It’s my life

Emax CEO Nee­lesh Bhat­na­gar tells Shiva Kumar Thekkepat that to suc­ceed in busi­ness you need to have a burn­ing pas­sion, take cal­cu­lated risks and be a peo­ple per­son

Friday - - News - sthekkepat@gulfnews.com @Shiva_fri­day

All you re­ally need to suc­ceed in your busi­ness is pas­sion, says the CEO of an elec­tron­ics gi­ant.

‘I don’t have drea

You don’t need to pos­sess a lengthy re­sume or be wealthy to re­alise your dream of set­ting up your own busi­ness. “All you need to make it hap­pen is pas­sion,’’ says Nee­lesh Bhat­na­gar, CEO of Emax Elec­tron­ics.

“My phi­los­o­phy is that you should have a pas­sion for the busi­ness,” says the 53-year-old. “There’s no point putting in some money, buy­ing or man­u­fac­tur­ing some­thing and mak­ing some money out of it un­less you are re­ally in­ter­ested in your prod­uct and feel that it will make a dif­fer­ence in your cus­tomer’s life.”

In the short term you may be able to gain fi­nan­cially, but you won’t have a sense of sat­is­fac­tion, he says. “And you won’t be able to grow the busi­ness be­yond a cer­tain level.”

This is the ethos that Nee­lesh tries to in­stil in his team – he doesn’t call them staff; he has a team, which he mo­ti­vates, rather than leads.

“What­ever you do, do it with pas­sion and in­ter­est,” he tells them, al­most on a daily ba­sis. “Trans­parency in deals is an­other thing I in­sist on. Dis­hon­esty never pays in the long run. At the end of the day, I don’t ex­pect mir­a­cles from them, nor can I de­liver them my­self. I keep my feet on the ground and per­form to the best of my abil­ity. And that’s what I ex­pect from my team. Slow and steady progress is the only way for­ward. There are no short­cuts – in busi­ness or in life.”

Nee­lesh at­tributes this at­ti­tude to his boss, Micky Jag­tiani, chair­man of the Land­mark Group of which Emax is a part of. “He gives his staff the lee­way in choos­ing the path they want to take, and that is a rea­son for the group’s suc­cess,” says Nee­lesh. “Man­agers are en­cour­aged to think like en­trepreneurs in the sense that we’re en­cour­aged to take cal­cu­lated risks and ex­per­i­ment within our do­mains. While Micky has been an ex­cel­lent men­tor, my col­leagues taught me a lot, too.”

Learn­ing the fun­da­men­tals

Trained as a char­tered ac­coun­tant, Nee­lesh de­cided to move into man­age­ment be­cause he wanted to run a busi­ness.

“I stud­ied ac­count­ing as I wanted a good foun­da­tion in fi­nance,” he says. “You can’t re­ally be a good busi­ness­man un­less you know your num­bers well.

“Also, le­gal and tax­a­tion is­sues take up a good part of run­ning an in­de­pen­dent busi­ness and my train­ing pro­vided me the ba­sis from which to ad­dress them. Th­ese are the fun­da­men­tals of a sound busi­ness­man.”

Nee­lesh moved to Dubai from his na­tive New Delhi, In­dia, in 1986 to work for Xerox. Stints with Inch­cape Ship­ping Ser­vices, MMI and TNT fol­lowed, but with each year his de­sire to launch a busi­ness grew.

He got his chance with the Land­mark Group. “My first busi­ness as­sign­ment was in Saudi Ara­bia to kick-start the group’s foray into re­tail in the coun­try in 1997,” he re­calls. The busi­ness did so well that Land­mark is among the largest re­tail groups in Saudi Ara­bia to­day.

“That gave me great con­fi­dence, and when I moved back to Dubai in 2005, I chose to launch Emax, the elec­tron­ics arm of Land­mark,” says Nee­lesh. “I picked elec­tron­ics re­tail­ing as it is a very chal­leng­ing cat­e­gory and some­thing that Land­mark had not yet en­tered.

“It served two pur­poses: launch­ing in a new di­rec­tion, and also do­ing some­thing I was

per­son­ally in­ter­ested in. Elec­tron­ics is a fiercely com­pet­i­tive field. The dy­nam­ics of the busi­ness are man­i­fold and the mar­gins nar­row. There is lit­tle scope to make mis­takes in this busi­ness and you have to be spot-on to get it right where pric­ing is con­cerned. I en­joyed such chal­lenges and was look­ing to make it a suc­cess.”

Nee­lesh had al­ways been in­ter­ested in tech­nol­ogy. “I get bored very eas­ily, which is why tech­nol­ogy that’s con­stantly evolv­ing fas­ci­nates me,” he says. “I’ve moved house 20 times in my 25 years in the Gulf. I thrive on change. I don’t like to lead a rou­tine life.”

It’s amaz­ing how elec­tron­ics changes so fast, he says. “It changes the way peo­ple live their lives and that’s what is most in­ter­est­ing about this field. You have to keep run­ning just to keep up with the changes.”

He at­tributes his suc­cess to his man­age­ment skills. “I don’t lose too many of my team – that should tell you what kind of a boss I am,” he says. “I’ve lost hardly any mem­bers from the team I had when we launched.

“Rather than task­ing peo­ple – I am in charge of around 100 peo­ple – I fa­cil­i­tate them to per­form. I en­thuse them and en­cour­age them. I hardly ever take a hard line. I al­low them to choose their goals and guide them.”

Un­lock­ing po­ten­tial

Nee­lesh cre­ates an en­vi­ron­ment where his team mem­bers can per­form to their po­ten­tial. “This at­ti­tude goes down the line; each per­son helps the other to achieve their goals,” he says. “I am more like a cap­tain of a team.”

His cabin is po­si­tioned at a van­tage point on the of­fice floor where he can see ev­ery­thing. “It’s like a con­trol tower,” he says. “I know ex­actly what is hap­pen­ing.”

But he’s not a con­trol freak. “I am quite le­nient and take ev­ery­thing vvery pa­tiently. Even iif a per­son does not hhave the ca­pa­bil­ity to per­form, I’ll guide him and give him time to ac­quire the skills re­quired. What I look for is the right at­ti­tude, hon­esty and ethics.”

A knack for iden­ti­fy­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties and util­is­ing them is key for Nee­lesh. “Be it a ter­ri­tory, a show­room lo­ca­tion, a busi­ness model or a part­ner­ship, I look for op­por­tu­ni­ties in ev­ery­thing,” he says. “Even on a hol­i­day, or while so­cial­is­ing at a party, my mind re­mains at­tuned to spot­ting op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

It is a qual­ity that Nee­lesh cul­ti­vated from child­hood. “My fa­ther, Jag­pal Saran Bhat­na­gar, who was a civil ser­vant in In­dia, had the same at­ti­tude,” he says. “He was very savvy with peo­ple. I too am easy­go­ing and en­joy spot­ting an op­por­tu­nity to fur­ther the busi­ness.

“I have five broth­ers,” he says. “We had a de­cent mid­dle-class up­bring­ing. A lot of em­pha­sis was on ed­u­ca­tion and money was sec­ondary. Three of us are char­tered ac­coun­tants, the other two are engi­neers.

“Our fa­ther told us in­stead of build­ing a house and hav­ing us five broth­ers fight over it in fu­ture, he’d rather ed­u­cate us so we could earn and build our own.

“That at­ti­tude in­flu­enced me very much. I am try­ing to do the same thing with my chil­dren, Nikita, 19, and Rushab, 18. I hope to give them clar­ity of thought, sound ethics and not han­ker af­ter the ma­te­rial things in life. My wife, Rachana, is my pil­lar of strength.”

Nee­lesh is the same in his of­fice as he is at home. “My chil­dren get the same treat­ment that my team mem­bers get – flex­i­bil­ity and pa­tience. I try to in­flu­ence and fa­cil­i­tate rather than tell them what to do,” he says.

Flex­i­bil­ity is im­por­tant when man­ag­ing peo­ple. “Rather than ex­pect­ing peo­ple to change, I will change to fit into the en­vi­ron­ment, even while re­tain­ing my own in­di­vid­u­al­ity,” Nee­lesh says.

“I don’t have very strong likes and dis­likes. There is noth­ing with­out which I can’t sur­vive. I don’t al­low oth­ers to judge me and I don’t get in­flu­enced by what oth­ers think about me. I trust my gut feel­ing.

“While I be­lieve in work­ing out strate­gies for busi­ness, I also lay great stress on hav­ing a tight time-bound plan to im­ple­ment them.”

Nee­lesh re­laxes when he’s with peo­ple. “I can’t re­lax when I am alone, he laughs. “You won’t catch me with a book or lis­ten­ing to mu­sic alone. I am usu­ally with my fam­ily or friends. They help me de­stress and re­lax. Go­ing out and meet­ing peo­ple is not a chore for me. I need to be with peo­ple to re­lax.”

Per­haps the most telling rea­son for Nee­lesh’s suc­cess could be his re­al­is­tic out­look on busi­ness. “I don’t dream, I have ob­jec­tives,” he says. “I’ve never dreamt of be­com­ing a big busi­ness­man, earn­ing huge pack­ets or build­ing palaces. I’ve al­ways set ob­jec­tives and worked to­wards them… I take life as it comes.

“It’s not a dream to take the com­pany to the level I want it to. It’s an ob­jec­tive that I have set and will achieve in time.”

Pas­sion for your work is cru­cial for suc­cess ac­cord­ing to Nee­lesh

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