India Inc Links Up to Coaches

Former CEOs are coaching senior leaders to prevent stagnation and transform organisations
A couple of weeks ago, Neeraj Kakkar, CEO of Hector Beverages, which sells traditional beverages under the brand Paper Boat, was gearing to launch two new drinks -Nimbu Pani and Chilli Guava. Days before the launch, his coach and mentor Devendra Chawla, g roup president -food FMCG, brands at Future Group, cautioned him that these flavours do not mix we l l w i t h t h e Paperboat brand.Kakkar took the advice and aban doned the launches, incurring a loss of `55 lakh. “But I felt happy that I did not escalate the mistake. A coach is someone you trust and respect and that’s why I went with his judgement,“ said Kakkar.In this specific instance, Chawla played the role of an informal mentor, but more and more CEOs and CXOs of both new age startups and large companies are increasingly reaching out for formal coaching and mentoring.


The Aditya Birla Group, Wipro and Godrej, among others, are roping in former CEOs to coach their CEOs and senior leaders to prevent stagnation, transform organisations and hold a mirror to where they need to course correct.

At Wipro the entire topline comprising of CEO TK Kurien’s direct re por tees is being coached.“Coaching is no longer a taboo for organisations that (now) see it as a performance enhancement rather than a performance correction tool,“ said Abhijit Bhaduri, chief learning officer at Wipro. “There is a mind shift about coaching.“

The focus is on getting people to work on many dimensions, improving strategic perspective, enhancing collaboration, and improving communication.

Former CEOs like Ravi Venkatesan, for mer chair man of Microsoft India; Punita Lal, former CEO of NourishCo, a joint venture between PepsiCo and Tata Global Beverages; Sanjay Gupta, former MD and CEO of American Express; Prakash Iyer, former managing director of Kimberly-Clark, are taking on CEO coaching and some of them are undergoing formal certification to coach CEO and CXOs through uncertain times.

“Experienced CEOs as coaches bring their rich professional experience to bear in a coaching relationship. Many retired CEOs find it a meaningful exercise and something humanly fulfilling for themselves,“ says Santrupt Misra, CEO, carbon black business and director, global HR at Aditya Birla Group.

Agrees Chawla: “Even the mentor has to stay relevant in this knowledge economy . With changing technology and new business models emerging faster, the context of leadership needs to be updated.“ Vivek Gambhir, managing director of Godrej Consumer Products, is occasionally mentored by Ireena Vittal, an independent member of board.Narendra Ambwani, another independent director on GCPL board too informally coaches the top leadership team based on requirements.

Ravi Venkatesan former chairman of Microsoft India s ay s m o re a n d more CEOs are seeking help to identify where they are going wrong.


“Can you think of having a top class tennis player with out a coach? Incresations are realising asingly organisations are realising that coaching is an important tool to keep senior leadership mentally, emotionally and intellectually engaged,“ said Sanjay Gupta, former MD and CEO of American Express, American Express, who is working with several large org anisations to coach their top leadership teams.

“Effective leaders are those who can have an effective conversation.Quite often leaders are underskilled and underexposed in the basics of communication,“ said Gupta. Also, things are changing at tremendous pace and organisations have to constantly keep changing in an environment where the future is difficult to predict.

Coaching is also becoming more prevalent with significant stress on leaders who have to deal across generations and geographies.

Great managers always do not make the cut as good leaders and organisations want to help them transform into leaders. “Companies are showing greater willingness to bet on their own people before looking outside for talent,“ said Prakash Iyer, for mer managing director of Kimberly-Clark, who is now engaged with senior management and CEOs as a coach to help them transition.

A coach becomes a sounding board and holds up a mirror to the coachee.

“Organisations are looking for any support that can help them cope with difficult times. There is a greater re ceptivity among companies to un learn and relearn,“ said Smita Anand, managing director, leader ship and talent consulting practice in India, for KornFerry International.

Typically, one such engagement could be of 6-12 months’ duration. If one coach handles 6-10 coachees a year it is a great business model, said Navnit Singh, chairman and manag ing director of India for KornFerry International, which has a network of coaches. Each such engagement could fetch `20-50 lakh.

Deepak Jayaraman, consultant, Egon Zehnder, who is a certi fied CEO coach, said organ isations are beginning to realise human capital is not a cost item but a revenue item.

“Secondly, with the VUCA nature of the world, organisations are betting more on potentials than expe riences. Increasingly top management age is becoming lower.

Some of these leaders have an inherent spark but need a pair of hands to help them navigate,“ he added.

Said Punita Lal, “Being a CEO is a lonely job; the challenges of the role and complex organisational structures are forcing CEOs to seek outside perspectives to clear their mind.“ She said the ability of the coach to understand the mindset of the coachee is critical. “Whether they come from established companies or startups, you have to have a passion for developing people and building teams.“

Source: The Economic Times



Neeraj; an entrepreneur & a visionary in the field of Railway, Defense & Automobiles, is a graduate in commerce and a Harvard Business School Alumni. He’s an expert in govt. liasoning & contracting and has an exceptional network & connections at both local as well as global level. He’s an expert in Market Strategy & Planning and has served number of overseas companies as an advisor/consultant. He takes a profound interest in upcoming startups & is very receptive towards ground-breaking ideas & innovations. He likes to brainstorm those ideas and if the values & philosophies matches; he is even ready to invest his resources, serve as a mentor or act as an incubator to futuristic businesses.

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