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BW Businessworld

This Is Time For Corporate Compassion: Suresh Narayanan, Chairman & MD, Nestlé India

There is a time for business, but now it is about people, purpose and partnerships before profit, says Suresh Narayanan, Chairman & MD, Nestlé India in a conversation with BW Businessworld’s Chairman & Editor-in-Chief Annurag Batra.

Photo Credit : Ritesh Sharma

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Excerpts:

On a leader’s mindset in crisis times…
Crisis never comes with a calling card. It lands on you and overtakes your emotions. The first task as an individual, and as a leader, is managing yourself. The need is to accept the new reality and still be positive and hopeful than just cautious. Rather than freezing and fleeing, you must have a right attitude. Behaviour is infectious. You must behave in a manner that gives people calmness, resoluteness and the belief that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Also, you must keep yourself active mentally and physically. Much of my time has gone in managing myself, and hence manage my team, and my extended family.

On key priorities during the pandemic…

One of the key tasks I took upon myself was to protect my people. First was to ensure they are safe. Then, in a situation of job losses and furloughs, I took a pledge to protect the jobs of my people. Jobs are more than remuneration; it is self-respect. My identity is reinforced with the position I hold in a company. I did not want my people to lose this. We spent time to remove the non-people cost in the business to keep us going. And we have been able to do it successfully. Taking care of people does not only mean your own team but also the extended family. I believe large companies are like banyan trees that safeguard an ecosystem. Greatness is in being compassionate. We must practice corporate compassion. There is a time for business but now is the time when people, purpose and partnerships come before profit.

On concerns around younger generation… 

Many youngsters in the country are in a difficult situation. People have reneged on offers and cancelled internships. We should be careful to not create a case of a lost generation. If we are unable to give new talent the right kind of exposure and nurturing, it will be very sad for the country. We focused attention on that part with Nesternships with the objective to engage students not lower ranked B-schools and colleges to apply for these internships. We opened a CV clinic for them and helped in their interview skills. We have received over 91,000 applications for this programme, which shows the hunger there is.

On the spirit of an organisation in new working style...
The pandemic was a huge lesson in enablement and empowerment with work from home (WFH). I have always believed give a person purpose, and magic happens. With a decent salary, recognition and an end motive larger than an individual, people can make anything happen. It has taught us good lessons. Firstly, meetings begin and end on time. We have some rules as well like no meetings after 6 PM or over the weekends. We find productivity to remarkably high. However, going forward, we must strive for a healthy balance. Organisational culture, ethos, storytelling can only happen when people come together. The spirit of the organisation is in the water culture. We should not lose this spirit.

This article was first published in the print issue of (10 July - 25 July) BW Businessworld.

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