‘Company Culture is Greatly Influenced by the Leader’

Balachandar N, Group Director-  Human Resources, Coffee Day Group speaks to India Employer Forum

Q. Tell us briefly about yourself, your achievements and awards.

I feel privileged to have worked in some good companies (Asian Paints, Stanchart, GE, Coffee Day Group). The multi industry experiences and exposure have helped in my career growth and every job change to a new industry has kept me on a learning track, while contributing. It has also provided a varied perspective to people and business models and made my career interesting. Also, having had the opportunity to work across the country and overseas, (Paris & Tokyo) has added to the cultural exposure and ability to adapt. All of this has helped to train a learning and flexible mindset, and that keeps me going. While an international posting and career growth are some achievements, I believe my association with NHRD Bangalore Chapter and the opportunity to give back to the HR community has been the most rewarding experience. Working with management schools and their boards have helped to influence the quality of education, which is very satisfying.

Q. What is company culture to you? How would you maintain it as the company grows?

Company culture is the freedom that employees have to express themselves and make a difference to what the firm does, in its own unique way. It is implicit in the way decisions are taken, respect is given, the way people are engaged and feel wanted. It is something that evolves over time, and as the organization matures some of the nuances standout and sustain themselves. However, it is important to watch out that the culture remains contemporary to the times irrespective of the size of the firm. The challenge is for giants to learn to dance.

Company culture is also greatly influenced by the leader and that is why many leaders spend time on building the appropriate culture.

Q. You are the group Head of HR, how do you cascade and maintain organizational values and culture consistently?

While we are a group, each of our businesses are so distinct, and hence have their own way of working. I do not see much common between coal mining and coffee retailing – in terms of the business models, short cycle vs. long cycle, quality of staff and leadership is distinct and all that adds to the way the place works. So we have let each business build its own and within their industry stay ahead. The overarching thing within the group, is an entrepreneurial culture and that pervades all through.

Q. How can organizations in your industry prepare to meet the widening talent demand-supply gap?

Most new industry or segments do not have the necessary skilled staff in our country. Many are evolving businesses, new disruptive ones and with that the quality of the education system / faculty is still evolving. We prefer to build from within than buy. So we spend a lot of energy at the base of the pyramid – team members at the Cafe are first time rural youth while front line sales folks in a corporate sales environment are from business schools. So we work with different pools of talent and sourcing to meet our needs. Building from within is my preferred option as it helps assimilate new members easily into the system and it is also cost effective. Partnering with academic institutions or skill development programs of the government is a good way for the industry to meet its demand. Also, personally I would hire from a talent pool that is different from what my competition is hiring from.

Q. What form of predictive analytics do you use to meet your hiring needs?

At CCD particularly, given that we have a large base of the pyramid, and a mobile population we have built predictive models by city and hire based on likely attrition, as it takes time to train and deploy staff at the stores. Over the years, we have built insights around sources, mobility and attrition and that helps.

Q. What’s your expectation from the new central government which will be formed in the last week of May vis-a-vis your industry or domain?

I am very positive that India will continue to grow over the next decade and it is the place to be in to experience rapid growth as well as new business areas. A government that is proactive and supportive of growth is very critical for all of us. Policies that will trigger consumption and sustain the momentum is key.

About Balachandar N

Balachandar N, fondly called Bala, is currently Group Director- HR for the Coffee Day Group, which has interest in Coffee, Financial Services, Commercial Real Estates, Logistics, Pharma, Furniture and Technology investments. He is responsible for people strategy and execution for the Group. Bala has rich multi-sector experience. He also teaches at IIM- Bangalore and other Universities focusing on building new-age professional firms. Bala is a Board Member of Association of Management Schools in India. He completed his MS in Industrial Management at IIT Chennai and has a Master’s with major in PM&IR from Loyola College Chennai.

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