Sunil GuptaChief Executive Officer of Avis India and Director of Avis India Investments Private Limited.

Sunil Gupta is the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Avis India and Director of Avis India Investments Private Limited. Avis is the only mobility Company in India which offers end-to-end mobility solutions – chauffeur-drive vehicles for short term rentals and long term rentals, vehicles for operating lease, self-drive and carpooling and fleet management services in India on contractual or subcription. Sunil is responsible for maximizing the profitability of the business, driving the strategic development of the Company and leveraging its expertise in fleet management for rapid growth. Since he joined the Company 10 years back, the Company’s revenue has grown nearly seven times, IT solutions have transformed the Company and Avis has become the No 1 rent-a-car company and one of the Top 3 operating lease companies in India. He

He has an experience of over 25 years in leading MNCs in India across consumer & business services and FMCG such as Hindustan Unilever and Thomas Cook. His skills in the areas of sales, marketing, business development and business re-structuring have helped in the creation and execution of strategies that have delivered high growth and profitability in diverse businesses.

He is a B Tech in Mechanical Engineering from IIT-Varanasi and a PGDM from Indian Institute of Management-Calcutta, followed by management development programs in Leadership and Strategy at Hult Business School, Ashridge, UK and Insead, Fontainebleau, France. During his career, he has won many awards for marketing in the Asia-Pacific Region.

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

When I joined 10 years back, the mandate was to restructure the Company, seize opportunities for rapid and profitable growth and deliver sustained returns.

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

Mandates are open-ended and the potential in India vast – there is always so much more to achieve! In the past 10 years, the Company has grown seven-fold to become a leader in the rapidly evolving mobility industry, becoming the No 1 rent-a-car company and among the top 3 operating lease companies in India. The range of mobility solutions range from a car for a short drop to the airport to a car on lease for 60 months. The primary challenge was to deliver a higher quality service in an industry with low entry barriers at a lower cost to the corporate customer. The challenge was met through industry-leading technological innovations, highly engaged employees, holding the customer at the center of our existence and embracing change in the industry.

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

The mobility industry is undergoing unprecedented disruption. New models of mobility are emerging in the shared economy, access to cars is becoming preferable to ownership, the engine powering the automobile itself is being upended and there is no consensus on the end state that will be reached. Therefore, one has to deal with a lot of complexity and ambiguity on a regular basis. This calls for keeping the core business financially strong while developing a “start-up” nous to navigate through emergent business models, customer preferences and technological changes.

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

Our sector is arguably going through the most disruptive phase in its history. Mobility is migrating towards Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS), blurring the boundaries between automobile manufacturers, sales channel, service-providers and fleet managers. Despite being pioneers of the shared economy since decades, a rash of new models – car rental, car sharing, ride-hailing, ride-sharing, car pooling – have emerged. Access to cars has become more preferred than ownership, leading to cars on subscription or lease. The vehicle itself is undergoing a metamorphosis from IC engines to electric, hybrid or hydrogen cell-powered and change is being driven not just by customers but also regulators wishing to control congestion and pollution. And finally, humans are being taken out of the mobility equation with the testing of autonomous and connected cars!

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

Our talent strategy can be summarised as select carefully, empower fully and retain smartly. Lateral hiring is done when this fails!

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

The organization believes strongly in empowerment – once the goal is broken-down into objectives, the individual is supposed to take ownership to navigate the waters. A lot of premium is placed on collaboration and team work so no one feels at sea while navigating. This process separates future leaders from the rest and they are further groomed through exposure to complexity and ambiguity and generation of self-awareness.

7. How do you define and practice leadership?

Leadership starts with the simple articulation of a shared goal broken down into bite-sized objectives relevant to team member, leads to the empowerment of team members to deliver their best and the removal of barriers to team collaboration and ends with remaining invested in the team’s success. Finally, live the leadership style in practice – authenticity and credibility are key.

8. How can Indian leaders become Global Leaders? *

Keeping in mind the globalised business environment, the shift of the center of gravity of world GDP towards Asia and the comfort Indian leaders have with VUCA, Indian leaders are well placed to become global leaders. To emerge from the Indian to the global stage, visibility across borders, breakthrough performance and adaptability are crucial – being in the right place at the right time is the icing on the cake.

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

While VUCA has become commonplace, thankfully the IT ecosystem has become democratized. With the emergence of the cloud, open-source software and smartphones, IT is no longer a preserve of the incumbents. This has led to an explosion of tech-led innovation in customer engagement, process re-engineering and service delivery. Innovation leads to agility, adaptability and management of rapid change and mitigates the impact of VUCA.

10. What are the 3 most pivotal moments in your career that you either learned from and/or that got you where you are today?

Moving from FMCG to services was unfamiliar terrain but it enabled me to keep learning while developing a tool-kit of core competencies. 2. I was lucky to have migrated continuously from sales to business development to marketing to operations to business leadership roles across sectors and categories and have therefore been able to draw on an array of know-hows and capabilities whenever required. 3. A diversity of experiences and a positive attitude towards change is best for dealing with business exigencies and disruption.

11. What message would you like to share with young professionals at the start of their career?

Be adaptable and open to change at all times, always offer your boss at least two solutions to problems to choose from, have a bias for action over analysis and collaborate, collaborate, collaborate!