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volume 02 Issue 11 Rs.50 November 2011 A 9.9 Media Publication

CFO India 2nd Anniversary Special volume

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An n 2 Sp ive nd ec rs ia ar l y CFO India 2nd Anniversary Special volume

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volume 02 Issue 11 Rs.50 November 2011 A 9.9 Media Publication


Inside

CFO november  |  2011

Collector’s Edition Regular

06|LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

MARATHON MEN

10|YM DEOSTHALEE 12|s mahalingam 14|GAUTAM SEN 16|bhaswar mukherjee 18|s durgashankar 20|v balakrishnan 22|ajay seth 24|ravi sud 26|jaimin bhatT Cover design: PC Anoop

CROSS COUNTRY RUNNERS

28|SUSHIl AGARWAL 30|GIRISH BHAT 32|SUNIL KAKAR 34|Gopal Mahadevan 36|ANUP VIKAL 38|Urmil Khurana 40|prasad devatha 42|RAJ DUTTA

MIDDLE DISTANCE CHAMPS

44|giri giridhar 46|br jaju 48|sunjoy podaar 50|sugata sircar 52|neeta revankar 54|yogesh dhingra 56|sujit sircar 58|devraj doss

ACE SPRINTERS

60|s varadaraj 62|kamal pande 64|nishant fadia 66|ajay narain 68|charanjit attra 70|gulshan dua 72|s varadarajan 74|sandEEp chatterjee 76|sathya kalyanasundaram 78|Indranil Deb 80|joydeep nag

the power of 2

84|Bejan Daruwalla

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from the

editor

Anuradha Das Mathur anuradha.mathur@9dot9.in

In keeping with the spirit of ‘two’...

Time flies. It seems like yesterday when we launched CFO India and we are already set for the 2nd anniversary special. In the run up, our edit meets have been overwhelmed with exploring different dimensions of ‘two’. The power of two, two is company, ‘two’ good... and it goes on. For my column, I was keen to explore the significance of the number – but lost out to Bejan Daruwalla on that one and have no regrets whatsoever! You won’t either. Contemplating the significance of ‘two’, I was struck by the fact that on one hand we espouse the power of ‘two’, on the other it delivers the bane of ‘duality and contradictions’. Psychologists have had a field day over the years sorting the complexity created by the ‘coexistence’ of opposites, as have many others. But nowhere is this truer than for ‘India’ – home to more than a billion people. At a micro level, this fact translates into intense diversity; and at an aggregated level, it gives birth to the notion of ‘two Indias’. Per se, duality or contradictions shouldn’t matter. But they do when focus or trade-offs are required. Consider the following examples: • 1 0 richest Indians account for almost 12% of the country’s GDP. Simultaneously, India is home to more than 33% of the global poor. • India has a woman President, a woman Speaker in Parliament and a woman who runs the ruling party. Three Indian states are run by women. But alongside, India has a declining girl child ratio and shocking incidents of female foeticide. On gender equality, according to the UNDP Human Development report, India ranks 129 in a list of 190. • The last couple of years have witnessed huge political scams and corruption in the bureaucracy. But alongside, civil society is being coopted into writing an anti-corruption law. In several of these cases, resources and attention get divided because the action required to an issue is diametrically opposed to the other choice. The truth is that this ‘duality’ is here to stay at least for our lifetime. In my view, we don’t really have the option to make trade-offs. We need to create and find a way to address and bolster both ends of our duality and the entire range in between. Stopping leaks from the system - and significantly enhancing the resources at hand - would be a good place to get started. What do you think?

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Letters

CFO INDIA

November 2011

Carbon: are we aware?

WINNING

THE WARON

CARBON

Your cover package (Winning the War on Carbon, October 2011) was an eye-opener. I hope the data and the successful examples that the CDP report mentions will encourage more companies to look at sustainable development seriously. —N Krishna Reddy, VP Finance, KYT Energy Solutions, Pune

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COVER STORY

COVER STORY

Corporations have finally realised that lowering their carbon count is not just good for the earth, but also helps the company’s bottom line. CXOs of four organisations talk about how business looked up after they reduced their carbon footprints in a systematic manner DHIMAN CHATTOPADHYAY ANIL T

he new world war is on. However, this is one war where most countries are on the same side, since this is a battle against carbon emissions to secure the lives of future generations. And while individuals and groups have initiated significant initiatives to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions at the local and community levels, the onus really is on the thousands of large and mid-sized corporations across the world, who together generate more carbon footprints than any community. Even as a decade ago many coprorations and their boards felt going green was synonymous to “looking good but becoming poorer”. Maybe the global economic crisis changed the way business now looks at carbon emissions. Maybe it is also partly fear that there may not be a world fit to live in unless matters changed soon. But as the Global Carbon Disclosure Project Report for 2011 observes, that for the first time, “commercial interests are

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driving organisational efforts to reduce carbon footprints.” This collective realisation was clearly visible when I recently interacted with 20 CXOs of some of the world’s largest and greenest corporations in a global virtual conference conducted simultaneously across nine cities and three continents. Many of the companies at the conference such as SAP, Kingfisher (UK), Du Pont, and Tata Group, explained how reducing their carbon footprints had actually led to significant reductions in costs over a period of two to three years, increased efficiency, heightened productivity and had ultimately, led to a big jump in the profit margins. There is no better way to argue in favour of a green strategy than by showcasing some great success stories. So we thought it ideal to highlight the best practices that some of the greenest organisations have undertaken. In each case, their costs have reduced significantly and their profit margins become healthier. The returns on investments have taken less than three years.

OCTOBER 2011

Waiting for Photographs

Hats off to all of you for a very well-organised CFO Leadership Conclave. The theme of the conference ‘When Nothing is Sure, Everything is Possible’, genuinely defines the environment in which present day CFOs work – surrounded by uncertainties and yet confident of delivering their best. It is not often that we come across a group of people who show such great enthusiasm to learn more about their profession, and it was a great opportunity to be a part of such an elite gathering. Every topic shared and discussed added to our knowledge and will definitely strengthen the financial community and India Inc in general. Knowledge sharing being a very important constituent of every professional’s life, such conclaves provide a common ground to interact. On a lighter note, it was fun to see so many senior finance executives exchange their suits for white flannels and play cricket. Overall, I really enjoyed the conclave. I would love to be a part of such events in future too. — Charanjit Attra, CFO & Head, Structured Securities Group, ICICI Securities, Mumbai

I have recently taken over as Group CEO of the Spa Group. While I continue to be an active member and supporter of the CFO Institute and CFO India, I would be happy if you let me know how my current finance team including the finance controller can become a member of your forum. Also, I am still waiting to see the photographs of our 2nd Annual CFO Leadership Conclave. Will you kindly upload the photographs on your website? — Kamal Pande, Group CEO, The Spa Group, Gurgaon

CFO india

November 2011

CFO INDIA

Your voice can make a change: Share your viewpoint on what’s happening in the community and your feedback on the magazine at editor@cfo-india.in

Enlightening Conclave

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OCTOBER 2011

Wake up India Inc The October issue of CFO India covered a really serious and top-of-the-mind issue, that of carbon emissions. As a nation if we do not seriously start tracking and reducing our carbon footprints systematically from now on, our children and grandchildren may not have much of a world to live in. As the examples you give clearly show, one can go green and yet remain profitable as an organisation. It is a shame that many Indian companies still do not treat the issue of carbon emissions as a top priority. It is time India Inc woke up. — Ananjoy Sen Sharma, CA, Kolkata

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CFO Collector’s Edition

That Good Feeling

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ever, brings me to a big one we faced when deciding t feels great to be a year older. It really does, when the order in which the articles were to appear. you are as young as we are. It also has something The easiest way was to carry them in alphabetical to do with the go-getter attitude of the commuorder, but we wanted to put so many of the writers nity that we represent. So, we chose to celebrate up front, and unfortunately, the names of all CFOs CFO India’s Second Anniversary (it may seem do not begin with ‘A’. So we thought of bunching like we have been around forever, but we are just them according to the size of their companies and, two years old), by asking 36 of the country’s leading in some cases, according to the sectors they are in. Chief Financial Officers to become journalists for a Then we had our eureka moment: why not categorise few hours and write about two memorable moments them into four categories of athletes? After all, these in their career — a big challenge they overcame and eminent people and their companies all represent a big win — successes that made them feel ‘2 good’. something remarkable. For some it is about stamina The memories and the experiences that the CFOs or about technique while for others it is speed and have written about are as rich and varied as the list strategy, much like athletes who compete across of contributors. From IPOs that almost failed, tricky different distances. So does ‘size mergers and computerising bank matter’ or do we think ‘the best branches to turning around loss things come in small packages’? making units, creating blueprints We will keep you guessing on that for risk management and in one one, but what we are sure of is that case at least, becoming a CFO the following 70-odd pages will after spending half a lifetime in keep you interested, thanks to the programming and HR — the stofascinating experiences shared by ries you will read in the following some of the most respected finanpages are sure to keep you glued to cial leaders in India. Go ahead and this edition. Talking about challenges how—Dhiman Chattopadhyay turn the page! november 2011

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“Our operating margins have gone up from seven per cent in 2004 to over 12 per cent in 2011” —YM Deosthalee

Chairman & MD, L&T Finance Holdings

Creating a risk management blueprint for L&T that resulted in the company’s operating margins going up by 40 per cent over the next five years, is Mr YM Deosthalee’s ‘2 Good’ moment

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n my over four-decade long career, 37 of them at L&T, I have seen a sea change in the way corporations are run. I have faced several tough professional challenges throughout my life and also been fortunate enough to be a part of several successful projects.

Caricature by RETHISH K R

My Biggest Challenge It is difficult to talk about one particular challenge when one has been through so many, or talk about one success as the ‘most cherished’, without being unfair to another. However, one of the more recent challenges that stands out in my mind is when we decided to create an overall risk management blueprint for all our projects. It was a huge task and the end result — a strategy that today almost works like a blueprint for all our projects and is one of our most cherished successes in recent years. Sometime in the middle of the previous decade it struck me that we did not have an overall, well-developed risk management strategy to ensure we identified risks early and managed it better. We took it on as a challenge, and I, along with some of my core team members, convinced the management about the importance of risk management, not only from the finance point of view, but also from an overall ‘business risk’ perspective. The real challenge came next: how to institutionalise a strategy in a large,

diversified company like ours, which had a significant presence and operations in different geographies, undertook various kinds of infrastructure projects and boasted of vastly different customer sets? That a strong risk management model was crucial for a company that depended so much on winning projects and completing them successfully, was apparent. In fact, how to ensure that we make reasonable assumptions and do not go overboard with proposals which are high risk, was a question that had been bothering me for quite some time.

A Cherished Success

up with a detailed risk management strategy that suited our business. Today, when our project proposals are viewed by everyone, from the project manager right up to the president, they look at the risk management aspect systematically and diligently. I am proud to say that our ability to understand and manage risk has

LESSONS

The CFO and his team will increasingly need to focus on risk management.

It so happened, we did not Understanding not just need to make a hypothetical financial risk, but also the overall presentation to the management. business risk, will help a CFO A particular project, just around better understand the the time, provided us with a fundamentals of the perfect opportunity to showcase the business he is in. urgent need for a well-articulated risk management strategy. I will not name the project or the country where it was being undertakimproved greatly after we created the blueen, but let’s just say we suffered badly print. Let me give you just one example: due to a few ill-calculated risks. It was our operating margins have gone up from a prestigious international project and seven per cent in 2004, to over 12 per cent the bad risks led to significant financial in 2011. The importance we give to risk losses. Over the next few months, we management can be understood from engaged with two leading consulting another example too: all new entrants to firms and spent long hours at work our company today are made to understudying global best practices and going stand about business risk management as through reams of documents to come a part of their orientation.


“For six months, I would spend 16 hours at the TCS office...and be back at work early next morning” —S Mahalingam CFO & ED, Tata Consultancy Services

Mr S Mahalingam’s biggest challenge came when he took over as CFO at TCS after spending decades in programming and HR. It also proved to be his most successful career move!

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2 Good

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t was early February 2003. In the midst of an operations review in Chennai office, I got a call from Mr S Ramadorai (Ram), CEO, asking me to come to Mumbai for a discussion on organisational restructuring. That call set in motion a major change in responsibility. After three decades in TCS, I was poised to come full circle in terms of my career.

LESSONS

Dare to accept new roles, always take up challenges. Those who have the ability to learn, will grow faster. Broaden your thinking and do not remain inward looking.

Caricature by RETHISH K R

My Biggest Challenge In 1970, immediately after qualifying as a chartered accountant, inspired by the technology wave, I chose to join Tata Consultancy Services. It had just been set up as a division within the Tata Group. Though a finance role would have been a logical choice, I took up programming and systems design. “If it’s all ones and zeroes, how hard can it be,” I reasoned! That was the start of an exciting journey, as I helped to shape the business of TCS. I designed and developed IT Systems for clients in India and abroad, marketed TCS globally and helped set up a big development centre in Madras (now Chennai). TCS was growing at a fast pace and I soon started looking after the Training, and subsequently, the HR Departments. I moved to Madras in 1983, and over the next 20 years, I stayed there. Talks of corporatising TCS and listing it had occurred intermittently in

the 1980s and 90s. Around 2002, the plans concretised. Building a finance function was an immediate requirement and with the commencement of IPO activity, the need for a CFO to drive the complex IPO process, create and manage the finance department of an organisation that had crossed $1 bn in turnover that year, was acutely felt. Ram and Mr Ishaat Hussain, Finance Director at Tata Sons, decided to offer me this post. That was the background of Ram’s call that day in February 2003. I accepted the position after a short discussion with them at Bombay House. But at that time I did not realise fully the enormity of the transformational task on hand.

A Cherished Success For the next six months, I’d spend 16 hours at the TCS office; head over to the guest house for dinner; and after a few hours of sleep would be back at

work early next morning. The IPO process was complex, as we had to carve out a large business from Tata Sons that extended overseas and to Indian subsidiaries. The legal process had already been decided. But I had the task of drawing up the accounts and also producing it under US GAAP. I needed to work on the reorganisation of the finance department. I also had to make our ERP System more responsive and build a matching MIS. My ability to spot talent at many Tata entities and weld them into a team at TCS was of immense use. My knowledge in the IT area helped in automation. We ended up completely revamping the department. We also continuously added competencies as we grew both organically and inorganically. The IPO came in July 2004, and was a major success. Over the years, the finance department has contributed extensively to the sharpening of the operational process and setting up of strategic direction of TCS. Looking back, the long and circuitous route I took to get here probably gave me a holistic and strategic context for the finance function and helped me put in place a world-class finance organisation at TCS. For someone who moved into the finance role in 2003, it was satisfying to be inducted into the CFO India’s CFO Hall of Fame in 2010.


“They all realised the sacrifice they were making was for a greater cause” —Gautam Sen Director Finance, RCF

Mr Gautam Sen writes about winning over trade union leaders to cooperate during a financial crisis and overcoming a complex forex payment challenge

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bout a decade back, when I was the Director, Finance of another organisation, the company in question found itself facing a possible shutdown before we managed to effect a major turnaround.

Caricature by RETHISH K R

My Biggest Challenge While the story of this remarkable turnaround has been well documented, what is relatively less known is how we tackled an equally huge challenge, that of managing to convince the heavily unionised workforce to collaborate with us instead of opposing our moves. At the peak of the crisis we knew we would be forced to shut down some of our plants temporarily till we managed to shift over to another system. As the CFO, I ensured that every member of the work force was paid his or her salary and on time. However, all perks and additional income were stopped. Despite knowing the real situation, some trade union leaders fomented trouble and tried capitalising on the low morale of the employees, threatening to go on strike. We could have gone on the offensive perhaps, but I decided that the best way would be to take them all into confidence. I met the union leaders in a closed-door meeting and brought them up to date on the situation. I then told them that it was a matter of survival for us all. I told them as the leader of the largest component of our organisa-

tion – its vast workforce – they had the power to make or break this struggle. Once they felt empowWhen taking on a ered and realised the gravity of big challenge, it is wise to the problem, they agreed to involve all key stakeholders in back us. the mission. Empowering our After that we met the union colleagues will always help. leadership regularly and they Always observe the market in turn met the labour force conditions and be aware of to pass on the information. global happenings. Learn Amazingly, they all realised the to make fast, informed sacrifices they were making was decisions. for a greater cause. Perhaps what clinched it was the realisation that while the management would get other jobs based on their qualifications, they would MIS system was developed to track remain jobless unless we could manage daily payment obligations. the turnaround. That we finally managed I also observed that there were several not only to clear our debts and reopen the derivatives in the market and if we went factories but posted record profits in two for any of these to cover our risks, we years time as well, was in no small way would not gain much. So I told the due to the amazing collaboration and help team to focus primarily on forward we received from the entire labour force. booking. I also included the entire team on the mobile update platform which meant they would get instant updates A Cherished Success on forex rates through the day. At RCF we have a huge forex payment Around the same time we took obligation because of our need to another decision – to go for dollar import raw materials and finished loans instead of rupee loans. Instead of goods. This sometimes leads to taking paying an 11 per cent interest on Rupee calculated risks, depending on currency loans, we took six-month Buyers Credit fluctuations. In 2008, there was a Loans in dollars at just three per cent significant amount of forex loss because interest. of this fluctuation. I had just joined The following financial year, 2008and I quickly realised that this needed 09, was a rather volatile one in terms to be fixed. I immediately formed a of currency fluctuations, but because committee that included the treasury we had put these systems in place, we head, to henceforth oversee all hedging made a substantial forex gain. issues and take appropriate action. An

LESSONS


”It makes me really happy when our HR team talks about RoI” —Bhaswar Mukherjee Director, Finance, HPCL

Mr B Mukherjee writes on dealing with a cash crunch, and a successful job rotation plan

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orking in the petroleum industry in India means we are constantly dealing with challenges, whether related to liquidity issues, treasury management or cost rationalisation.

Caricature by Raj Verma

My Biggest Challenge One of my biggest challenges has been to manage the treasury in such a way that we are never short of cash. Not an easy task when you consider that we sell fuel at a highly subsidised rate every day, but the government compensates us annually, at the end of 13 or 14 months. We were used to living with constant pressure on liquidity. Yet cash is always needed, especially as we import 85 per cent of our crude. Further, we have to make fresh investments at the refineries every time the country moves up the Euro ladder, to make sure the sulphur content in the fuel comes down by a factor of 10 whenever we move from, say, Euro-III to Euro-IV. I knew this was a problem that could not be wished away. It needed proactive and innovative steps from the CFO, and I was determined to tackle this huge treasury challenge. To begin with, therefore, we made a conscious decision to go in for external commercial borrowing to plug this gap. In two tranches, we raised $500 mn, and we are in the process of raising another $250 mn. We have also taken recourse to forex borrowing to

reduce interest costs while keeping an eye on hedging requirements. Additionally, we are looking at oil bonds while being conscious of hedging to prevent market losses. I am happy to say today that we have achieved significant success through these steps and have greatly reduced the pressure on liquidity. The reason tackling this challenge made me feel so good was because HPCL’s annual investment needs are around Rs 5,000 crore at present, and successfully dealing with the treasury challenge has given us that much more liquidity to march ahead with confidence.

and ‘bean-counters’, I decided to make a conscious attempt to make finance part of the business and even to get my colleagues in finance to drive strategy across business units. The message was clear: we did not want anyone or any department to work in a silo. To begin with, we made the core finance team quite lean and moved a majority of them outside finance, a practice that continues to this day. Slowly they became part of different strategic business units (SBUs) and started understanding other areas of business. What this also did was to make executives in operations, marketing, sales and HR aware of financial issues and strateA Cherished Success gy. Today it makes me really happy when One of the biggest successes of my I see finance people taking an active part tenure is one which is not strictly in driving marketing or HR strategy, or financial in nature. In 2008-09, after when our HR team talks about 'Return years of listening to finance executives on Investment' and 'human capital'. I being referred to as ‘inward-looking’ am proud of this alignment of finance with business. All my finance colleagues now believe they are stakeholders. Yes, there was some initial confusion and reluctance to step into uncharted Be alert about your territory, but when they realised economic and political this experience outside finance surroundings. The challenge of was making them better promanaging a treasury in this volatile fessionals, they started enjoymarket is an outward-looking activity, ing it. Imagine today an ED so keep abreast of currency behaviour or a GM of finance sitting in and reasons for upheavals. You will be different strategy meetings able to predict outcomes better. and being part of the decisionThere is no replacement for making team in the marketing teamwork. Step out of your or HR departments. Seeing all of comfort zone at least them add so much value to the overonce. all growth of the company gives me a great feeling.

LESSONS


“Achieving the near-impossible at Satyam was my greatest moment” —S Durgashankar Executive VP, M&A, Mahindra & Mahindra

Mr S Durgashankar writes on restating the accounts of fraudhit Satyam and the sheer joy when his team succeeded in this superhuman effort

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he exercise of restating the accounts at Satyam, after joining as its CFO in June 2009, post M&M’s takeover of the fraud-hit IT firm, posed numerous challenges. However, it provided quite a few lessons for me as well. While many were technical or subject related, the ones I value the most are the personal ones — relating to self as well as people.

that wooed him earlier with discounts, were refusing him credit. Banks stopped issuing credit cards. Overall, there was a cloud of despondency. As for the fraud, it was immediately clear that it was being perpetrated over a long period. Literally hundreds of the thousand entries had been falsified. Around 10 regulatory/investigative agencies — both domestic and

My Biggest Challenge

Caricature by Shankar Pamarthy

LESSONS

In many major international frauds that have come to light, the fraud The never-say-die period usually was around twospirit is the most important three years and the number of characteristic of a leader. As falsified entries were not large. Winston Churchill said: “Never, never, In most cases, the accounting never give up”. restatement job was relatively easier since many of these Secondly, while difficult jobs can be companies were eventually accomplished with determination wound up, and in some other and a cool head, it requires cases, the accounting team pursuing of a higher purpose had unfettered access to the to accomplish the nearrecords. Despite this, many of these impossible ones. companies took between three-five years to restate their accounts. Let me now give you an idea of the atmosphere that I faced when I joined. international, were simultaneously The Satyam employees were till then carrying out investigations. The regarded as the blue-eyed boys of the number of investigators within our Andhra belt society. Post the scam, the premises often outnumbered our future of the company was suddenly finance staff. The problem was further far from certain — we had lost more compounded due to heavy attrition. I than 40 per cent of business in the first had to face a completely new set of six months amidst heavy customer internal and statutory auditors. To add attrition. The Satyamite found to his to our woes, the CBI, as part of their dismay that the same establishments

investigation, had seized a godown full of records. In sum, the assignment was to unravel fraud and restate accounts of a US $1 plus bn-enterprise with operations in 67 countries. Frankly, there were many days, when I had to restrain the panic within me and force myself not to yield to the temptation of just getting up and running away.

A Cherished Success If ever there was an example of team effort taking on impossible challenges, this was one. It required a large team of committed professionals to go way beyond their comfort zones. Due to the humungous work load, the finance department was stretched not just intellectually but also to the very limit of their physical endurance. The entire team had to work daily into the wee hours of the morning (including Sundays), for months together. The pressure was so high that some of the employees developed breathlessness at work and others had to be compulsorily sent home after complaints of giddiness and vomiting — all symptoms of high stress. How does one motivate a demotivated team to reach beyond themselves and achieve the near impossible? With the benefit of hindsight, my own reflections, as well as the many discussions I had with the concerned individuals, I learnt many valuable lessons. This was indeed my “2 good moment”.


“Our annual report won the Best Presented Accounts from ICAI for 11 years” —V Balakrishnan CFO, Infosys

Mr V Balakrishnan reveals how his inability to say ‘no’ to Mr Narayana Murthy led to his biggest challenge. Of course, he also owes his greatest success to Infosys

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nfosys is one of the few success stories in modern corporate India. As a company it set standards for financial reporting, corporate governance and board conduct. It showed the world that you can create and share wealth through legal and ethical means.

Caricature by RETHISH K R

My Biggest Challenge I joined Infosys in 1991 and my 20 years here have taught me great lessons in life. While several challenging moments that I went through whiz through my mind, it is always the first major challenge I faced in the early part of my career that takes precedence. One year after listing in India, sometime in 1994, Mr Narayana Murthy called both Mohan and me (Mr Mohandas Pai, the then CFO) and told us that we needed to adopt the best accounting standards in the world. He told us to look at the possibility of preparing our financial statements as per the US GAAP. This was much before our listing in the US in 1999. At Infosys we never say ‘no’ to Mr Murthy. So we said yes without having a clue as to what US GAAP was all about. Once I started the project, the magnitude of the work involved looked overwhelming. US GAAP is not only about the accounting standards published by IASB, but also includes various explanatory notes and guidance issued by SEC including speeches made by SEC commissioner in various forums. I read each and every standard, compared

them with the Indian GAAP and figand corporate governance practices. ured out the implications on financial We used transparency as a competitive reporting and disclosures for Infosys. advantage and led good practices I spent the next few months in reading which got mandated later for other reams and reams of literature. companies to follow. Our annual report At the end of the project, I created a won the Best Presented Accounts from document which compared both Indian the Institute of Chartered Accountants and US GAAP accounting standards of India (ICAI) continuously for 11 and listed down the financial impact years. The ICAI had to finally give and disclosure requirement for us, us a ‘Hall of Fame’ award that made if we adopted the US GAAP. It was a us ineligible to apply for this award tough task considering that we did in future. We built a strong brand everything in-house without taking any image for Infosys with our financial outside help including from any of the big four accounting firms. Finally, we published the full-fledged US GAAP financial as part of our You don’t need to annual report in 1995. That report spend tons of money to set the standards for finanbuild a strong brand. Brand cial reporting in India and we image is built by doing things became the first company in innovatively and differently from the India to report under the US rest. Look at every challenge as an GAAP. It became such a sucopportunity to learn and enhance cess that many companies your skill sets. The more you soon followed suit. I was told do that, the more confident that our annual report was sold and successful you will in the black market at a premium become. in Mumbai. It also found its place in the libraries of some of the big four accounting firms as a case study.

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A Cherished Success The biggest success I achieved at Infosys is in setting benchmarks for financial reporting and disclosures in this country. Both Mohan and I formed a great team in enhancing our financial reporting and disclosures

practices and disclosures. It has been a dream journey and I am proud to have worked for an organisation like Infosys where I worked closely with two of the finest professionals in the corporate world — Narayana Murthy and Mohandas Pai.


“It stabilised operations and the benefits we saw...were huge” —Ajay Seth

CFO, Maruti Suzuki

A business process reengineering project was a huge challenge he faced, says Mr Ajay Seth. His big success? Developing an IT-based control system at Maruti

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joined the organisation seven years back in 2004 when the company was not this big. Maruti has grown more than twice in size in the time that has elapsed, crossing the million car mark today.

Caricature by Shankar Pamarthy

My Biggest Challenge Several changes have taken place since those days. We must realise that the role of the CFO has undergone tremendous change in terms of what they were doing then and what they are expected to do now. A CFO is now the eyes and ears of an organisation and has a strategic role to play, while also acting as a sounding board to the managing committee or the board. He has to be clear not only in the basic aspects of accounting and finance but also must have adequate business knowledge. One of the biggest challenges I have faced at Maruti was developing a selfsufficient IT-based control system especially since decision-making here is very fast. Also, with the size and scale Maruti has reached now, one needs a strong back-end that supports the entire system — internal and external control, risk management, checks and balances, forex assessment and a global ERP system. When I joined Maruti, it did not have an ERP system. I had to set one up to ensure we had proper checks

LESSONS

leaders should be convinced about the benefits of a project they are leading. Only then will others believe in the project and in the person’s leadership. Look ahead, think long term.

and balances. I have always believed in staying ahead of any legislation. India is a land of tremendous opportunities but it comes with lot of challenges and risks. At Maruti, I am fairly sure we will soon scale new heights and the day is not far when we will reach two million cars. Then, the whole ball game will change in terms of the back-end systems and process infrastructures.

A Cherished Success This was almost a decade back, when I successfully led an ERP and business process reengineering project in my previous organisation, where data and MIS were in bad shape. The management’s major issue was that the data was not reliable and organised, due to which they were not

able to take key strategic decisions. But ERP implementation is a tedious task and, thus, the previous finance leadership was not ready to change the working system. As I was the project leader, I also had to ensure I had the team on my side. The initial phase was tough — getting all stakeholders to buy into the benefits of the system. It was a major communication exercise. Luckily, since I myself was completely convinced of the benefits of the ERP system, I could share the advantages of the project in a convincing and honest manner with all concerned, eventually ensuring that the project was implemented. Most project implementations of this type have initial hiccups because implementing ERP is a laborious process. But, once it was implemented, my team as well as other stakeholders saw the benefits clearly. In the long run, it stabilised operations and the benefits we saw in terms of taking strategic decisions — reducing costs and maximising returns — were huge. Looking back, I take pride in the fact that I helped establish a process by which we were able to take lot of important decisions and which ensured smoother overall operations — benefitting our business in a major way.


“When our dealers...faced problems with banks, we financially assisted them to buy stocks from us” —Ravi Sud

CFO, Hero Motocorp

Mr Ravi Sud writes on how Hero MotoCorp bailed out its dealers and still made money during the downturn

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t has been a long journey for me as a finance executive, fraught with challenges. Luckily, I have managed to deal with most of them successfully. I have tried to follow a few principles that have stood me in good stead in the face of crises. These include being focussed on the objective and the goal and not succumbing to distractions exerted by external forces.

Caricature by Shankar Pamarthy

My Biggest Challenge I think a CFO should always do what he believes is best for the organisation. And the results will automatically follow. I joined Hero MotoCorp in 1998, when managing cost was not considered one of our prime objectives. However, very early into my stint, I figured that we should always keep a tab on the cost. We, as a company, believed we should not go overboard or take undue risks, but at the same time we wanted to make sure we did not miss any opportunity. In 2008, after the financial crisis hit India right in the midst of the festive season, we were worried because this is exactly the time when there is a huge spurt in the sales of two wheelers. In short, this is perhaps the most important quarter for our business. This year we averted a crisis or a sharp dip in sales primarily because most of the dealers had booked and stocked the

products well in advance, by August and early September, as is the usual practice. So we clocked fairly good numbers for 2008-09. However, this was just the tip of the iceberg. As we know now, the economic slowdown in the country continued well into 2009 also, a big cause of concern for us then. Most of our buyers are middle-class Indians and they had cut their spending big time.

A Cherished Success We had foreseen the crisis and had planned ahead and borrowed Rs 450 crore from our bankers. We realised that as months rolled on, bankers would be less keen to loan money to organisations, as the risk of lending was very

LESSONS

Adhere to regulatory compliance, keep a check of flows, analyse and anticipate the future. The world is not just about the present but more about the future. So think about long-term goals as well as their impact on the organisation.

high and also there was uncertainty about money flowing back. So when our dealers, almost all of them SMEs, faced the problem of banks refusing to lend them money, we financially assisted them to buy stocks from us and sell the products. This enabled them to sail through the credit period and helped us sell our two wheelers even in tough market conditions. The ability to analyse the environment and understand the impact of decisions on it was the key to our success. Because we planned ahead and correctly predicted market conditions (we knew things would get difficult in the 2009-10 financial year), we could take proactive steps at the right time, leading to greater efficiency, better sales and growing numbers in 200910. Our market capitalisation also grew during the year. Another key to our success was that we had kept an open mind, listened to advice and then used our own collective intelligence and market knowledge to execute a plan that was both feasible and beneficial for the organisation in the long run. Sometimes brilliant ideas may get killed because they are not analysed properly and not given due importance. Luckily, this was not so in our case.


“Each team member knew their task and felt they were part of creating something unique” —Jaimin Bhatt CFO, Kotak Mahindra

Mr Jaimin Bhatt writes on the challenge of launching banking operations at Kotak and recalls the team spirit that led to the success

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n January 3, 2001, the Reserve Bank of India came out with guidelines for new banks to enter the private sector. Applications were to be made by March 31, 2001.

Caricature by Raj Verma

My Biggest Challenge Kotak Mahindra Finance was then a non-bank finance company (NBFC). Having started in 1985, it had built up a credible presence in the NBFC sector. At the same time, it had also entered investment banking, stockbroking, mutual funds and was about to launch into life insurance. Frankly, we saw this as a big opportunity to launch ourselves into banking as well. A bank would enable growth beyond what an NBFC ever could. So the first task was to put in a crack team to prepare an application within the stipulated time. A set of non-bankers who had done lending and deposit-taking prepared the documents to set up a new bank. What followed was a series of interactions and presentations with the regulator and the high-level advisory committee appointed to consider applications. Finally, in February 2002, we received in-principle approval. While we had applied to set up a new bank, the in-principle approval would convert the existing NBFC into a bank. Several teams were set up for the task. One was focussed on putting the technology in place to make the bank operational. The business teams focussed on

the strategy that the bank would follow. There were new things to be built. The treasury was among Be prepared for the those. The treasury of a bank unknown and plan ahead is far more complex than when tackling regulatory that of an NBFC. The HR issues. Tackle issues one by one folks had to draw up a plan instead of trying to solve all of to recruit personnel and the them at the same time. Finally, existing personnel had to there is no mountain that cannot be trained on the specifics be moved if you have a wellof banking.

LESSONS

A Cherished success The finance teams were given charge of the conversion process and related regulatory aspects. No one had converted into a bank before. Among the various issues that were encountered were: 1. As a listed NBFC, the composition of the directors was governed by Clause 49 of listing agreement. The Banking Regulation Act (BRA) and several RBI circulars had more stipulations. 2. A bank or its subsidiaries are permitted to only undertake businesses which are part of Section 6 of the BRA. There were businesses which did not fit this definition. So they had to be hived off. 3. The corporate name had to be changed to include the word ‘bank’. This was a peculiar one as the Registrar of Companies would not permit use of the word ‘bank’ in a corporate name if you were not operating as a bank. Yet we had to launch the banking operations as a ‘bank’. So this had to be tightly coordinated.

knit team where members complement each other.

4. The financial statement formats for a bank are different from that followed by an NBFC. The accounting code had to be changed to ensure it met banking requirements. The previous year’s numbers had to be recast in the new format. At every stage, overcoming this challenge involved working closely with other teams. Each member of each team knew their task and felt they were part of creating something unique for the first time. There was a lot of camaraderie. As the D-Day got nearer, there were logistical issues. Letterheads and name boards all over the country had to be changed overnight. The marketing and the facilities team got going. Finally, it was a proud moment for all of us when Kotak Mahindra Bank launched banking services on March 22, 2003. I will always regard this as my ‘too good’ moment.


“We managed to achieve the rather remarkable turnaround within three months” —Sushil Agarwal CFO, Aditya Birla Nuvo

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The challenge of raising capital despite a high-debt balance sheet and turning around a loss-making business unit, are two stories Mr Sushil Agarwal shares


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n 2008-09 Aditya Birla Nuvo was already facing a substantial debt. But this was also a period when we wanted to capitalise on the situation, expand our business and grow at a fast clip.

My Biggest Challenge

services (Aditya Birla Financial Services) arms of the company. We also avoided paying Income Tax under Section 14A, by getting the banks to give us the money through the CCD route. With this twin capital infusion, we could soon execute our growth plans. In 2010-11 we clocked revenues of Rs 18,168 crore with net profit rising to Rs

To fund any growth was however, easier said than done, because of our debt situation. We had grown substantially in the past year, our revenues had gone up from Rs 11,375 crore in the previous fiscal but the debt situation, and of course the market conditions had It is not necessary affected our profit margins. What to play safe and be we needed, therefore, was a fairly conventional at all times. In large infusion of capital and that tough times, you have to have too quickly. I realised that if we the courage to think out of the box took the conventional route to and try innovative approaches. raise the capital, it would be very Effective teamwork across tough. Innovative thinking and functions can achieve financial leadership were needed. remarkable things. For the past two years, we had looked at some capital infusion from the promoter’s side but for various reasons that was held up. This time though, it was clear that if we received 822 crore, a CAGR of 31 per cent over this capital, the group would save at the past five years. The IT-ITeS and least Rs 100 crore in taxes. The Rs 1,000 the Financial Services arms together crore that was infused from the procontribute over 43 per cent of this moter’s side gave us a huge boost. revenue — not a small achievement by Next we went the Compulsory Conany means. vertible Debenture (CCD) structure route, which, from a borrowing point A Cherished Success of view, was beneficial for us. This was I always believe that if people are empowso because the growth plan we had was ered, their way of thinking and their perprimarily for our IT-ITeS and financial formance changes for the better.

Caricature by Raj Verma

LESSONS

This belief was tested successfully when we were restructuring our entire Fashion & Lifestyle division in 2009-10. At the time, because of various operational and structural inefficiencies, this business unit’s EBITDA had dropped significantly and we had reported losses. We needed to look at reducing our tax liabilities, centralise operations and improve productivity to make the division profitable. We also needed to turn this around in a short time span by restructuring the operations of this particular business. To cut a long story short, we managed to achieve this rather remarkable turnaround within two board meetings or in less than three months. This included getting an approval from the Mumbai high court since the demerger and merger of some of our fashion and lifestyle businesses needed court approval. That the business restructuring was made possible in three months was largely due to the amazing team work shown by the legal, accounts and taxation teams. By restructuring the division we achieved the desired tax efficiency as well. In 2010-11 the Fashion & Lifestyle business clocked an EBITA of Rs 137 crore (up from a loss of Rs 4 crore) and generated revenues of over Rs 1,800 crore. I consider this a cherished success not only because we managed to turn the business around, but also because it was achieved by not just one person or a few people alone, thanks to some great team work.


“Now over 10,000 farmers in Andhra Pradesh grow cocoa” —Girish Bhat

CFO, Gammon India

Successfully growing cocoa in India to make chocolates and setting up a central treasury function. These are the two ‘2 Good’ memories Mr Girish Bhat shares

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t my current workplace, Gammon India, we are now in the midst of a big challenge, overhauling the entire IT infrastructure. Being a part of this exciting project takes my mind back to two other key moments in my career.

Caricature by RETHISH K R

My Biggest Challenge Before I joined Gammon, I had a long stint with Cadbury Plc, working across the world and in India. In Cadbury India, (where I was the CFO and also in charge of procurement), we faced a difficult challenge between 2006 and 2008. The rising cost of imported cocoa forced us to look for an alternative strategy. We didn’t want to compromise on the quality or the weight of our products. Yet we knew we wouldn’t be able to maintain the current price points if we continued to import cocoa from Ghana. A way out had to be found. Cocoa comprised 20 per cent of our costs and with Ghana producing a huge majority of the world’s cocoa, import costs would only go up. During the intense discussions that we had, it struck us that we could look at producing cocoa locally. Cocoa needed plenty of shade, which most South Indian farmlands would have, given their large coconut plantations. We started work with an agricultural university to develop hybrid cocoa seeds and engaged with various state

governments in dialogue. In the next two-and-a-half years we were able to set up large cocoa plantations in Andhra Pradesh (AP), convincing farmers to go for cocoa cultivation in the shade of coconut trees. Now over 10,000 farmers in AP grow cocoa and Cadbury buys 5,000 tonnes of cocoa from the state annually. We also set up schools and developed sanitation facilities in each village. Apart from this, we established 500 computer centres here. Today, Cadbury India imports much lower quantities of cocoa, bringing down procurement costs. It was both a huge challenge and indeed a success I rank very highly.

A Cherished Success One of the bigger successes of my professional career was restructuring and consolidation of the treasury

LESSONS

There is no substitute for teamwork. Working across functions, in different business units, gives one a sense of the overall business. A leader should know when and how to take calculated risks.

functions at Cadbury in 2007. At the time, we had over 10,000 distributors in India and literally thousands of suppliers across the nation but no central treasury. So there was no way of knowing what our daily cash flows were. We wanted a centrally-monitored system to assess our daily cash flows and keep track of all transactions. I decided to take a rather bold step. With the backing of the board, we made ABN Amro our sole banker across India and asked them to use their superior technology to track our cash flows across multiple points. The bank set up a system whereby all our transactions were now routed through an automated system set up in their Chennai office. At the end of each day we knew our exact earnings and spends. For the first time, we had the big picture and could create plans for the entire market. The benefits were immediate. We had far greater control over collection and cash leakages were plugged. Once this system started running smoothly, we created an investment banking relationship with ABN Amro. All idle cash was put into various investments. Within a year, not only had our revenues grown, but our profit margins too showed a significant increase. The investments also improved our liquidity situation. It was a highrisk gamble to put all our money (and faith) in one bank, but it paid off, giving me immense satisfaction.


“A leader should be able to select & manage people & get them to perform... consistently” —Sunil Kakar Group CFO, IDFC

Mr Sunil Kakar travels down memory lane to talk about a “computerisation” challenge and the high of setting up a successful investment division

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ver the past three decades I have faced many challenges as a finance professional and also been part of several successful projects. But two of them —one a challenge and another a key success — stand out in my memory.

Caricature by RETHISH K R

My Biggest Challenge This was way back in the 1980s when I was working with an American bank in Kolkata. I had worked there briefly as a freshly minted MBA and had now come back to head operations. Soon after I joined, however, management realised that the Kolkata office was the only one in India not yet fully automated. I was given responsibility for what was then known as “computerising” the branch. The problem was that our office (like much of corporate Kolkata in those days) was heavily unionised and opposed to any such change. Also, many employees feared they would not be able to learn this new technology in time. Navigating change in such circumstances was a huge challenge. My biggest advantage was that, at a personal level, I strongly believed in the cause. This helped me convince union leaders and my colleagues, that automation would be beneficial to both customers and the bank, therefore it had to be good for employees as well. It also helped that I was perceived as honest and cred-

LESSONS

Navigating change is a complex process and needs constant, credible communication from the leader. Human capital management is sometimes more important than financial capital management.

ible. In the end, we did a great job and started the computerisation process within eight weeks of taking up the challenge. One of the main reasons we could change over so quickly was because of a clear alignment between the needs of the employees and the the company. Successfully tackling this complex transformation gave me immense satisfaction.

A Cherished Success When I joined Max New York Life as its CFO in 2001, the insurance sector was considered a sunrise industry. One of my early and crucial tasks was to develop and design the investment function at Max. While insurance is mostly about policies and policy-holders, a key part is how all that money is then managed. I take pride in the fact that we worked as a great team to set up the investment department from con-

ception and inception to development. I started it as a one-man operation and grew it to a 10-member unit of senior fund managers which today boasts of over Rs 13,000 crore in assets under management. From 2005 till 2010, all our key funds were consistently in the top one or two nationally as far as fund performance levels are concerned. I feel proud that I was an integral part of a winning team and had helped develop it. I feel like a parent watching his children grow up and outperform him. One of the key reasons for our success was that I believed each of my fund managers was like an F1 driver who had to be given the freedom to run at full speed even though I had to ensure they met with no accidents. During this project I realised that while subject knowledge is a necessity for a CFO, it alone is not sufficient. So I carefully selected the right people, tried my best to motivate and lead them in the right way and then managed to retain them. I consider this a big success that none of the fund managers left their job during my tenure — remarkable considering the attrition rates in this sector. I rate this project as one of my true “Aha!” moments, an experience which also taught me that a good leader should be able to select and manage people, and get them to perform consistently.


“The whole organisation worked as one — like the New York Philharmonic Orchestra” —Gopal Mahadevan EVP & CFO, Thermax

Mr Gopal Mahadevan remembers his ‘2 Good’ moments — mentoring a protege to improve his performance; and tackling the global economic crisis

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he CFO India folks wanted me to recount two defining moments in my career — my ‘two good’ moments. Unfortunately we do not remember the most defining moments in our lives — our first step or our first word or our first morsel of adult food. Nor our first fall or our first fight when we tugged at another child’s hair or clutched his/her toy. These ‘beginners’ classes’ are most important, if you ask me, as these have sowed the seeds of our current state of existence. I have learnt to recognise and relive these moments through those of the children around me and enjoy what we must have experienced when were like them.

Caricature by Shankar Pamarthy

My Biggest Challenge I have had my share of moments — closing tough JV negotiations, completing complex M&A’s, raising capital and receiving ‘Best CFO’ awards. These certainly made me put my chest out and beam. But the one experience that has left a mark was the one with a finance colleague in one of my earlier assignments. This was my first year in the organisation, the team was new and I had rated him low in the performance appraisal for the year. I then decided to be honest, listen and share some perspectives with him. I explained to him why I had rated him so and told him he came under the hammer because he had the

potential and not because he lacked it. I explained how I saw him as a future leader. He listened with a look of determination in his eyes thanked me and assured me that he would get the highest rating next year. And the beauty was he did! There was no defence, no superiority or inferiority complexes, no guards were up — just a moment between two beings. His success was mine and I savoured the moment when I handed over the letter next year. I had also learnt in the bargain. This experience taught me to listen and receive positive criticism with an open mind. The mind is like a parachute — it works best when it is open.

A Cherished Success Our lives are a series of challenges. Technically the biggest challenge is what I am going through currently

LESSONS

Listen and receive positive criticism with an open mind. The mind is like a parachute — works best when it is open. Guide, empower and delegate: You will be more successful in life.

as all other moments are sepia toned memories. Having said that, I would say that one of the challenges I liked licking the best was how we went about the crisis in 2008. Rewind to October 2008. The financial crisis — the hydra-headed monster had raised its ugly visage. While my company was financially robust, suddenly things looked grim. We were huddled inside rooms strategising how to wade through the murky waters of uncertainty. What left behind a deep impression was the way the entire organisation worked in unison. Overnight we implemented radically different risk management systems. Project exposures, industry exposures and cash flows were being monitored like there was no tomorrow. The trick was to delegate and empower. The whole organisation worked as one — like the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. And each member was a Zubin Mehta. We came through the crisis stronger and more credible. I cannot forget how the finance team worked to make things happen in the back end even as the sales and operations team faced the markets. One of my earlier bosses observed that the concept of “work-life balance” is a myth. Work-play balance yes. Work–rest balance yes. Worklife balance no. Work is as much a part of our lives as the rest of it. We need to enjoy every aspect and moment of our lives and balance it. Simple.


“We were one team with one dream and one passion” —Anup Vikal

Group CFO, Head of Strategy & IT, Inetglobe Enterprises

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Now Group CFO of an organisation best known for its award winning airlines, Mr Anup Vikal writes on a €65 mn challenge in an earlier job that also became his Aha! moment


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There will always be pessimists. But if you have faith in your abilities and the belief that you can do it, the chances of success are high.

a next generation billing system at one of my former jobs, a big telecom firm. The However big a challenge, challenge before the effective teamwork will team was to implement overcome it. this system to replace 13 different instances of billing platforms. It was no easy job given the size and global presence of the organisation. In fact, there were rior to my current job at many who thought the project would Interglobe Enterprises, I never succeed. There were moments worked for many years in when we also thought we would never the telecom sector for both see the day when the system would Indian and global multibecome operational. nationals. Having had the privilege of We had read enough news about utilexperiencing a wide and rich variety of ity companies putting out new, sophischallenges, it is difficult to point out a ticated billing systems and not turning specific one as the biggest challenge or then out very successfully. Many such the biggest success. However, without similar projects had led to angry cusdoubt, a very memorable success for tomers who had started receiving hugeme was in one of my previous assignly inflated bills. Like people who would ments, a large project that started out usually get bills for £10 suddenly being as a daunting challenge but eventually saddled with bills of £200 or more. The became a celebrated win. systems had cost these companies dearly. That is the kind of stories we read and My Biggest Challenge were warned about by the pessimists. This was when we were implementing

Caricature by RRETHISH K R

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A Cherished Success But we were determined to succeed. Our project was a mammoth one, a €65 mn plan which had us working through weekends for months on. We slogged for over two and a half years on this. Finally, when it went live and we put the first set of bills out, we were biting our nails in suspense. But guess what? We had a 99.9 per cent accuracy on the bills! This indeed was my great Aha! moment. If you ask me about the key elements that led to this huge success, I can think of many reasons. But the glue that held it all together was the way we worked: we were one team with one dream and one passion. Entire teams came together and worked with a steely resolve for this project. Mind you I am talking about teams across continents. There were teams in London, in central Europe, in Tokyo and even in India. All of us had one clear driving force: we were determined to get this right and on time. And we did. NOTE: This article is a transcription of an on-camera interview Mr Anup Vikal gave to CFO India in September, 2011.


“I decided to try an innovative approach” —Urmil Khurana

Director Finance, South Asia, Starwood Asia Pacific Hotels & Resorts

Ms Urmil Khurana remembers the challenge of leading finance in the telecom sector and the sheer joy of setting a benchmark for success that is still followed

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had moved to the telecom industry (Tata Teleservices Ltd) after a successful stint of more than 15 years in the hospitality industry, with Indian Hotels Co Ltd (Taj Group of Hotels). Though I had envisaged that the movement to a sunrise industry, which was evolving at that point of time, would have its challenges, I did not foresee the complexity of a technology-intensive industry which was also not stable in its processes. (I moved to telecom in 2001, when the total mobile subscriber base was five million, compared to the current base of over 850 million).

Caricature by RETHISH K R

My Biggest Challenge The move from project costs of hotels and breakeven in a few years and operationally looking at occupancies, ADRs (Average Daily Room rate) and RevPARs (Revenue Per Available room) to looking at Erlangs, VLR/HLR subscriber numbers, ARPU’s (Average Revenue Per User) and RPM (Rate Per Minute), left me almost lost. I realised that understanding the technology involved would be critical for me, to be able to successfully translate them into business metrics and drive profitability. While I had seen the profitability drivers inside out in my previous industry, in telecom, driving profitability, particularly considering the huge investments involved, was a different ball game.

Also in the era when there was no number portability, the success of a new operator depended a lot on the tariff plans, which needed to be approved by finance, translating tariff plan profitability to long term profitability.

(like Erlangs/busy hours into minutes per site/subscriber), we were able to get off the ground in a very short time. Also our ability to look at the numbers at the last level (like call data record of a customer), enabled us to provide superior analytics and drive decisions, which were replicated across A Cherished Success the country successfully. In this scenario, I decided to try Based on the success of this move, an innovative approach. I brought I tried innovation in a traditional someone in finance as a part of function like Revenue Assurance, my team who had a non-finance by transforming it into an end-tobackground, an engineer with an MBA, end assurance function rather than to handle the business planning role. providing assurance only in billing. With the synergy of understanding Needless to say, this was also replicated of telecom technology (TTSL was across the country. operating in both wireline and wireless Having spent five hugely challengtechnologies, which themselves were ing and successful years TTSL, I could diverse) and my ability to convert the not resist the thrill of being back in the technology metrics to business metrics ‘people’s business’. The excitement of travel associated with being part of a global company, exploring new magical locations across the world, meeting diverse groups of people, exposure While it is easy to to new lifestyles and cultures, view everyone on the team as makes working with Starwood essential, identification of roles Hotels and Resorts an incredwithin your area of control which are ible learning experience. critical to your success, is important. However, I always look back with pride at the fact that the While a CFO should bring in experts Delhi circle of TTSL even today to work on complex environments, remains a benchmark in the s/he must manage them to company in terms of the market deliver results. Also, learn to share as well as profitability. It was empower and delegate. both one of my biggest challenges till date and a success that I cherish. A true “2 good” moment if there was one.

LESSONS


“At present, our longterm credit rating has improved from A- to A” —DV Prasad

VP Finance, Essar Projects Mr DV Prasad recalls his ‘2 Good’ moments: handling a cost-management challenge back in 1987 and the joy of seeing Essar Projects grow financially stronger under his stewardship

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inance was probably in my genes: my grandfather was one of the first CAs in South India and my uncle was also a CA. I was a normal middle class Andhra boy born in a small town. I did my CA articleship at my uncle’s firm and never thought I would one day become head of finance of a US $6 bn company of Essar Group.

Caricature by RETHISH K R

My Biggest Challenge In 1987, when I was just 27, I had joined as the CFO of Archean Granites at Chennai. The company had 30 sites in remote areas in and around the border districts of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. There were no stock records, proper accounting, or offices, but a huge labour force. Bank funding was another problem. We had to draw cash and make disbursement to daily wage labourers. After a tough first 12 months, I decided to act. First, I put in place some systems and controls. At the end of the day, each site supervisor had to now send a complete cash flow report to the chief accountant at the headquarters. Next, we opened bank accounts in a branch closest to each site. Now we could send cheques to each site so that labourers were paid on time. The number of labour strikes (due to late payment) reduced drastically and productivity went up.

We followed the same pattern for the Indian Railways, our main carrier of raw materials. We now could pay them on time at every point of delivery, by cheque. This saved us a lot of money in penalty. Soon revenues started improving and productivity almost doubled.

A Cherished Success My stint at Essar has been a growth story. I have been involved in major restructurings, M&As demergers, consolidation and amalgamations. But one of my biggest successes came after I joined Essar Projects in 2008. When I took over as head of finance, our company’s fundbased and non-fund-based limits of Rs 1,325 crore were utilised. I had to meet officers of 20 banks every month for meeting bill’s liabilities on due dates, EMIs, site funding, finalisation of accounts and other issues. Looking back, I am proud to say that with the support of my team we overcame most of the hurdles. Between 2008 and 2011, we have restructured our working capital, consolidated term loans, raised debts through short-term loans with lower interest rates and improved our cash flows. At the same time we have reduced the number of our bankers from 11 to six, interest rate has reduced by 150 bps,

Letter of Credit and Bank Guarantee Commission has reduced to one per cent from 2.75 per cent and the margin on LC and BG has reduced to five per cent. We have also reduced 15 term loans into one single loan for long-term maturity period.We are now in the process of implementing e-invoicing and e-thinking to increase our efficiency and employee productivity.

LESSONS

Even very tough challenges can be overcome with team work and effective communication. A great CFO cannot afford to be just a finance person. The more he looks at operations and understands the overall business, the better he will be as a leader.

The good news: EPIL has been given credit rating upgrades for three years in a row by CARE. At present, our long term credit rating has improved from A- to A. We have won the confidence of our rating agency and banks on a sustained basis with our strong growth and robust financial performance.


“We sold over 100 ultrasound machines in less than a year” —Raj Dutta

Executive Director, Quatrro

Mr Raj Dutta goes back in time to relive the days when he and his colleagues turned around a company by thinking out of the box in a crisis situation.

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rom coming into finance almost by chance (I studied political science in college and wanted to become a psephologist), being a CFO of large and small organisations to becoming a start-up entrepreneur, I have travelled quite a distance so far. Needless to say, such a journey is never possible without several life altering challenges and equal doses of success.

Caricature by RETHISH K R

My Biggest Challenge In the light of what I have just said, the challenge and the success I am writing about now may seem small. Indeed, in the light of all that happened thereafter in my career, it doesn’t look so big. But I was just 30 at the time, the situation was grim (we faced a closure) and the way we, the mid-management, took the entire responsibility and led the turnaround, makes this stand out in my memory even two decades later. This was around 1990-91, even before Dr Manmohan Singh initiated his reforms. I was with a Joint Venture company called Network Picker. The JV started with trading in medical equipment as it waited for a manufacturing licence. Getting any licence wasn’t easy in those early days. Soon we realised that with high duties, it was becoming unsustainable for us to run the company on just trading. But we knew getting a manu-

facturing licence would still take some time. To make matters worse, neither of the two JV partners was keen to make any further investments. So as a first step, we put the entire middle management of the JV (many of whom had originally been hired for other divisions) into sales. Picker primarily dealt with high-end machines such as the MRI, CT and other products which had limited demand. To counter this challenge, we started looking at lowcost alternatives and finally tied up with a Korean firm called Medison that was a leading player in the low-cost ultrasound machines market.

A Cherished Success With the low-cost ultrasound machines,

LESSONS

Do not give up. There will always be a way out for those who stand up to a challenge. Surround yourself with winners. If you have a good set of people with you who believe in the bigger cause, you will be able to handle tough situations better.

even after paying the duties, we were able to get our desired margins. Till we received our manufacturing licence, this was the way through which we managed to raise enough capital to reenergise the JV and make money. Within a year, we had established a significant position in the radiology market with the USG machines. Sales picked up and so did revenues. We had capitalised on the rising demand for ultrasound machines across India. At that time many new hospitals were coming up as a result of the (then) new trend of more private sector participation in health care. All plans of a shutdown were shelved as we started showing steady revenue growth, and the company flourished. This remains a big success in my career even after I have tackled many tougher challenges and seen bigger successes financially. Why? Because when you are 30 and faced with an imminent shutdown, and then manage to save your skin and lead a turnaround, it does rank as a major success. I still remember that we sold over 100 ultrasound machines in less than a year and brought home Rs 4 crore revenues from the sales — not a small number at all, specially for a small organisation, that too way back in 1992, much before the effects of economic liberalisation trickled down.


“Overnight, we shrank from 350 employees to five” —Giri Giridhar CFO, Wockhardt

What do you do when asked to turn around a firm after a mass resignation? Mr Giri Giridhar recalls his big challenge which turned into a cherished success

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s a CFO I face different kinds of challenges at work almost everyday. But a few stand out in memory, like the one I am going to talk about now.

Caricature by Shankar Pamarthy

My Biggest Challenge It was July 1, 2002. I had landed in Singapore that day having been transferred as the Regional Finance Director for Asia Venture of Diageo plc. This was a newly created hub for Asia. My boss, David, the Managing Director, had moved in a few days ago from Argentina. David said: “Welcome to Asia. Please book your tickets to Indonesia tonight. The entire management team at Jakarta, barring the Finance Director, has resigned on account of an internal ethics violation. We need to go and fix things.” So began a rollercoaster ride, where over the next three years, we travelled relentlessly across Asia, organising the businesses in different markets and driving performance. But of all these countries, the transformation that we effected in Indonesia was the most radical, and to me, brought to the fore the contribution that a CFO could make. A detailed business review identified a few significant issues in Indonesia. Firstly, while a large market, the country was still recovering from the disastrous 1998 downturn where the Rupiah had taken a significant beating. The business was run as a JV with 350 employees. Our entire

manufacturing was outsourced from Heineken, where a 10-year distribution contract was not making sense. We operated in a difficult tax environment. And we had an organisation to rebuild. The audit committee from London told us: Fix the compliance or shut shop.

A Cherished Success As a first step, I had to quickly gather the FD and his team in Indonesia along with our internal audit and put together a list of key risk and control issues that we needed to protect and strengthen. We set up an authorisation matrix which restricted the ability of the team to spend. A daily/weekly sales forecasting system was put into place and stock releases and sales to key customers closely monitored. I also initiated a review of the IT environment,

LESSONS

Having a 360 degree approach to business transformation in a large consumer market is of great importance, especially for a leader. Be proud of what you do and you are more likely to succeed.

brought in a new IT manager. These steps allowed us to tactically bring the operations under control. We brought a new GM to take charge at Jakarta. A core value of the company was “Proud of what we do”, which meant, that we operated within a strict code of ethics. So when we caught a couple of employees stealing, we filed a police complaint and terminated their services. One of them was a distant nephew of our JV partner and it became a shareholder matter. Clearly, we could not continue on a JV basis and had to buyout the other shareholders. Over the next one year, we engaged in pretty difficult discussions and bought the JV partner out. We paid a premium, but got complete control. We also re-engaged with Heineken and renegotiated the supply contract over the next 10 years, saving millions and putting in place controls which allowed greater flexibility in the contract. We realised that we were spending a disproportionate amount of time managing Indonesia. An operating model review followed and we redefined our role. Over the next several months, we identified a potential distribution partner and transferred the entire distribution management. Overnight, we shrank from 350 employees to five. This saved us a few million sterlings in overheads. But more importantly it led to focus and our business boomed.


“What happened over the next two years was almost a magical transformation” —BR Jaju

Director & CFO, Welspun

A cost optimisation challenge and a magical turnaround of the company post a financial crisis, Mr BR Jaju writes about two experiences he cherishes

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uring my days at Crompton Greaves I faced many challenges, most of which we could solve successfully, though some of them took time.

Caricature by RETHISH K R

My Biggest Challenge One of the key challenges I faced was that of cost optimisation to enhance profitability of the company during the first half of the previous decade. This was a challenge which was not really time bound but an ongoing one. It went on for about four years as we worked hard to achieve perfection. As a result of our initiatives, however, profitability was enhanced substantially on a sustained basis at CG. This was a time when incidentally CG also faced a huge overall financial challenge, which I have written about a bit later in this article. Anyway, to ensure cost optimisation during these tough times, one of my first decisions was to control the material consumption pattern and after careful analysis, discontinue businesses or product lines that had high MSR. We also reduced our inventory in terms of number of days, through an effective MIS system, renegotiated credit terms and reduced sales to electricity boards. At the same time, I imposed strict controls and monitoring on travel expenses and other corporate overheads. As a result of these steps, we managed to reduce the cost of materials, personnel and even process costs significantly, thereby improving profitability. The quantum of bad

debts and slow moving inventory was also reduced. This entire process took nearly four years (2001 to 2005) to bear fruit, but at the end of it we could look back at how we had tackled this challenge, with a great deal of satisfaction.

LESSONS

At times, populist measures will not work. Be prepared to take tough calls when necessary. Even in the toughest situations, working as a team will reap benefits.

A Cherished Success This was also during my Crompton Greaves days. For the first time in its corporate history, the 66-year old company posted a staggering operating loss of Rs 147 crore in 2000, and Rs 200 crore in 2001. The organisation’s net worth was reduced to 50 per cent of its peak level with shareholders’ wealth reducing to less than Rs 100 crore in terms of market capitalisation. This was when I stepped in as CFO. What happened over the next two years was almost a magical transformation. A well-designed and executed strategy backed by total support of the entire team led to the company coming back with a bang in a matter of just two years by posting a profit of Rs 4 crore in 2002 and Rs 71 crore in 2004. So what did we do right? We basically did three things: a) Drastically reduced working capital and took other stringent fiscal initiatives b) Shifted production facilities from high-cost-low-yield to low-cost-highyield areas while offering attractive VRS

Never forget your basics in finance. Cost optimisation is key to business growth.

options to employees and making strategic divestments c) Improved productivity through CGPS (a productivity enhancement scheme) in the organisation We conducted an aggressive review of our business portfolios and decided to exit from those businesses which did not align themselves to the company’s core competencies. These measures resulted in cash inflows of over Rs 100 crore and a corresponding improvement in profits. All our surplus assets (offices, buildings, factories) were sold off too, generating cash inflows to the tune of over Rs 70 crore. We then closed some loss-making divisions and relocated most factories to low wage, low real estate cost and high productivity areas outside Mumbai. These measures transformed CG from a survival focussed outlook into a sustainable growth-centric firm.


“By January 2009 we had 68 plants... with annual revenues of over thousand crores” —Sunjoy Podaar

Jt Executive President (Finance & Commercial), UltraTech Cement Mr Sunjoy Podaar recalls the pains and joys of centralising financial operations in his company just as it launched a gigantic expansion plan

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he cement business of the Aditya Birla Group is an industry leader in India’s ready-mix concrete industry. We established our first plant in 1998 and, by 2006, we had 16 plants in nine cities with a Rs 400 crore annual turnover.

Caricature by RETHISH K R

My Biggest Challenge During the 2007 and 2008 calendar years, we attained industry leadership through exponential growth. As CFO of the SBU, I was in charge of managing the finance and commercial operations while facilitating expansion efforts. Until then, all our plants were separately controlled with only policy decisions made centrally. However, the expansion plans — 68 plants in two years, up from 16 — would take us to the next level and, given the fact that we were a listed company, a change in the management style was imperative. Even with a supportive CEO and the freedom to operate, I knew that the time before us was short. A basic and unreliable accounting system, the absence of uniform processes, infrastructural constraints and insufficient manpower were tough challenges. Providing accurate regular monthly MIS and accounts in this situation was in itself a tall order. Compounding this was jet-speed expansion, with three plants on average added every month. This led to other challenges — non-stop negotiations

for capital items, tying up with service providers and raw material suppliers, setting up accounting and commercial services and shortlisting CVs — just to name a few. Within two months of assuming charge, I realised that I was only putting out fires or preventing new ones and not carrying out any systematic correction. I resolved to rectify this.

LESSONS

There is no substitute for systematic working, building a monument from the foundation stage. As a leader, always try and focus on the larger picture while managing microlevel situations.

A Cherished Success My first task was to create a blueprint for the finance and commercial function. This included negotiating and contracting for raw materials with service vendors, ensuring verification of items and services, recording orders, MIS, profitability, taxation compliance and internal control set-ups. For smooth operations, we created a four-tiered organisational chart and simultaneously finalised a software

platform for the business. Instead of extending the cement SAP, we decided on a unique project — a combination of three software packages: one for plant operations and dispatches, one for optimum raw mix and a final package, with the first two linked to the central SAP. This software solution was implemented in five months. At the same time, we fixed credit limits for customers, standardised our MIS and finalised agreements with major raw material suppliers. All this was achieved while simultaneously providing regular commercial and accounting services. Despite close calls and near-misses, in the end we managed to deliver. The results eventually showed and, in 2007-08, we had 53 plants in 21 cities with annual revenues of Rs 804 crore. This growth continued and, by January 2009, we had 68 plants in 28 cities with annual revenues of over Rupees 1,000 crore. Growing from an individual plant-based organisation to a centrally connected and controlled one with its unique software systems without any breakdown in services, was indeed a feat which gave me tremendous professional satisfaction. Among many professional challenges faced, this case stands out as everything had to be built from scratch, without the benefit of an experienced team. This was my true Aha! moment.


“Our forecasting accuracy improved from 60 to over 90 per cent ” —Sugata Sircar

Finance Director, Gujarat Gas

Mr Sugata Sircar deep dives to recall how the finance team stepped in when the forecasting accuracy at Gujarat Gas dropped significantly

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orecasting is a critical part of the CFO’s job. While the long-term business plan provides a strategic direction and the annual budget provides mid-term objectives, a rolling forecast is critical in playing back to the management, the impact of changing realities.

Caricature by RETHISH K R

My Biggest Challenge While we have a long-term plan and a budget, we prepare quarterly rolling forecasts. Actual financial performance is then compared with the forecast in the following months. We found in 2009 that our forecasting accuracy was steadily dropping. It plunged to 60 per cent, as actual profits and capital expenditure varied significantly against forecast. This caused grave concern among major stakeholders. We were surprised every time with the quarterly results. It became critical to solve this problem urgently and regain the confidence of the board, the foreign parent and investors. Forecasts are integrated by finance, but contributions come from various functions within the organisation. Our job was to identify the major contributors for variances, fix the issues around cross-functional integration and deliver reliable forecasts, all within a short time. Any plan should start with demand, so we addressed sales forecasts first. The business and regulatory environment play a critical role in sales forecasting. While variances in volumes, mix and price were known,

we delved deeper to understand the root cause of the variances, working closely with the commercial team. Were dynamics changForecasting is done by ing in any sub segment? people in different functions. Did we have a competition Their approach to forecasting impact that we had not reckand the communication and oned with? alignment between them are the It emerged that some most important factors in delivering additional parameters had a good forecast. Finance has become relevant, which were to facilitate communication impacting volumes and pricbetween relevant groups ing. It was necessary to start to deliver a reliable tracking them by establishing a forecast. reliable data stream.

LESSONS

A Cherished Success It was a classic case where parameters were logically ascertained but did not yield accurate results. We realised that it was not enough to adapt the suppliers’ and market projections. We had to learn from the past differences between projected and actual trends. Impact of seasonal factors and changes in the economic environment had to be considered. We had to overlay the external projections with these parameters, which was not easy. The last piece in the puzzle was capital expenditure. Projects can be divided into three broad categories; those which directly yield additional sales, those which augment the integrity and safety of the network and those which upgrade or create new support infrastructure. The first category of projects is

impacted primarily by business decisions on when to incur them, and also on regulatory and other government permissions. It may also happen that the economic feasibility of such a project changes due to subsequent developments and hence the project is deferred. It is crucial for each rolling forecast to capture the impact of these factors. Equally, projects in the other two categories may be re-prioritised and hence the phasing of actual expenditure may be different. The problem of forecasting accuracy was addressed by ‘deep diving’ into each process to improve it and by strengthening the integration of processes to deliver a coherent forecast. It took us two quarters, at the end of which forecasting accuracy improved from 60 to over 90 per cent. It was our perfect Aha! moment.


“We would stop at nothing but a comeback. No wonder we bounced back in the face of adversity” —Neeta Revankar

CFO, Sasken Communication Technologies

There is no greater challenge than to stick to your opinion against all odds. And nothing tastes sweeter than a successful project, writes Ms Neeta Revankar

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he role of a CFO is similar to walking the tightrope. Often, the CFO has to take tough decisions and s/he, must keep the softer aspects of the organisation in mind while dealing with it. All these elements came to the fore during one of the biggest challenges I have faced in my career so far, and also during another challenge which led to a cherished succcess.

Caricature by RETHISH K R

My Biggest Challenge Sasken was looking to amplify investments in technology and break away from being just another services company. We were looking to invest in technologies that excited us and move into software product development. Of course, we had individuals who were more than willing to invest in these augmentations. But was it viable for the organisation? Did we fully understand how to monetise our investments? And did we have full clarity about riskreward trade-offs? From an objective standpoint, I was not convinced about the business potential of some of the ideas, and I blatantly disapproved of investment ideas more than once. While doing this, I put aside political nuances, viewing the entire situation from a purely objective stand. It was not surprising therefore, that I had no buy-ins from my counterparts whatsoever. Taking tough decisions like this did no good to my popularity within

Sasken. I was labelled the ‘naysayer’. Whispers floated around about how I was not proactively working at growing Sasken into an organisation to reckon with. Decisions were taken after overruling mine, however, and the results were nowhere near good. The investments were desecrated. Luckily today, we have overcome those challenging days and moved ahead.

A Cherished Success

ple’ aspects with the financial aspects. Decisions impacting people were taken with utmost sensitivity and empathy. We focussed primarily on preserving jobs and, pinkslip was the last resort, good packages were still rolled out, outplacement attempts were made, and a part of the fixed remuneration was replaced with variable pay. Buoyancy is a team at its collective best. It is the spirit that lifts to dominate. Nothing defines our buoyancy better than our sheer collaborative genius.

One of the biggest successes for me was when Sasken went the IPO way in 2005. Our plans did not entirely materialise the way we had foreseen them. Some of our products were successful, but we decided we needed to It is important to ‘steer’ make certain amends. A change the team towards taking of path was necessary. I was the right decisions, rather than required to cautiously maneproviding a great decision. The ouvre our organisation away CFO, much like the lion tamer, must from the planned course — make the lion yield to leadership exit uncertain businesses, rewillingly and gladly, and not at vector our business lines and any point, provoke the lion into take some very difficult deciusing its obvious power sions, all this while wrestling against the tamer industry churns that gave us a taste himself. of its worst avatar in 2008. Armed with grit, we rose to the challenge much like the Indian cricket team’s win during the recent World We would stop at nothing but a comeCup. Without skipping a single beat, we back. No wonder, we bounced back in have delivered on profits consistently the face of adversity. In the 2010 finanfor the past three years. cial year, Sasken saw its highest ever The same year (2008), I was asked to profits in spite of declining revenues. handle HR in addition to other funcThat moment, for me, was a very happy tions. I learnt to balance the softer ‘peoone indeed.

LESSONS


“We took the slowdown as an opportunity, and introduced a slew of new products and features” —Yogesh Dhingra

COO & CFO, Blue Dart Express

Mr Yogesh Dhingra writes on how the slowdown was tackled and recalls how innovative thinking helped the company reap profits

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n the first quarter of the 2008 calender year, though our revenue was the highest ever in any single quarter, we witnessed a downward trend from March and as a prudent organisation, in our press release for first quarter results, we mentioned the globally softening trends.

Caricature by RETHISH K R

My Biggest Challenge Little was I to know that this would soon become one of our biggest challenges and eventually, a big success. Even though at that point in time, the government and industry were of a different view and were not accepting any signs of a slowdown, we decided it was important to get ready for a possible slowdown. Our assessment came true and by the end of the 2008-09 fiscal, the slowdown had hit. With our proactive approach and by tightening our belts we managed to close the year with a PBT growth of 11 per cent when many competitors went into a negative growth scenario. The real challenge, we knew, lay ahead. Unless we put a correct strategy in place, we knew we would bleed in 2009. The obvious strategies were cost optimisation and revenue increase from new products, introducing new valueadded features and penetrating new markets. We were sure that even if we curtailed costs, it would not be at the expense of service quality.

LESSONS

Never get complacent. Keep looking for innovative ideas and take steps to ensure service quality. Sometimes, it pays to have a conservative and proactive approach.

Also being a people-driven service company we knew a motivated work force which can deliver quality service, was essential. So, even though across industries, organisations were laying off people and cutting salaries, we decided not to tread that path. We did not lay off a single employee or reduce salary. Job security is the biggest nonfinancial motivator in a downturn.

A Cherished Success Despite having a fixed cost model, and there being limited scope for cost efficiencies, we still wanted to explore all possible avenues for cost rationalisation. For this we hired an external consultant to study our operations and come up with ideas. Overall, based on our internal analysis and the study, it showed that cost rationalisation at best could contribute five to seven per cent to the bottom line. On the revenue increase side, we had

immense pressure from customers to reduce prices, but we knew we couldn’t do that without affecting quality of service. Instead we took the slowdown as an opportunity, and introduced a slew of new products and features for our customers which would not only help retain existing customers, but also help penetrate new markets. The new products launched were Cash-on-Delivery, Time Definite Delivery and a greater focus on Ground Express. The Value Added Services were collecting Freight on Delivery (FoD), Demand Draft on Delivery (DoD), introducing a transit insurance facility (FOV), servicing areas which are outside our normal delivery area (ODA) and providing Proof of Delivery for customers (PoD). Amongst the most ambitious product launches were the launch of the Cash on Delivery product which was to cater especially to the e-commerce industry. All products and features launched during beginning of 2009 contributed Rs 312 mn and Rs 488 mn (approx) to our revenues in 2009 and 2010 respectively. Today we look back with great satisfaction and pride at the bold steps we took in launching these products and successfully creating a win-win situation for all stakeholders, while creating a new market and enhancing our market share.


“There was a gap between the dream and the reality that I had to bridge” —Sujit Sircar CFO, iGATE Corp

Mr Sujit Sircar writes on the much talked about Patni acquisition and why it was both his biggest challenge and success

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s I look back at the formative years of my career, I realise I never had an iota of doubt, ever, that I will one day lead the finance function. The initial mentoring I had from my leaders gave me enough confidence to believe in myself. They encouraged disagreement and during reviews, egged me on to recommend solutions instead of just stating problems.

Caricature by Shankar Pamarthy

My Biggest Challenge This, over the years, has helped me as a leader to overcome any challenge. The Patni acquisition, however, was a significant challenge, by far the biggest of my career, though it was overcome with élan. The complexities involved were immense. At the end, it proved to be an eventful challenge, well overcome, with some valuable lessons learnt. There is no doubt in my mind that this transaction was both my biggest challenge and in retrospect, a momentous achievement as well. Though I have been the CFO at iGATE Corporation for a while now, the Patni deal helped bring out the Chief Risk Officer in me. As I said earlier, it appeared to be a high-risk transaction with all the odds stacked against me in the game. At one point, I had almost 40 attorneys, auditors and accountants telling me all the risks involved and why this

was a difficult proposition. Here, I was careful to prioritise between ‘rewarded risks’ and ‘unrewarded risks’. I was then able to build an ecosystem in our planning methodology that optimised the rewarded risks for us and I am glad that the transaction finally was rewarding indeed. This was one of the important reasons for everything else to fall in place. The transaction changed me from being ‘finance-minded’ to a ‘business-minded’ person. For this, I am given to believe that it’s not about the time, it’s about the timing.

a mission to fulfill its dream of being a billion dollar entity. It was a business need to attain scale. On the other side, a reality check on the resources was needed. We had all the constraints. At $100 mn in cash, we needed to raise a debt of $1.1bn and construct the deal using several levers and instruments to make it work. In short, there was a gap between the dream and the reality that I had to bridge. That excited me. I have never had qualms about taking any decisions as long as they are in favour of the organisation. Thankfully, in Phaneesh, the CEO, I have had an A Cherished Success inspiring and aggressive individual to While it was an important milestone work with. for iGATE as an organisation, it was an We had to make the unthinkable hapall-important achievement for me, as pen. I am happy, we did! an individual. iGATE had set forth on Here, I would reiterate the importance of risk management that paid off well. Every time I would be introduced to a risk as a big one. However, I was While necessity is the able to judiciously categorise all mother of invention, constraint the risks, and put them in approis the mother of innovation. priate buckets, and able to protect the shareholder value. Dare to question every decision, if you My job here was to try and conare not convinced about it. vert as many dilutive elements as possible to being accretive to Look for solutions instead of stating all shareholders’ investments. I problems. also had all the room to think out of the box. There were several situDo not be scared to ations where I was taking decisions dream big. that were unorthodox in nature, but worked extremely well for us.

LESSONS


“We were able to deliver three good years of 30 per cent + CAGR topline growth” —Devraj Doss CFO, Diageo India

Launching a new household product in Vietnam and then, turning around P&G’s business in Malaysia, Mr Devraj Doss recalls two inspiring stories

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uring the past decade I have worked across South and South East Asia in various companies in the FMCG and F&B sectors and had my own share of challenges, nail-biting days and those unforgettable moments of success.

Caricature by Raj Verma

My Biggest Challenge Ever since theories about ‘fortune at the bottom of the pyramid’ were written about, companies have been in the quest for it. However, doing so in a manner that created financial value was always a challenge. The example I want to share relates to the household care market in Vietnam. I was the regional CFO of the business unit that was faced with the challenge of creating a brand that would score big with the bottom of the pyramid. A few attempts later, most of us were ready to throw in the towel. But I urged the team to have another go. The work started with a complete dissection of the value flow of the price tiers in the target categories, followed by an intensive analysis of how existing competitors operated and created value (or did they?). What emerged was an exhaustive piece of work that clearly outlined the business model required to win, the financial model and how the game had to be changed. Multiple internal and external stakeholders

were engaged and convinced to think differently, and take risks by working in new ways. Selected people across the organisation were empowered to challenge anything and everything and bring their own personal ideas to the table. After many months of toil, the brand was launched and eventually did very well in the market place. Just being able to overcome what was once seen as a hopeless challenge, gave me immense satisfaction.

LESSONS

It is up to leaders to challenge the status quo and empower colleagues. Set your goals and define your role without any constraints. As a leader do not shy away from publicly stating your belief and then standing by it throughout the journey.

A Cherished Success This was a few years back when I was the CFO of Procter & Gamble’s business in Malaysia. Our business was in a tough spot. The top line was declining for the past four years, we were bleeding heavily, market share was in a free fall, and the morale of the organisation was very low. At that time, the company made significant management changes and three of us were brought in as new function heads and were soon joined by a new CEO. The first step we took was to make a clear commitment to ourselves that we would do all that it takes to turn around the business. What followed thereafter was an intense period of assessment and analysis wherein we took apart our business threadbare: re-evaluated the product portfolio,

changed our cost structures, had a fresh look at our systems and processes and critically evaluated the organisation structure and talent profile that we had. Our new five-year strategy was born from this exercise. The next phase was to engage every employee and drive the change. We set out a very intensive communication plan with all stakeholders, most of all our own employees, and drove execution in a focussed manner. At the end of it all, we were able to deliver three good years of 30 per cent + CAGR top line growth, and almost 3x profits. The business became stronger and some brands became No.1 or No. 2 in all market segments it operated in. As a ‘young CFO’ (I was in my very early 30s at that time), this experience taught me very valuable lessons and I count it, as perhaps, my biggest success till date.


“Profits suddenly dipped and...the bottomline bled profusely for two years” —S Varadaraj CFO, Godrej Agrovet

Mr S Varadaraj travels back in time to remember a huge financial restructuring exercise his team undertook at Godrej Agrovet, to plug a bleeding bottom line

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rom locks and soaps to rocket engines, washing machines and animal feed, Godrej touches the lives of 500 million Indians every day.

Caricature by Shankar Pamarthy

My Biggest Challenge Our journey into rural India began in 1971, when Godrej Agrovet commenced its operations. The initial three decades were peaceful and the company grew rapidly. However, in 2005-06 its profits suddenly dipped and despite the various short term steps, the bottom line bled profusely in the following two years. The business footprint of Godrej Agrovet is large, with 45 manufacturing facilities across India and Bangladesh, as well as a network of over 10,000 rural distributors, dealers and agents and a team of 1,900 employees committed to improving the lives of farmers. When we undertook a thorough study to understand the situation, we realised there were many factors contributing to this bleeding bottom line. One of the main factors was a highly fragmented business with profit centres at the plant level and decentralised functions. Because of the rapid pace at which we had grown, each plant and regional office was a profit centre. Visibility in regional operations and consolidation of data from across the region was a key challenge, dragging us down. Information from any of the businesses or regions was routed through several

points such as the business heads or even the regional heads. This led to inaccuracy in the data and surprises in terms of variances in profitability. All these resulted in poor decisionmaking and lack of strategic direction, affecting our ability to take corrective action on time. Finally it had all snowballed, leading to poor business performance. This was perhaps the biggest challenge of my career: to get the company’s finances back on track.

A Cherished Success A gigantic restructuring exercise was undertaken to centralise all key functions. The reporting structure of the finance team was changed to put in place a central control mechanism on the functioning of the regional finance teams. Along with this, the implementation of a new ERP system (SAP) was also rolled out which facilitated a centralised reporting structure. Clear cut deliverables and service level agreements with the regional and business heads were established. As a result, we managed to achieve several positives. One of the biggest changes came in the form of better visibility of our financial numbers which were no longer fragmented according to regions, cities and villages. The SAP ERP system also led to greater transparency and improved internal control. These collective

actions also reduced the strains on the finance personnel and minimised the ‘surprises’ we were getting every quarter prior to this. As a result, we could take better and timely decisions and also started functioning more effectively as a team or unit.

LESSONS

For a large, diversified organisation it is extremely important to have a strong, centrally controlled finance team and corporate leadership. Creating such a structure may lead to some resistance, but the CFO has to show perseverance and conviction and create such a structure for the betterment of the organisation.

Once this centralised process became a smooth operation, we, as a team, could focus more on execution of deliverables promised to the businesses and offer a better service level to it. Utlimately, this reflected on the balance sheet. It may seem a not-so-tough challenge in hindsight, but trust me, it was a very big deal for us. Overcoming this challenge was probably one of the biggest successes of my career here.


“I kept in mind...that everyone should leave the meeting with a winwin feeling” —Kamal Pande CEO, The Spa Group Raising private equity can be a tough task and succeeding in this challenge is indeed a true ‘2 Good’ moment, as Mr Kamal Pande found out

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aising private equity is an exhilarating experience for a CFO, and helps prepare him or her for an IPO.

Caricature by RETHISH K R

My Biggest Challenge Until I joined Genesis Group as its CFO, I had never been involved in raising private equity. During my four-year stint with the firm, I raised PE thrice, from funds like Sequoia Capital, Mayfield Fund, SVB, Henderson Capital Partners and L Capital. Each of these experiences was very fruitful in terms of learning. Additionally, there was a sense of achievement as each was realised within the target time. The CFO plays a key role in a PE infusion. While the promoter looks up to the CFO to get them the best valuation, the PE investor looks at the CFO as the person who controls and sets right the promoter’s expectations on the valuation, and subsequently manages the budgeting process to ensure that the company delivers on promises made. My first experience of raising funds through the PE channel a few years back would rank amongst my biggest challenges and biggest successes. The process of raising private equity through one fund is complex and we had three funds that had co-invested during the first tranche. This meant that each one had its own law firm and

we, therefore, had to simultaneously negotiate with three lawyers along with our law firm. While the first three steps of the process were managed effectively without much problem, the real challenge was posed when we had to negotiate the agreement within the time frame of four weeks, with the law firms involved in the negotiations.

A Cherished Success We managed to meet the deadline. How? While we allocated the first three weeks for various versions being exchanged with the four law firms through emails, in the fourth week we decided to sit together with the law firms along with the investor’s representatives and fixed targets for each day.

LESSONS

Conduct yourself in a manner that you are able to win the trust of both the promoters as well as the investors. While submitting a business plan to the investor, make sure your projections are achievable and backed by sound logic.

We finished each meeting only after we achieved the target of the number of clauses to be covered for the day. This meant continuous discussions without breaks on all days of the week and discussions running right up to midnight. Hence a team of 11 people representing different interests had to be effectively managed and, as a CFO, I moderated the discussions and helped the group reach agreements on key clauses. This actually meant I had to take instant decisions on various key issues, understand the investor’s point of view and, at the same time, protect the promoter’s interests. One of the key things that I kept in mind during this process was that everyone should leave the meeting with a win-win feeling. While this is easy to say, it is very difficult to achieve and I used empathy very effectively in this process. A CFO has to remember that post-investment, the investors will be the co-owners of the company and the CFO is equally responsible and accountable to them as he is to the promoters. It is, therefore, imperative that the CFO also thinks like an investor during the negotiations to understand and appreciate their point of view. Hence, the negotiations should never lead to a win-lose situation but always a win-win situation. Tackling this challenge successfully was certainly one my biggest moments.


“From Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows to...Ra.One, we have done 2D to 3D conversion for them all” —Nishant Fadia Global CFO, Prime Focus

An IPO attempt that almost backfired and two M&As that led to unprecedented success: Mr Nishant Fadia recalls his ‘2 Good’ moments

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rom tricky acquisitions and tackling a cash flow crisis to protecting our financial position during the economic downturn, I have been through many challenging moments in my career. I have been equally lucky to taste success on more than one occasion.

Caricature by RETHISH K R

My Biggest Challenge One of the biggest challenges in my over a decade-long stint at Prime Focus was the Initial Public Offering (IPO) that we did in 2006. We had been planning an IPO since 2001, but we were too small then to attempt it. By 2006, however, we were at least aiming big and needed to take the next step. However, in hindsight, we couldn’t have possibly chosen a worse time for an IPO. In June 2006, the day our roadshows began, the stock market was shut down after witnessing a spectacular collapse. Our bankers and investors were worried and we were literally biting our nails. Most people didn’t give us a chance. However, we were committed to it. We went ahead with the IPO and it was just about oversubscribed by two times. In fact, we were the last company to go for an IPO, and no other organisation went for an IPO in the next six months.

LESSONS

Believe in yourself and go ahead if you are convinced about your decision, even if detractors are many. You will always find an honest way to make money if you have conviction.

In retrospect, I know we could have done better or differently, but given the situation, we did remarkably well and this was mainly because our bankers and investors believed in us. I am proud to say that their faith has paid off and today we are one of the world’s largest visual entertainment firms with global leadership in the 2D to 3D conversion business. It was a challenge that tested my financial and communication skills to the hilt and overcoming the hurdles successfully gave me immense confidence to take up other challenges ahead.

A Cherished Success In 2007, a year after acquiring a Biritish post-production firm and moving into the UK, we decided to cross

the Atlantic and acquire Post Logic Studios and Frantic Films for $43 mn. These acquitions allowed us to offer cutting edge 2D to 3D conversion technology to film makers world over, especially in Los Angeles, New York, Vancouver and Winnipeg. Now we also have a state-of-the-art studio in Mumbai. But back then, people told us we had bitten off more than we could chew by trying to be “truly multinational”. Others doubted whether American, specifically Hollywood film-makers would ever give post-production work to an Indian company. Today, not only do we get significant amount of business from Hollywood, we have done or are doing several projects in India as well. From Star Wars, Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows to Clash of the Titans and Ra.One, we have done 2D to 3D conversion for them all. We have already achieved leadership in the 3D market. Our financial results bear testimony to this success. Profits after tax (PAT) in 2010-11 was a healthy Rs 76 crore, up from Rs 33 crore the previous year — a 120 per cent jump. Our market cap is now over Rs 1,000 crore. We owe much of this to our 3D business. I would definitely categorise our entry into the 3D business through the twin acquisitions as a big moment of success in my career.


“What won us the deal was mainly our consistent communication with the investment bankers” —Ajay Narain

Country Head, LeasePlan Emirates

Implementing an ERM system in India and leading a tricky M&A in Europe, Mr Ajay Narain recalls two big moments in his career

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s I begin a new chapter in my career as Country Head for LeasePlan Emirates, I look back with satisfaction at some of the bigger challenges we have tackled and a few key moments of success that I have been a part of.

Caricature by RETHISH K R

My Biggest Challenge Soon after I moved to India as the Finance Director of LeasePlan India, I undertook the challenge of adopting and implementing the Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) approach in the India office so that we had a better shot at risk management. This involved moving the entire office from a compartmentalised approach to risk management to implementing a uniform and common risk language across the organisation. The long-term objective was of course to ensure that all decisions were taken on the basis of an effective risk and return trade-off and that all such decisions were proactive rather than reactive. The challenge really was to ensure that we moved to the new system smoothly, without affecting operations, which is easier said than done. But two years later, when I look back, I can safely say that as a result of adopting the ERM system, the decisions taken in the organisation now are proactive and informed and are linked with the company objectives. Moreover, the organisational strategy has been realigned to ensure

better and more effective utilisation of resources to meet company objectives. Also, opportunities identified during assessment have been embedded in the company strategy. In addition, significant cost savings have been generated as a consequence of implementation of the ERM framework and this has contributed to enhancing the performance of LeasePlan India. Today LeasePlan India is growing at a rapid clip, something all of us are proud of. Our revenues have grown and the company’s profit margins have also seen a significant upward swing since we moved to the ERM system. The ERM exercise, too, has evolved as a continuous activity and not a one-time action. It is continuously looked at and changed or amended on the basis of the current environment.

LESSONS

Continuous communication and being a good listener are two pre-requisites to being a successful leader. Having a dynamic and adaptable risk management framework is key to the success and growth of an organisation.

A Cherished Success Before coming back to India I was based at LeasePlan’s headquarters in the Netherlands, where I successfully led one of the largest acquisitions on behalf of LeasePlan Corporation NV, with the acquisition of the Dial Group of companies (comprising approximately 1,20,000 vehicles) in 2000. Incidentally, Dial was the vehicle leasing arm of Barclays Bank plc across the UK, Italy, Spain and France. I was given the responsibility to coordinate the entire transaction-processing of the deal, including negotiating the confidentiality agreement, business valuation, drafting offers, coordinating the data room exercise, summarising due diligence findings and negotiating the sale and purchase agreement. There was intense competition in this transaction but what won us the deal was mainly our continuous and consistent communication with the investment bankers appointed by Barclays, which gave the seller the confidence that we were a very serious player. Also, the fact that we patiently listened to the facts being communicated at different junctures by investment bankers, gave us a clear and correct perspective of the situation at each step, helping us deal with the challenge better. Concluding this acquisition successfully surely ranks as a high point in my career.


“I had to ...ensure fear of job losses and other insecurities were dealt with post-merger” —Charanjit Attra CFO, ICICI Securities

Finishing a project while marooned in office during the floods; and managing a merger during the slowdown, Mr Charanjit Attra recalls two big moments

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he day the board of directors of a company adopts the financial statements is always one of the biggest days of the year for the entire finance team of a company.

Caricature by RETHISH K R

My Biggest Challenge It was the same for us in our office at ICICI Bank in 2005. The date of the meeting was July 28, 2005. Everything was moving smoothly and we were working hard as a team to ensure we met all deadlines. In fact, we were certain we would finish all the work by the previous morning. Then, calamity struck! From the morning of July 26, it started raining heavily. Until the afternoon, we were all in a good mood, working and enjoying the rains. Then, a little after lunch, news started filtering in that the incessant rains had coincided with high tide and much of the city was flooded. Most of us lived in the suburbs and, suddenly, the atmosphere became tense. We were instructed not to move out of the office building. Soon, I received a call from home with news that my son was stuck in school and my wife could not go to pick him up as our society was under five feet of water. I was in a strange dilemma. I knew the board meeting was due in less than 48 hours and huge amounts of paperwork needed to be reviewed. I also had to ensure the safety and security of my entire team who were now marooned in the office without adequate food. (When

do offices stock food for a deluge?) But I also knew my son had to Be prepared to tackle be rescued and the rest of my unforeseen situations. family looked after. To cut a long story short, Never panic. Others look up to a we managed to finish all leader to bring in a sense of calm. the paperwork on time, the board meeting went Always be accessible to your off smoothly, all the people colleagues and communicate all in my team were safe and, key decisions to them in an yes, my son also managed to effective and transparent reach home thanks to a friend. manner. But those two days tested my skills more than any other assignment I had faced before. Needless to say, tackling this multi-pronged challenge (most of which was never taught fears of job losses and other insecuriin any CA course) successfully also gave ties were dealt with post-merger. Even me a great sense of satisfaction. when times are good and there are no financial crises, mergers lead to insecurities among employees of the acquired A Cherished Success unit, but these fears double when a A few months after I moved from ICICI slowdown hits. Bank to ICICI Securities as the CFO in That we emerged stronger from this 2008, the global economic crisis hit. At the crisis — with post-merger blues being same time, another arm of ICICI merged successfully tackled and our profit after with I-Sec. I had the twin challenges of tax (PAT) showing a dramatic increase ensuring a smooth post-merger situation from 2009-10 to 2010-11 — gives me at work and also, of course, tackling the great joy. Surely, I would rate this as downturn which severely affected our one of my bigger successes. It gives company. Our revenues are extremely me a lot of confidence to know that we market-linked and they fell heavily during have managed to control costs and prethe downturn. Cost rationalisation was vent income leakages in my four years my big challenge. We spent weeks and as the CFO here. The net profit also months re-negotiating rates with vendors increased from a mere Rs 4 crore in and finding ways to maximise productiv2008-09 (the year I took charge) to over ity while keeping costs in check. Rs 100 crore in the two following fiscal At the same time, I had to utilise my years — a win I really cherish. management skills to the hilt to ensure

LESSONS


“An M&A is like a plastic surgery for the nose. It better not go wrong” —Gulshan Dua

Country Controller & Company Secretary, Freescale Semiconductors, India

Mr Gulshan Dua writes on a tricky M&A that posed a huge challenge for him and his team but ended up being a big success

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ou are only as good as your last assignment. This theory got deeply embedded in me through my teenage years when I competed against my pals in soccer, and remains with me today.

Caricature by Shankar Pamarthy

My Biggest Challenge At each juncture of our journey we are showered with numerous compliments that remind us about how well we are doing but, at the same time, bring a new challenge that shows how vulnerable we are to failures. Yet, from all the challenges that have been thrown at me during my professional excursion, the one I remember most clearly is one that took place just a few days before a particular merger and acquisition (M&A) deal was to be closed. While this was my first attempt at handling an M&A, my long journey in corporate finance and governance has given me enough exposure to the nuances of such business deals. Right from the word go I understood that an M&A is like a plastic surgery for the nose. It better not go wrong, or the result might not be pretty. The deal is considered a success when it involves just the right amount of money that can justify whether what you are buying makes sense for the organisation. The other equally important aspects include: is there scope for value appreciation; does it complement the business;

does it create value? The answer to these questions is what will make the difference to the organisation and dictate the fortunes of the companies involved for years to come. Coming back to my story, the corporate had appointed a top M&A consultant for due diligence. After getting the report and before the deal could be signed on the dotted line, the firm had asked us to do a sanity check, because a large number of employees were based in India. Since the due diligence report was already in place, I figured that a sanity check would at best take a couple of days. In fact, the entire exercise lasted more than a month with many extended nights and exhausting travels.

technology to widen our horizons while giving us scope to enter into territory that was becoming increasingly important to the domain we were in. In this deal, it was not only the technology we were to inherit and the price to be paid that were important, the essential part was to ensure that we were able to integrate the company along with the talent that made this company a remarkable success. However, one also needs to be a bit humble and should enter into a new relationship with open eyes in order to have the most cohesive integration. At the same time I also knew that in an M&A, once the deal is locked, any past sins of the company become yours. Thus, compliance plays a critical part. With these thoughts in place, I trod A Cherished Success cautiously and went through the report This M&A was to provide us with with a fine-toothed comb. What I unravelled was my biggest learning! The M&A consultant that was appointed to see the deal through had overlooked the non-compliances Your consultant or and downplayed the compliance. advisor will deliver as good The report submitted by the as you expect them to deliver. consultancy highlighted a minor non-compliance, but In order to get the best value, you during the sanity check, they need to understand your business turned out to be the ones with and strategise your focus areas. major issues. The findings led Once you have got that to stringent checks but in the correct, getting the experts end, the issues were addressed to deliver becomes an upfront at the time of negotiation easy task. before closure. It led to a successful M&A, transforming this huge challenge into a big success of my career.

LESSONS


“The issue was 36 times over-subscribed...some segments were 100 times over-subscribed” —S Varadarajan ED & CFO, VA Wabag

Mr S Varadarajan recalls the challenge of his company acquiring its erstwhile parent and the successful IPO that followed a few years later

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he biggest challenge of my career also led to a key and cherished success. It all began when our company was almost ready with a Red Herring Prospectus for an IPO in 2006, but shareholders voted to postpone it due to market conditions.

Caricature by RETHISH K R

My Biggest Challenge In the following year, we went for a big time acquisition — as a small company (earlier a subsidiary) we acquired our erstwhile European parent which was 2.5 times our own size. Suddenly, we had a presence in 19 countries with multiple subsidiaries and PEs. In 2010, we finally went for the IPO. The size of the IPO was Rs 475 crore. It was a mammoth task to get details to be published in the RHP as we were spread across three continents. The business valuation that we expected was very different from the numbers that analysts from the merchant bank derived. We were, however, convinced of our valuation. Self-belief gave the courage to start the roadshows. We went and shared our story in the market and were delighted when it was well received. But when we were close to filing the RHP, we came across an unexpected hurdle in getting a NOC from RBI over an issue related to one of the selling shareholders. We had to close the issue and file the RHP before September 30. If we missed the dead-

line, it would mean much more than missing a wonderful market situation. Everyday for the next two weeks, I spent several hours at the RBI office in Mumbai. Finally, we managed to get the NOC from RBI on the evening of September 15. We had barely enough time to file the RHP since 15 days are needed from filing it to opening and closing the issue.

A Cherished Success Apprehensive about how we would fare, we had priced the stock at Rs 1,310 for a share of Rs 5 face value. The issue opened on September 22 and closed on September 27. My biggest joy? That the issue was 36 times oversubscribed with some of the segments like HNI getting more than 100 times oversubscription. It was specially heartening since our detractors had said we had overpriced ourselves. However, one more twist in the tale was to come. As we prepared to celebrate, SEBI issued a notice to the company stating that we had misstated important information. It was an inadvertent misprint in the certificate issued by the merchant banker. SEBI advised us to publish the statement again and offer a refund of the application money to those applicants who had opted for the same. The whole process including refund would have to be completed within the next 13 days. Some people told us we would end up

paying at least four days penalty and a penal interest on a very large amount. In fact, the interest was much more than the issue size itself! Thankfully, we persuaded SEBI to shorten the waiting period but it was a real challenge to complete the task within 13 days and

LESSONS

Think BIG. Think positive. Never give up. The bigger the desire, the bigger the challenges. Challenges should not deter our conviction. Always remember that fortune favours the brave.

avoid the penal interest. The team completed it on time. On the day of the listing ceremony in the morning, we were still working on the last bit. The climax was on the day of listing. As we rang the bell signalling listing of the stock of the company, transactions started. Within a few seconds the stock price went up by 33 per cent. For all the travails that we went through in the process of the IPO, the outcome on the day of listing was heartening and unforgettable. It was a true ‘too good’ moment.


“Both the deals depended on how well we did the due diligence” —Sandeep Chatterjee CFO, DIC India

Implementing an ERP system across six plants and doing due diligence successfully for two MNCs, Mr Sandeep Chatterjee talks about his ‘2 Good’ moments

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or more than the past two decades I have been associated with the same o r g a n i s a t i o n . Ye t , m y experiences spans across continents, as I have now worked for a British, French and Japanese firm. We were British-owned (Coates of India) till 1990, then became part of the French MNC, TOTAL, and now we are the Indian arm of the Japanese firm, DIC. In my career here I have faced many challenges and seen many successes.

LESSONS

Communicate at every stage, right down to the bottom of the pyramid. Learn how to handle people. Always benchmark what you are doing against global best practices.

Caricature by Shankar Pamarthy

My Biggest Challenge In 2005 we decided to convert our old legacy system to an Oracle-driven ERP one. In an organisation with six plants across India, this was a huge challenge. The key to its success lay in a smooth transformation and effective implementation. After some deliberation we decided to go in for a modular implementation. This meant we had to transfer the entire operations from legacy to ERP in each unit separately. It took us a whole year to get this done and throughout this period, at several plants, both the old and the new systems were running simultaneously. Imagine running MIS and accounting systems in two vastly different systems at the same time. What it required was complete change management in terms of mindset and the way business was done. We literally

built, trained and deployed teams, during this year. At the end of the year though, once the new ERP was functioning across all six plants, the results showed. Our performance improved, new benchmarks were set in accounting and in the end it reflected in the bottom line. The project succeeded largely because we managed to communicate the benefits of the new system to all our staff effectively. We addressed their questions and the fears successfully. Another relief was that we also managed to retain most of our key people, post the transformation. This was a creditable achievement because recruiters from competitor organisations were always on the lookout for personnel trained in ERP. We knew we would be a happy hunting

ground for them. So, we ensured our employees were incentivised and motivated enough to stay loyal.

A Cherished Success We were British-owned (Coates of India) till the early 1990s. Then TOTAL, the French giant came in as an investor and finally took over CoI. Finally in 2000, DIC, the Japanese MNC, acquired us. In both cases, (during the TOTAL acquisition and the DIC acquisition) there was a huge amount of due diligence done and we had to go through all possible documentation and systems checks. At the end of both due diligence exercises, the finance team was applauded for the systems and processes we had put in place and the auditing work that we had done. This appreciation was put on record by the management of both the companies. This was no mean achievement since there were vast differences in the work culture of these organisations — one French and the other Japanese. In both the cases, the final acquisitions or the deals depended on how well we did the due diligence. Succeeding living up to the expectations of the two MNCs in terms of the best practices they expected and the benchmarks they demanded, especially when they came from two vastly different cultures, is an achievement, I am really proud of.


“We began the groundwork for a long term vision that viewed the investment from a growth perspective” —Sathya Kalyanasundaram Finance & Operations Director, Texas Instruments

Trying to secure financing for a key project and successfully executing an infrastructure investment plan, Mr Sathya Kalyanasundaram picks these two as his ‘2 Good’ moments

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ny challenge that is successfully dealt with, gives us a sense of satisfaction. Some successes however, go a step further and make us, as a team, feel great or “2 good”, as the theme of this anniversary issue suggests.

Caricature by RETHISH K R

My Biggest Challenge A few years back, as CFO of MosChip Semiconductor, I was looking to wrap up a key tranche of financing that was required to pay for capital expenditures that we were going to incur in developing a cutting-edge chip. The plan was to repay the financing and related interest costs from the gross margins of chip sales. While the projections for the chip sales were robust, they were slowly sliding lower as weeks passed, given the overall direction of the world markets. The challenge ahead of us was to secure financing the right way and quickly. While our ability to use the money depended largely on global trends, the cushion of having such financing in our arsenal was a key driver to future growth plans. Our banking partners were quite cooperative with our repeated requests to expedite the process but they had to (rightfully) understand the key tenets of the proposal and pass the same through their processes for validation. Over many weeks of innumerable clarifications, meetings and requests for additional data, we were able to

LESSONS

Be ready at all times. Nothing can beat a wellarticulated and researched plan that can be aligned for implementation. Also, many a solution lies within the problem. It takes dexterity to step back and review the problem to unearth the solution.

finally secure the official documents that confirmed the sanction of the money. It was indeed a photo finish. Just two days after we received our confirmation letter, all approvals for corporate financing pending with our banking partners were put on hold indefinitely. Looking back, I can confidently surmise that this particular financing by the bank was a key driver in helping MosChip navigate the 200809 crisis and achieve financial closure on many strategic projects that we undertook thereafter.

A Cherished Success My most exciting role to date has been the one that I currently have at Texas Instruments (TI). One of the key successes that defines TI is its ability to empower leaders to drive decisions that impact longterm sustainable growth. I was privileged to be bestowed with a significant amount

of responsibility within six months of joining the organisation. TI had been contemplating a key infrastructure investment as the focal point of a strategic decision for over five years. The options around the infrastructure investment had generally been reviewed in detail multiple times before. However, there were some apprehensions that the issue was being addressed as a deficiency in the strategic plan. With the full support of the TI leadership, we began the groundwork for a long term vision that viewed the investment from a growth perspective instead. We highlighted the short-term pains that the organisation would have to endure but encouraged managers to review their forecasts to longer term perspectives. At the end of the day, the success, as I define it, was not the full alignment that we received on the need to move forward with the infrastructure investment, but that the organisation was able to see as one, the need to support growth and to do so quickly. The success was largely due to the remarkable collaboration between global stakeholders across different levels and over 20 internal business entities. In addition, the excellent execution of plan from the ‘local’ teams was important in driving a high level of confidence for the longterm implementation of the aligned proposals.


“We want our programme to train 50 million Indians by 2022” —Indranil Deb CFO, NIFE

Mr Indranil Deb writes on tackling a near-bankruptcy challenge. And the joy of empowering school dropouts

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n 1997-98, I was associated with a specialty engineering company, Ultra Drytech Engineering Ltd (UDEL). The company specialised in designing and manufacturing process vessels and drying and filtration systems for the chemical and pharmaceutical industries.

Caricature by Raj Verma

The Big Challenge It was here that I faced one of the biggest challenges of my career. The promoters were technically sound and the company was doing well. But in the mid-1990s the economy took an unexpected turn for the worse. The euphoria of economic and financial liberalisation still hung heavily in the air. Large consumercentric companies anticipated a huge pent-up demand from the domestic market for a whole host of consumer goods and services. This expectation caused many players to commit significant amounts of capital to expanding their manufacturing capacities. In early mid-1996, the cycle suddenly turned. In 1996, UDEL had a large order book and planned an IPO in 1997. All of a sudden, the company found its order book shrinking. Raw material prices jumped, product prices tanked and orders dried up. The company was saddled with a huge debt. Then, the RBI changed the contours of the markets in a single stroke, dropping bank rates. The cost of borrowings fell

from 18-19 per cent to 15-16 per cent. It also closed the NBFC route of raising project finance for many MSMEs. Under these circumstances, UDEL faced the real threat of closure. Working out a settlement formula for UDEL’s existing institutional lenders was a challenge. I was tasked with formulating a workable proposal that would pass muster with banks and institutional lenders (whose officers had a very different kind of thinking back then). To cut a long story short, we had a difficult time convincing lenders to accept a settlement and rehabilitation plan that would help the company turn around. When we finally managed to convince most of them and pull off the settlements, it gave me a great sense of satisfaction and confidence in my abilities. I was 29 years old at the time.

LESSONS

Stick to the basics. Guide bankers along and you will eventually be able to convince them about your plan. Think outside the box. Size is not a constraint for the width of the canvas on which you want to paint.

A Cherished Success I am CFO of NIFE, a leading vocational training institute. NIFE has a 20–year-long history of providing vocational-training courses in the fields of fire and safety, lift technology, and fibre-optic technology to school and college dropouts who would otherwise remain unemployed. NIFE has so far placed around 40,000 students in India and abroad in stable, well-paying jobs. Today we have over 70 branches across India, a majority of them in the four southern states, and the rest in Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. I am part of the management team that is executing the countrywide expansion programme. My task began with understanding the vision of the founder and aligning it with the broad macroeconomic trends and opportunities available in the country. I was instrumental in corporatising NIFE’s operations and authoring an expansion roadmap and a new business plan. We identified the states and cities and towns in which new training centres should be set up. We have also started discussions with a leading government nodal agency about a pan-India programme. We want our nation-wide programme to train 50 million Indians in these vocational courses by 2022. This has been a fulfilling assignment. The feeling that we are contributing to the nation-building process in our own small way makes me feel really good.


“A CFO juggles and wears many hats... to maximise shareholder value” —Joydeep Nag

CFO, GE Healthcare, South Asia

Mr Joydeep Nag writes on the multiple balls a CFO juggles everyday (read diverse challenges) and how he emerges successful, more often than not

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n the floor of a jostling upmarket pub, a juggler uses hats, canes and wine bottles to maximise his audience’s entertainment.

Caricature by RETHISH K R

My Biggest Challenge Similarly, in the corner room of a humming corporate office, a CFO juggles and wears many hats, using business support, tax and controllership to maximise shareholder value. The format is different but the goals are the same — maximise value for stakeholders and customers. Of all the juggling balls that make up my daily routine, business support (growth) and controllership are perhaps the most vital. Every CFO learns quickly to balance these and draw a fine line between the two. This makes life difficult, exciting, boisterous and of course “2 Good”. During the 1980s, when India was a mere popcorn stand for many multinational corporations to the point where Indian operations have some critical mass and significant potential, the status of the Indian CFO and their Indian operations have metamorphosed. Indian CFOs have a seat at the high table, with a share of voice and mind far higher than before. They are impacted by globalisation and trends and regulations across the world. The need to balance the twosome of growth and controllership is a requirement not only locally

but also globally. And in no area does this twosome game play out more dramatically than in revenue recognition. From a headquarter point of view, this is a high risk area. Considerable safeguards need to be taken to ensure the numbers are grounded. Concern stems from horror stories that do the rounds to the real wayward possibilities of a creative mind on field when the guard of controllership may have taken a quick nap. The perception of a hawkish HQ in a world warped in FCPA, GAAP and the demands of greater corporate governance is further compounded in a country with a culture of jugaad which refuses to improve its ranking on the corruption index.

A Cherished Success Situations develop where the CFO must take a call on issues of revenue. There

LESSONS

Learn to wear many hats at the same time. Be honest to yourself. Back your gut feeling and do the right thing, even if it means resisting the lure of a bigger profit or a better quarterly result.

is always a fine line to walk. It may be due to virulent clauses in an agreement or due to faulty deliveries, channelstuffing or even plain ignorance of the right way to carry out a transaction. In my career I have learnt that besides deep domain knowledge, business knowledge and intelligence are the most important ammunition that a CFO can keep in store. While the CFO does play the role of partner to the CEO in many areas of business, financial performance is the CFO’s responsibility. It is his honesty and integrity on which the reputation of the corporation rests. In many situations, it is wiser to err on the conservative side and take a hard call. I refuse and reverse revenue whenever it does not adhere to the gold standards of recognition. By doing so, I try to adhere to the highest standards of corporate integrity and excellence. It is a gut feeling which any CFO develops over time, that makes him do the right thing . The twosome challenge of balancing growth and standing up for controllership (for no CFO can ever drop this ball) will remain a standard in every finance repertoire. This is the biggest challenge we deal with, one that we execute and learn from every day. It makes life exciting as well as tortuous, difficult yet honourable, good and liveable. This, then, is the biggest challenge I face in my career, and tackling it successfully makes it my biggest success.


Security Leadership Awards 2011 Recognising the best minds in Security Leadership & Innovation

In an attempt to recognise those individuals who have contributed and succeeded in pushing the boundaries when it comes to innovation in information security, CSO Forum, brings to you, the 1st Annual Security Leadership Awards. Judged by our esteemed council, the Security Leadership Awards bring those individuals to the forefront who are constantly innovating and pushing the boundaries of security within the enterprise.

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December 2, 2011 ∞ Pune, India For details log onto

http://www.thectoforum.com/csosummit2011

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About the Security Leadership Awards Security management is now recognised as a key business enabler. Forward-thinking security leaders have made tremendous progress in driving tighter linkages between business excellence goals and security actions. Their contributions need regular industry driven; peer-acknowledged awards to highlight the best successes; recognise the function and provide encouragement for future innovations in Security Management The Security Leadership Awards is a dedicated platform to recognise such security executives; their teams and organisations for outstanding achievement in the areas of risk management, data asset protection, compliance, privacy, physical and network security.

Highlights

• Six Award categories • Eminent jury members • Transparent nomination process • Awards ceremony on 2nd December, during the 4th Annual CSO Summit, 2-3 December, 2011 at Pune

Why participate

• Get recognised as a star by leaders of • • •

the industry Join an exclusive club of achievers Learn from successful peers in an exclusive knowledge forum Share your and your company’s success stories

Award Categories 1. Security Practitioner of the year 2. Security Innovator of the year 3. Security Project of the year 4. Security Organisation of the year 5. Promising star 6. Security Visionary of the year

Who can apply?

• CSO's and CISO's • Heads of Information Security /

Information Risk & Compliance and their team members of companies operating in India.

Nominations open! To nominate yourself or your CISO/CSO logon to http://www.thectoforum.com/csosummit2011 or contact Vinay Vashistha at +91 9910234345 or email at vinay.vashishta@9dot9.in


2 Good

The Power of 2 in 2012

Renowned astrologer Bejan Daruwalla writes on challenges and successes that await India Inc (and CFO India) in 2012 and the significance of the number 2

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Mr Bejan Daruwalla was featured as a corporate astrologer in the Financial Times, London, December 10, 2010. He is acknowledged as one of the hundred great astrologers in the last thousand years in the “Millennium Book of Prophecy” published by Harper Collins. But while Bejan says he has the blessings of Lord Ganesha, he admits that he is not perfect. Contact: bejandaruwalla@ rediffmail.com

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anesha says the Indian corporate sector must be fully prepared for the changes and vacillation of demand — supply — profit. These words sum up the entire economy in 2012. Expect severe, dramatic changes at least till July. Remember, 2 will be your most important number. Fight with your lover/husband/wife, but never, never, with your banker! Or you might come out 2nd best! Number 2 by the Hebrew Kabala of numbers, refers and stands for the moon. The moon and the sun are the two major luminaries. The moon indicates the mindset and moods and the inclinations of the people, in ancient astrology. Modern astrology connects 2 and its planet, the moon, to the SUBCONSCIOUS, which, is the real motivation and the seat of desire, as I call it. The moon indicates the subconscious DEMAND and NEED which leads to buying of any commodity. All my CFO friends should also read my latest book, “2012: The End of the World?” It shows that the 21st century will be the best and brightest ever. Technology and humanity will bond beautifully. Therefore, we will evolve and grow into awareness and consciousness. The cynics have a right to their opinion but I keep an open mind and predict a great future for all of us in 2012.

November 2011

Ganesha also says CFO India will have power, progress and success in 2012, which sees it complete 2 years and move into its third year. The 2nd anniversary obviously emphasises number 2, which, as I said, refers and stands for the moon. The moon indicates the subconscious demand and need which leads to buying of any commodity and success. CFO India will get it and thus be very popular. The year 2012 will see wild and rapid fluctuations in stock, property, agriculture, automobiles, steel, oil, gas, loans, credit cards, chemicals and forex — and CFO India will highlight all of it superbly and sharply. Why and how do I know? There are two reasons: (a) By numerology CFO India works out to 18+12. Adding this we get 30 or 3. Three vibrates to the planet Jupiter, and, Jupiter most certainly means MONEY. That’s what CFO India is all about. A soaring sixer! (b) This Ganesha devotee, now 81, lets you in on a secret. The months of November and May represent the banks, and the money is in the banks. CFO India was launched in November or Scorpio which is the sign of loans, funds and collaborations. A perfect astro-numero-forensic match. One for the road? November is the 11th month of the year. 11 by itself is a force in the tarot cards. Adding 11, 1 plus 1 = 2, we are again at No. 2.


CFO India - November 2011  

Special 2nd Anniversary Issue Issue 11 Volume 2

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