Q. From holding various leadership positions at HR divisions of companies such as Computer Associates and Syntel to Director of the Executive Education program at ISB to HR Anexi. Please tell us about your journey. What were the main driving factors behind the decision to start your business?
I started my career in HR and traversed through various roles in different organizations taking each one as a learning opportunity. I chased learning with a belief that success and money would follow. Apart from various HR roles in Mafatlal group, OTIS, Syntel & CA, I worked with Aptech (then Apple Industries) as a BPR & TQM Consultant, with Computer Associates as Head of OD for APAC region and then as Business Manager selling Technology, at ISB as a Director in the Executive Education with focus on learning.
In 1993, I was working with Otis as an HR manager where we were working with different vendors for recruitment, training, compensation etc. Thus I thought to myself why we can’t have one single company for all the stated needs of HR. It was back then that I decided that someday I would start my own consulting firm which would offer all the services from Hiring to Retiring. And the next 14 years, I prepared myself as a Manager, Leader, Entrepreneur and a Business professional. In CA, I moved from my role as Director-HR to sales to gain experience in selling. I moved to ISB again, but this time to gain an entrepreneurial experience as the role involved complete P&L management.
2. You were awarded the “SME Excellence Award in 2011 and 2015.” Can you throw some light on your contribution towards SME’s growth and its innovative products and services? Also, how do you see the future of India’s SME industry in the times to come?
According to the estimates of Ministry of MSME, the SME industry contributes to 38% of the GDP and employs over 100 million people. Many of these small to medium (mostly family run) organisations are mostly stuck in their day to day operations. They struggle to find the right HR professionals and deal with people issues, and the owners are themselves involved in HR issues spending a 30-40% of their time in managing people issues. This is where HR Anexi has played and continues to play a vital role. We all know that people are becoming key differentiators for success of an organization and thus we work with the owners and management team to set up people strategy, which is in line with the business vision and strategy. We work towards setting up professional processes & systems, focus on hiring/developing key talent to ensure growth and success. The sector is growing incredibly and with all the new government initiatives coming through I see a huge potential.
3. Companies often cite the gap between college curriculum and industry requirement while recruiting students. Do you think courses at MBA colleges are in sync with industry requirements or is some tweaking required?
From my understanding, I believe that over the past few years the curriculum is becoming more and more industry oriented. However certain areas I feel they can improve upon are –
- Case study methodology of teaching- I believe that even though teaching through Harvard case studies are being used, I feel we must focus more on live case studies and challenges that can help create a real life scenarios. I believe such cases would give students a much better understanding, and will also prepare them better for the actual industry.
- Interpersonal Skills – I still believe the interpersonal skills including basic communication and presentation skills are a major let down. Colleges must address the issue and help them develop better interpersonal skills
- Value systems- Colleges must instil in them the right values. They must stress and teach the students the importance of value system. Many organisations talk about the same and this is one major factor that comes up during the recruitment process.
4. While you have had a number of achievements in your career, what has been the proudest moment of your professional life?
I think the entire journey from being an HR professional to becoming an entrepreneur has been amazing. Considering that I came from a family which was in the government services, to move out of that mind set and to start something on my own has been the proudest moment for me. Also, the fact that as an entrepreneur I’ve been able to reach out to many more families and have been able to provide them employment gives me immense satisfaction.
5. Have there been failures which helped you take better decisions later on in your life?
I’ve made quite a few mistakes over this period and I’ve always learnt from them. One major failure that comes to my mind is when I got in the restaurant business. It was right after I got back from ISB in 2003, I started this restaurant along with my first venture. It was my first entrepreneurial experience. I thought that by hiring a good chef and setting it up in a nice locality would do the job. However 11 months into it, I had to shut it down as we were running into big losses.
This is where I learnt one of the biggest lessons of my life. I realised if you don’t know the business, hire a professional or an expert or someone who knows it really well and then run it. You can’t do everything on your own. This learning I’ve been able to successfully implement in my other projects and continue to do so in my upcoming projects.
6. Who is a person that you considered as a role model early in your life? How and why does this person impact your life?
I’ve met a lot of people during the course of life and each of them have contributed to my learning and development. However, I think my father was a major influence throughout this journey. Back in school, I wanted to become a table tennis player and I had no formal training. However, a senior in my school happened to be a state table tennis player. It was then that my dad told me if I wanted to really become good at something, I must learn and compete with the best. Even though I suffered heavy defeats initially, within 18 months I was able to beat that guy.
Since then I’ve used this philosophy throughout my career. Even with HR Anexi, I always compete with the best. Being a young firm, we always compete with the best and learn from them whether we actually win or lose. I think this attitude has helped us win a lot a major contracts. Today, HR Anexi is a known name in the HR consultancy field because of this attitude.
7. You’ve coached and organised many leadership development programs. What do you think is the most important quality of a leader? Do you think leaders are born or are they made?
I strongly believe that there are no born leaders, they are always made. For me it is about the upbringing, the school one went to, the teachers he/she interacted with, family, friends, situations they were in etc. I think the best leaders are ones who can read situations without having any preconceived filters and biases and can take action based on the context and not on one’s assumptions. This I believe is the most important quality of a leader.
8. Looking back at the past, is there something that you wish you had done differently with respect to your student or professional life?
Here I’d like to quote something I learnt from my guru and he said “when your shadow becomes longer than you, the sun is about to set.” I strongly believe that one must always stay grounded and be open to learning new things. And the day we feel that we have done/seen it all, learning stops and sunset is about to happen!!
A 1989 batch alumnus of NMIMS School of Business Management, Mr. Ashish Arora is the Founder and Managing Director of HR Anexi Pvt Ltd. HR Anexi is a strategic human capital consulting organization with a complete array of capabilities in talent assessment, organization develop-ment, employee engagement, HR outsourcing, research and survey. An alumnus of the 1989 batch, Mr Arora has worked with major companies including Otis, Computer Associates and Syntel Corporation. He worked as a Director for Executive Education division at ISB in its founding years. He is an adventure seeker and loves riding his Harley frequently. He also enjoys collecting currencies of the world and his collection includes some rare coins including Napoleon coins.