unfolded and Wan told me the board had decided I was the right man to go and fix the mess — if at all it could be fixed. Soon after, the CEO of Nestlé also called me to say they wanted me to go to India. When I told her, my wife’s first comment was succinct: “I don’t know why it always has to be you.”

I thought about it after she mentioned it: Why me? Why was I being pulled out? There are so many other people in this company. But I always have a very optimistic view on life — perhaps this was the time to repay the organisation for all it has done for me. Because I owe a lot to Nestlé India.

maggi crisisAs with all major decisions, I also consulted my father before taking up this assignment. He was very positive: “This is a badge of honour. The company is trusting you with the biggest crisis it is facing. You don’t send your biggest idiot to fight your biggest crisis, you send your best person. Do what is right and do it well.” So, I said I would take up the challenge, though I didn’t even know the full extent of the crisis and just how big a challenge it was.

It was big. It was being compared with the Bhopal gas tragedy, Arnab Goswami had called for the arrest of the CEO of Nestlé and people were being shown burning packs! And it had global ramifications, thanks to the ubiquity of digital and social media. So I came to India and my boss, Wan, was also here. “I don’t want this to be brutal either for you or for the organisation. I want to be here to ensure that doesn’t happen,” she said.

My advantage in India was that people here know me — this was my third stint here. More importantly, every company has a DNA and Nestlé’s DNA is food safety and quality. That’s what we stand for. The reason you buy the Nestlé brand is because it is the safest and has the highest quality. It may be more expensive than the others. You may not like our advertising; you may not like our promotions or whatever. But you can be 100% sure that what you eat is absolutely of the best quality and it’s completely safe. I knew my backbone was strong. I knew the company would not have done anything even remotely wrong.

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