Interview

Making the Most of a Crisis

CEOs who have been ‘fortunate’ to face adversity in their careers talk about their experiences and learnings

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Published 4 years ago on Apr 17, 2017 16 minutes Read
Photographs by Soumik Kar, RA Chandroo and Vishal Koul

Editor N Mahalakshmi: I couldn’t have thought of better names for this discussion and the reason is that all the four gentlemen on the panel have been ‘fortunate’ to have faced adversity at some point in their career. So, starting with Mr. Narayanan, my first question is, just reflect on the most adverse moment in your career and tell me how did you cope and specifically, what are the two things you did that turned out to be beneficial in the future?

Suresh Narayanan: Well, I think there are some people who seem quite attracted to crisis and I count myself among them. My experience and that of my team in the last year-and-a-half handling the Maggi saga was probably the toughest part of my career so far. But I must say that it is not about me, it is about my people and I am extremely proud of the fact that they stood tall and it is they who have made a difference to this organisation. Of the things that I have learnt, the first is, in adversity manage yourself well because people are relying on your guidance and leadership. Secondly, take care of your people and be faithful to your purpose. 

BHARAT PURI, MD, Pidilite IndustriesMr. Puri, can you tell us more about how you handled your biggest career adversity?
Bharat Puri: Unlike Suresh I don’t think I consider myself as somebody who attracts crisis, and as my mother fondly says, “In life when you do something good, something bad might also happen, and if you face something bad, something good will also happen”. I recall being in Bangkok in 2003 with my team and we were being feted as unit of the year because it was October and we had almost met the year’s budget. Then I get this call saying there have been some cases of infestation in Cadbury chocolate and it’s on television. Now, all good food companies have some incident response teams and I thought our incident management team would handle it. 

But by the time we got back two days later to Mumbai, it had become a full blown crisis and people were demonstrating out

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