Saying it as it is!
My biggest learning here at Mahindra AFS is to say it as it is! You don’t have to count your responses or hide; you are encouraged to speak up.
My Mahindra Journey
My journey with Mahindra started in 2010 when Mahindra was considering getting into the media business. Having worked with one of the biggest media company for a decade, I had the exposure and experience, which was ready to be tapped into with a fresh perspective.
I was called in for a chat with the leadership team and went through the various selection processes and met a lot of interesting people along the way. However, the day I met Mr. Anand Mahindra, the conversations were completely different from that of a regular interview.
I remember going home and telling my wife that it would be great if I got an opportunity to work with Anand!
(Yes! On day one itself it was clear that Mahindra operates on a first name basis).
My biggest learning at Mahindra
Initially hired to spearhead Mahindra’s entry into the media business, we started working on various options.
I still remember this big presentation that we made to Anand. At the end of the presentations, he asked me, “What do you think?” I simply said, “Don’t do it”.
We had worked on the project for six months; invested time, effort and money, and here I was saying – don’t do it. I was just talking myself out of a job! But, in the six months, I had been here, my first big learning was to simply ‘say it as it is!’ You don’t need to hide or count your responses. And, that’s what’s expected too – to say it as it is!
The Opportunity to Explore
Subsequently, taking into consideration the expertise that I got on the table and the potential that the management saw in me, I was given an opportunity to explore the two wheelers business.
I went into two-wheelers to help with the ideation and planning for electric two-wheelers in North America (now known as the GenZe) as well as provide support to the domestic two-wheeler business. The best part was, with every passing year, I had one new function added to my role!
In March 2014, I was made Chief of Operations for Mahindra Two Wheelers and we merged the two-wheeler business with AFS.
At Mahindra AFS and being a part of Rajesh Jejurikar’s team, things got more interesting. With greater independence and authority came greater responsibility. We didn’t have to wait to be told what to do. We had to go ahead and just get it done!
While the business continued to be challenging, it was a huge learning experience. I kept learning, doing and growing in a manner that in February 2015, I got a call from Rajesh Jejurikar, one afternoon, asking me, “What do you think about moving to Chandigarh and Swaraj?’ My instant response – Yes! I would love to!
Very few organisations have the maturity at leadership levels, to separate the individual’s capabilities from the business results. From a struggling business, I was being given the keys to the jewel in the crown.
— Viren Popli (@virenpopli) January 21, 2016
It is the sheer confidence and independence with which Mahindra, as an organisation, lets you work that kindles a sense of responsibility, passion, commitment and drive.
Brand Strategy for Swaraj Tractors
When it comes to the vision for Swaraj, there is a clear two-brand strategy – the Mahindra brand and Swaraj. In my mind, the game is that one of these brands will be number one and the other will be at number two. As of now, Mahindra is the number one brand. Swaraj, on the other hand, is doing extremely well too. Both brands are working hard to increase their market share. This builds a healthy competitive environment within the organisation. At the same time, it allows us to compete more aggressively with the outside world. In certain areas, we collaborate, while in many areas, we compete.
— Viren Popli (@virenpopli) April 13, 2016
The aim is to deliver to the customer better, differentiated products and service offerings and that’s exactly what we wish to keep doing.
Experience at Swaraj Tractors
One of my unique experiences is when I used to meet the people who are retiring in various organisations. When I’d ask them, “How has the journey been?” 8 out of 10 times, they would list out their achievements. However, here at Swaraj, the whole response is different. They tell me, “Swaraj has given me a house, a car, it has helped me educate my children, and it has given me a career.”
At Swaraj, it is not what they have done for the company; it is what the company has done for them!
The Factors of Success at Mahindra
There are 3-4 things that are most critical to the success of any organisation.
Firstly, a shared vision that excites everyone. Everyone should see the ‘What’s in it for me?’ factor. You, as a leader, must be able to get that shared direction or committed goal for everyone.
Secondly, it is communication with the teams and building engagement. A leader must be able to provide the environment that lets team members to get on with their job. You need to empower and not keep looking over their shoulder, continuously giving advice. The team has to own it as much as the leader.
The team with the bike of the year award!! Many others who weren't present but deserved to be just as much! pic.twitter.com/UeLgmLcfc9
— Viren Popli (@virenpopli) December 21, 2013
Give people the confidence that if they fail, there will always be someone to support them and have their back. It is evident, in a culture like this, failing means you’re trying! And that is what is appreciated (just don’t make a habit of it!)
The Distinguishing Factor at Swaraj Tractors
Once an employee was out of town and his daughter here met with an accident. Someone from Swaraj took his daughter to the hospital, got her operated, paid the bill and when he came back, everything was already sorted! Till today, 15 years on, the father is still trying to figure out who it was that helped out so that he can thank the person and repay the amount spent. These are the things that hit you at the core.
Making the world a better place with RISE!
Rise to me is about making the world a better place – be it at home, at work, at our customers’ home or for those who we will never know and to let them Rise. Guided by this thought makes taking tough decisions easy.
— Viren Popli (@virenpopli) September 23, 2015
Rise doesn’t leave you as a hard-nosed businessman but opens you up to influences that are beyond the numbers!
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