“You need strong temperament to absorb a lot of organisational stress, learn the act of balancing and deal with governance unperturbed.” – In conversation with Ranjan Sarkar, CHRO – Exide Industries.
- Please tell us about your academic and professional background. What responsibilities does your designation entail?
I am an alumnus from Symbiosis Institute of Business management, majoring in HR. Have worked over two decades of working in HR domain across indian/ multinational, manufacturing, insurance, automobile, media & consumer goods. My current assignment is as CHRO for Exide Industries (1.7 billion USD, India’s no.1 battery and energy storage company into automotive, commercial and industrial applications)
- What emergent trends are you seeing for the energy sector?
With the 2nd largest population in the world and fast developing economy, India will be among the largest energy consuming countries in the world. Such huge requirement of energy will be driven by renewables and fossil both. In the next decade energy generation, storage and distribution will witness revolutionary growth and technology disruption will further fuel multi-dimensional growth both at a B2C and B2B levels. We hope to see more government policies to boost this sector.
- What are your thoughts on the impact of the increasing automation we’re seeing in the workforce across industries?
India and many other countries in the sub-continent have a very different human demographics than the developed western world. Hence the impact or adoption of automation will not be in the same way as in the west, so far. Automation will increase in manufacturing sector mostly, but low-end manufacturing / service will still be manual. I say this as India as a nation allows under-employment and culturally we are also a very relationship oriented society. Industry is a subset of society. So the automation in society in the lives of normal people has to also keep pace with technology adoption in industry.
- What, in your opinion, are some common errors HR leaders tend to make, and should avoid?
I don’t believe in internal customers. Sales, Manufacturing, R&D, HR, Finance – all work together for the final customer who is paying for the products / services. Hence I feel every function has equal right and equal responsibility to contribute towards final customer goals. I find many HR leaders are very obsessed with domain processes which have inward-directed metrics. This is very convenient as it has less risk. But such action always makes HR role vulnerable to many justifications. I also feel HR role needs to demonstrate a lot of courage to advocate right. Once you demonstrate credibility to the CEO / Business, you can advocate onto any business decisions, as everything has people processes in it.
- What is your advice to young professionals looking to build a career in HR?
Young professionals should start working at grass-root level – like factories, regional offices, so-called dirty jobs and not directly get into cosy Head-office roles. This will solidify their cross-functional understanding at operational levels. Young HR leaders should also develop an area of expertise in something in the first 7-8 years of their job (e.g. – complex compensation schemes, leadership hiring, multi-state union management, job evaluation techniques, etc). Up to middle management levels, industry will always put a premium on specialist skills. But as you become an HR leader at the senior cadre, the capability requirement changes. You need strong temperament to absorb a lot of organisational stress, learn the act of balancing and deal with governance unperturbed. But the initial years of working at the grass-root level creates a foundation of confidence and life skills for temperament building as you grow up.
- Your favorite movie?
- Which aspects of your role do you enjoy the most?
Travelling to branches and factories to meet employees / Visiting students in campus and talk to them.
- Your hobbies and interests?
Sketching …… it’s a de-stressor for me
Also chit-chatting with young people (gen Y/Z)
- If not in the current profession, you would have been?
Mathematician / Chemistry teacher
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