Rajiv A. PoddarJoint Managing Director at Balkrishna Industries Ltd.

Balkrishna Industries Ltd., a conglomerate known for its flagship brand ‘BKT’, one of the worldwide leaders in Off-Highway Tires.

Born in 1984, Rajiv Poddar is currently the Jt. Managing Director of Balkrishna Industries Ltd., a listed company with global revenues exceeding $700 million.

He has trained extensively at the company’s plants learning about the manufacturing processes & travelled across the globe to get an insight of Off-Highway Tire markets, thereby developing a deep understanding of all aspects of the business.

He focused on the 3 M’s – Man, Machine & Method to lead BKT’s ambitious charge. An avid sports enthusiast, Rajiv actively participates in Marathons and plays or follows cricket in his free time. He is also active in various CSR activities, which has led to the establishment of “BKT:We Care” foundation, which focuses on Health & Education for the needy children.

1. What was the mandate given to you by the Board when you took over in your role?

To increase the Market share of the Company in the Off Highway Tires. To increase the global share from 3% to 10% and achieving leadership position in OHT segment for BKT

2. How much of that has been achieved? What were the challenges faced?

We have been able to take the share to around 6% and for taking the next step we have set up a green field project at Bhuj. This will increase the capacity by 80% with a capital outlay of over half a billion USD. This will help us reach our vision of 10% market share. The challenges we face is to find demand for the extra supply in the market place which currently is highly volatile.

3. How do you respond to the needs of changing market scenario (with an example)?

We are constantly following the market, trying to beat the volatility. We follow the “Kiss Theory”, thereby we try and keep things simple. We constantly upgrade our offerings with new products and upgraded versions of the earlier product to beat the competition and offer better services to the partners.   

4. What are the key challenges your organization is facing currently? And what are the steps you are taking?

Unfavourable business environment across the globe and frequent fluctuations in Foreign Exchange followed by geo-political issues in different parts of the world. We have improved our product basket by launching new products, have explored new markets for impactful penetration through effective supply chain management.

5. How have the changes in technology/globalization/economy affected your sector?

In our product category frequent technology changes do not happen however we have strong R & D centres to meet the technical and customized requirements. Globalization has helped us to reach different parts of the world and we have been able to establish our footprints in the off-highway tires segment with global OEM’s

6. What is your talent strategy? How do you draw the balance between home grown vs lateral hiring at the leadership level?

We provide excellent working environment which empowers our human resources to perform to their potential. Simple and well grounded performance management systems have evolved careers of majority staff members, our attrition rates are below 2%. We follow a policy of internal talent development, the pool is drawn out of fresh college graduates through campus hiring programs. They are inducted and trained to take-up higher responsibilities through structured training within a period of 3-5 years. Lateral hiring at leadership level is opportunistic.

7. How does your organization identify and develop future leaders?

Multiple opportunities are offered through job enlargement and empowerment. Trust and belief enables performance excellence for mission critical positions. Senior leadership provides role modeling behaviors and fosters intrinsic ownership, right intentions and attitude.

8. What are the 3 key aspects you look at when you hire your direct reportees?

Career stability of the incumbent, cultural fit and a keen learning attitude

9. How does the growth prospect of your organization look like for the next 12-24 months?

Though market is very tough there are feeble signs of improvement. However, based on our product and competitive strength we shall continue to grow as in the past.

10. Will there be any significant change in the market dynamics in next few years? If so, what steps are you taking for the same?

No, there would not be any significant changes during the period, we are confident of our product offerings and their performance which will offset any changes in market dynamics

11. In a world full of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity & Ambiguity (VUCA), innovation has become one of the most important factor to transform a crisis into an opportunity. How do you promote Innovation?

We have strong R & D centers which are well equipped to meet the challenges. Our new facility at Bhuj is one of the best in the World and will be rolling out niche products meeting stringent international standards. Creativity and innovation is encouraged across the organization through formal and informal forums.

12. How Indian leaders can become Global Leaders?

Indians have the inherent talent to adapt themselves to challenging situations and perform under adverse circumstances. In fact, they have the ability to include expats into their mainstream working culture and fully exploit their knowledge and experience.

13. What are the shortcomings and strengths of Indian Leaders?

We need to develop a belief in our team members which fosters belongingness and true employee engagement. Indian Leaders at times exhibit insecure behavior arising out of lack of people understanding skills. We need to work on this and adopt a trustworthy, collaborative and transparent approach.

14. What key lessons have you learnt from any mistakes, if any, made in the past? How would you do it differently?

Learnt to give ownership to people and delegate to the people as an individual you cannot do anything you need to carry your team with you.

15. How do you define & practice leadership?

Make Leaders, they will help you in the long run. They will not replace you. “A Captain is only as good as his team”. Therefore build your team, make people answerable, and give them a chance.