“Good so­lu­tions come when we are able to fully un­der­stand the needs of our cus­tomers”

Palash Nandy, chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer, NUmeric IN­Dia

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About my­self

Year of birth: 1969

Favourite mu­sic: Old Hindi songs and western coun­try mu­sic

Favourite food: I am a Ben­gali, there­fore I have many favourites – biryani, chicken tikka, Bhapa Ilish and, of course, Ben­gali sweets

Favourite films: ‘Sho­lay’ and ‘Three Id­iots’ Favourite books: ‘The Al­chemist,’ ‘The Monk Who Sold His Fer­rari’ and ‘The Dis­cov­ery of In­dia’ Favourite ac­tor: Amitabh Bachchan Favourite ac­tress: Su­chi­tra Sen Favourite singer: Kishore Ku­mar

Child­hood and back­ground

I was born in a place called Chin­surah in West Ben­gal. Later, I moved to Ben­galuru with my fam­ily. I started my school­ing in Ben­galuru. We then moved to Al­la­habad, where I com­pleted my ICSE from Boys’ High School, after which I moved to Kolkata for my ISC from St. Thomas Boys’ School. For col­lege, I en­rolled at Vivekananda Col­lege, where I com­pleted my BSc in math­e­mat­ics with hon­ours.

I am the youngest of three chil­dren. I have an el­der brother and an el­der sis­ter. My brother works in a soft­ware or­gan­i­sa­tion based in Kolkata while my sis­ter is a school teacher in the same city. My fa­ther worked for a pri­vate com­pany that dealt in imag­ing in­stru­ments. He was in the sales de­part­ment through­out his ca­reer, even­tu­ally head­ing the firm’s sales oper­a­tions. My mother was a house­wife.

My wife Ajanta used to be a school teacher. We were class­mates in col­lege. She went on to do her MSc in ap­plied math­e­mat­ics and sub­se­quently chose to be a teacher. She taught math­e­mat­ics in a school in Kolkata for a pretty long time. But even­tu­ally, she quit when I re­lo­cated to Paris so that she could join me there. Now we are back in Chen­nai, but she has not yet re­turned to work­ing since she wants to fo­cus her at­ten­tion on our daugh­ter, who is ten years old and stud­ies in the sixth grade.

How my jour­ney be­gan

After I com­pleted my grad­u­a­tion, I was look­ing for a job. Since my fa­ther was in sales, that field some­how in­ter­ested me a lot. So I joined a com­pany called MDS Switchgear Lim­ited in Kolkata in 1990.

At that time, MDS was set­ting up its oper­a­tions in eastern In­dia with its regional of­fice in Kolkata and all of us in the com­pany were com­pletely new hires. As a re­sult I along with my other col­leagues got to build up some­thing com­pletely from scratch, which was an ex­tremely good ex­pe­ri­ence since I got to learn a lot. I got the hang of nearly ev­ery­thing that is done in an or­gan­i­sa­tion and not just sales. This helped me grow within the com­pany. In Novem­ber 1996, MDS was ac­quired by Le­grand, which is how the lat­ter came to In­dia.

Un­der the new Le­grand man­age­ment, I worked as an area man­ager and just when I was ask­ing my­self what I wanted to do next, I got an in­ter­est­ing op­por­tu­nity to move to Mum­bai as a prod­uct mar­ket­ing man­ager. This was an ex­tremely good break for me, be­cause that was when Le­grand was set­ting up its mar­ket­ing de­part­ment in In­dia. While work­ing in this role, I was asked if I could take up the mar­com (mar­ket­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion) re­spon­si­bil­ity. Frankly, though I had no rel­e­vant ex­pe­ri­ence, I took up the job. Con­se­quently, I was the only one who had the ex­pe­ri­ence in sales, prod­uct mar­ket­ing as well as mar­com; so, some years later I was asked to head the mar­ket­ing de­part­ment. I did so for a few years for Le­grand In­dia, be­ing re­spon­si­ble for all the three brands of Le­grand in In­dia. By that time, Le­grand had ac­quired Indo Asian and sub­se­quently Numeric, in 2012.

In 2013, I was of­fered a chance to work at Le­grand’s head­quar­ters in Paris, where I was re­spon­si­ble for strate­gic plan­ning for the whole group. This was al­to­gether a dif­fer­ent kind of job, with very lit­tle to do with ev­ery­day oper­a­tions. I had to iden­tify busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties and risks for the whole group in the mid/long-term and sub­se­quently plan how to take ad­van­tage of the op­por­tu­ni­ties and mit­i­gate the risks. I worked in Paris for three-and-a-half years and then I was asked if I would like to come back to In­dia to take up this job at Numeric. I was al­ways in­ter­ested in build­ing some­thing new, which is why I chose to come back to In­dia and take up this as­sign­ment, which I’ve been work­ing on for the last one-and-a-half years.

In­ci­dents that left a last­ing im­pres­sion on me

Through­out my ca­reer, I got op­por­tu­ni­ties to build pro­cesses and or­gan­i­sa­tional struc­tures. When I was in Kolkata, I got a chance to do so; sub­se­quently, I was in­stru­men­tal in set­ting up the mar­ket­ing oper­a­tions for Le­grand in In­dia and the same thing hap­pened when I was head­ing strate­gic plan­ning at Le­grand, Paris. So these were some of the ma­jor events

that made me what I am to­day. Also, the three-and-a-half years in France com­pletely changed my per­spec­tive, both per­son­ally as well as pro­fes­sion­ally.

Apart from this, a lot of peo­ple have in­flu­enced me and taught me how to main­tain a bal­ance be­tween my pro­fes­sional and per­sonal life. Pin­point­ing any one per­sonal in­ci­dent is a bit dif­fi­cult. I come from a joint fam­ily and I be­lieve that has had a big in­flu­ence on me since ex­pe­ri­enc­ing such a life­style is very dif­fi­cult to­day. So it’s a com­bi­na­tion of var­i­ous as­pects of my life that have made me what I am to­day.

Pre­ferred work en­vi­ron­ment

My pre­ferred en­vi­ron­ment is one where peo­ple can eas­ily con­verse across hi­er­ar­chies and func­tions. Wher­ever I have worked, the con­cept of the ‘closed door’ didn’t ex­ist. I en­cour­age peo­ple to walk in or walk out of my of­fice when­ever the need arises. I pre­fer an en­vi­ron­ment where peo­ple are free to de­bate and fi­nally come to a con­clu­sion on what is to be done.

I have got a board up in my room, on which I en­cour­age my col­leagues to come in and write about what they think I need to im­prove on. Later, if and when that per­son feels that I have over­come that par­tic­u­lar habit, it is that per­son’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to come and erase that com­ment from the board. For I be­lieve I can work on my short­com­ings only if some­one points them out to me and mo­ti­vates me to im­prove. That’s how a work en­vi­ron­ment should be, where we help each other rec­tify our mis­takes and be­come more ef­fi­cient.

Some things about my­self that I’d like to change

I was ex­tremely hot-headed and im­pul­sive. I have learned to curb that as­pect a lot but I still con­tinue to work on it. I also need to start giv­ing more time to my fam­ily. Up­grad­ing my knowl­edge, both pro­fes­sion­ally as well as per­son­ally, is an­other thing I be­lieve I should work on.

My idols

There were cer­tain school teach­ers who sim­pli­fied a lot of things for me. My teach­ers played a huge role in im­part­ing qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion and morals which helped me a lot in my pro­fes­sional and per­sonal life. My sib­lings were much more ma­ture and bet­ter stu­dents than I was, and they again helped me a lot. My par­ents en­sured that I was al­ways grounded and rooted to re­al­ity. From my col­lege days it­self, my wife (my class­mate in those days) had started play­ing a huge role in my life. She brings a sense of calm­ness to the en­tire fam­ily. Un­doubt­edly, she has been a ma­jor in­flu­ence in my life.

Qual­i­ties that at­tract me to peo­ple

I ad­mire peo­ple who have a pas­sion for what­ever they are do­ing. Also, open­ness, trans­parency, a hunger for learn­ing and growth (per­sonal and pro­fes­sional) are cer­tain qual­i­ties that I ap­pre­ci­ate in a per­son. I strongly be­lieve that skills can be taught but that’s not the case with at­ti­tude—which you ei­ther have or you don’t.

The chal­lenges of man­age­ment

I al­ways like to chal­lenge my team mem­bers to go be­yond their self-made bound­aries and, at the same time, in­cul­cate a ‘can do, will do’ at­ti­tude. I en­cour­age them not to de­pend on me but to take in­de­pen­dent de­ci­sions. I push my team hard to come up with prac­ti­cal so­lu­tions. I in­sist that they spend a large part of their time ‘lis­ten­ing’ to cus­tomers/stake­hold­ers (in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal), since the ma­jor­ity of the ‘good’ so­lu­tions come about when we are able to fully un­der­stand our cus­tomers’ ‘needs’.

I also be­lieve in shar­ing my knowl­edge with my team for I be­lieve that this helps me to grow along with them. Fi­nally, I have al­ways strived to pro­vide an open en­vi­ron­ment wherein my teams are able to de­bate hon­estly and come out with the right so­lu­tions. I strongly be­lieve that we have to make use of the di­verse ex­per­tise that lies within any team, and that the leader’s job is not to al­ways pro­vide the an­swer but to cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment where dif­fer­ent team mem­bers can put their heads to­gether to come up with the ap­pro­pri­ate so­lu­tions.

My ad­vice to bud­ding en­trepreneurs

Ev­ery en­tre­pre­neur needs to un­der­stand that at the end of the day, it’s a ques­tion of man­ag­ing peo­ple. The mar­ket, prod­ucts and the eco­nomic chain will keep on chang­ing, but what mat­ters is the way you man­age your peo­ple so that pro­duc­tiv­ity in­creases. I strongly be­lieve that, in to­daay’s world, the biggest dif­fer­en­tia­tor amongst com­pa­nies is the qual­ity of the hu­man cap­i­tal they have.

The road ahead

I no longer think about my fu­ture in terms of des­ig­na­tions. To­day, I am re­spon­si­ble for the sales, ser­vice and mar­ket­ing func­tions in an or­gan­i­sa­tion that has a rev­enue of about ` 5.5 bil­lion and 2000 em­ploy­ees. Keep­ing that in mind, I would like to take up more chal­leng­ing as­sign­ments. I be­lieve in this process. Des­ig­na­tions will keep on chang­ing, but think­ing about them won’t let me take up chal­lenges and cre­ate some­thing new.

On the per­sonal front, both for me and my wife, our first pri­or­ity is our daugh­ter. We in­tend to give her a strong ed­u­ca­tion as well as a good moral val­ues. I want to make sure that she has the chance to do what she loves to do. This is my top pri­or­ity now. As for ma­te­rial things, I am not too con­cerned about them since they come and go. We have a bucket list of places that we want to visit since we have hardly ex­plored In­dia to the full ex­tent.

Palash Nandy with his fam­ily

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