Last week I was sitting with my boss and a couple of other team mates and discussing about the new crop of the white skinned executives that are fast filling up the posts of CEOs in modern retail. The questions that whirled in our minds were one too many like, if it is because, there is a lack of talent in our own country? Or because they are bringing in experience of running much big organisations from there and are far richer in their experience and skills given the fact that the exposure was much bigger there to learn and apply rules to perfection?
Well, this seems too tricky given the fact that our desi CEOs are ready to cross swords on this example while citing names of various other companies that have done well under their stewardship.
Well, whatever the case, CEOs are synonymous to performance. As they say, in this dog eat dog world, only the fittest survive and with little help from any available literature on managing the growing modern retail business, the foreigners who come from advanced countries seem to be the best bet with their vast experience in managing big retail.
Retaining the CEOs
Well, it is easier said than done. The next question is what is it that the CEOs find so alluring in India?
Undoubtedly, the Indian retail is still nascent and growing while opening doors to vast opportunities for these foreigners who have gained experience over a long period of time in countries that have now outgrown modern retail to come here and use their expertise to establish the new business or stretch them to the required growth level.
Besides a heavy pay packet and stock options, profit sharing is the new enticement that the companies are using to attract executives. And the good news is that high-potential, high-performing executives are no longer interested in here-and-now wealth creation. They are willing to wait.
A lot of CEOs with pay packages in the range of Rs 1.5 crore to Rs 3 crore are even willing to look at a cut in pay and take a combo of wealth creation and entrepreneurial opportunity,” according to an insider from the industry.
Not to forget the charm of a foreigner sitting on the top chair for that value addition.
From the horse's mouth, per se
With so much being debated, I approached CEO of Reliance Digital, Brian Bade to get a little gyan on why according to him foreigners are being seen as big bets for organised retail?
He says, “It doesn’t matter whether a CEO is an Indian or a foreigner. Also, I do not agree that the Indians are no good. Because I think, they have all that it takes; Still, according to me, all CEOs, whether Indian or foreigner must have certain qualities like- they should be able to balance humility with an intense desire for success. They must be highly people oriented. They should be passionate about developing people and watching them grow. In the end that is the best reward. Of course I think they must be very transparent and open. A good CEO is not afraid to surround himself with people better than himself. In fact, that is the best way. Assemble the right team, decide on direction, and empower his team to execute the plan. Hold accountable as necessary, but teach first. They must set the values and pace for the organization. Also, a good CEO is extremely fact based and on a constant quest for true cause and effect".
He further refutes the fact that there is any school that can mould a CEO, “I don’t know if I think a school in India is the right answer. That can only teach so much. Good CEOs are a compilation of their values and experiences. I think a good mentor program is more critical. Teach leaders how to develop leaders. There is nothing more helpful than someone taking an interest in you".
Lastly, he talks about the new trend of hiring foreigners in modern retail, “Retail in India is growing and as such it is throwing vast opportunities to CEOs from foreign shores to come and make use of their expertise. As in advanced countries where they have managed 100 stores or more; they have the perfect skills and experience to apply here and take the still nascent retail to the next level. There is no school for making CEOs to manage the fast growing retail but only experience that we have brought from the advanced countries; we erred, we made trials, perfected, learned at every step and then practised over a long period of time".