“But I Felt my True Calling Lay in….Building a Business that Does Well by Doing Good”

Shantanu Rege, MD & CEO, Mahindra Home Finance speaks to India Employer Forum about Financial services, L&D, Building Talent, digital adoption in BFSI, and more.

Q. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your professional journey. What would you like to describe as the biggest perk of job?

I’ve been fortunate to study in some of the best institutes not just in India (IITBombay) but in the world (Harvard Business School) and to have started my professional career analysing businesses as a consultant (with McKinsey & Company) and then as an investor (at Blackstone Private Equity). But I felt my true calling lay in leaving behind a legacy of building a Rise business – one that serves humanity by trying to solve a genuine social problem (e.g., housing for the underserved) in a sustainable, profitable manner – building a business that does well by doing good.

Q. Financial services and insurance companies are some of the largest employers of entry-level candidates. Which strategies yield maximum results while developing a sustainable talent supply chain?

BFSI has always been one of the largest and most preferred employers for entry level candidates. While the sector is an engine of the economy, I believe the vibrancy and innovation within the Indian BFSI sector is directly correlated to the ‘manthan’ of this young talent and experienced professionals. When channelled correctly, this manthan provides impactful new solutions for consumer delight. As long as the BFSI space remains aspirational for the young minds, the potential for the sector is boundless. Continually growing competition, rapidly evolving market dynamics and digitisation has placed talent at the centre stage. And all organizations need to have strategies to attract, retain and nurture talented human resources just as carefully as they nurture capital and financial resources. Organizations need to focus on creating value for this talent pool by leveraging the transformative power of culture, process, and structure. Firstly, if the talent pool identifies with the organization’s bold purpose and the impact it aims to have in society, they will embody the organization’s values. That’s the power of culture. Secondly, organizations need to embrace digitisation and simplify their people processes to drive collaboration. While the traditional BFSI systems have been control-oriented, simplifying or automating processes leveraging digital tools increases the appeal for the youth. And lastly, in today’s fast paced world, youth yearn for agility through empowered work structures that enable faster decision making. Accountability with empowerment can significantly boost employee performance, productivity, and morale. The combination of these three mantras can certainly help any organisation build a robust and sustainable talent pool.

Q. In your experience, can apprenticeships provide an opportunity to nurture talent and develop targeted skills keeping in view the organization’s future workforce needs?

Apprenticeships do provide organisations like ours an opportunity to nurture talent. At Mahindra Home Finance, we have been providing career development opportunities for young native talent. Since we have deep penetration in rural and semi-urban India, we prefer hiring colleagues who live among our customer base so that they can build deep relationships with them. To equip them with necessary skills for career-building, we have partnered with TeamLease Degree Apprenticeship (TLDA) to undertake the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS) to hire frontline colleagues as “apprentices.” These candidates enjoy the same benefits, training, engagement activities, etc. as our employees. This helps us support the Indian Government’s mission of making India more employable while tapping into this massive talent pool, facilitating their ‘manthan’ with the rest of the organization and then onboarding the best performers.

Q. Building Talent vs Buying Talent – where and how should an organization prioritize? What programs are you deploying for employee development and continuous learning within the company?

Peter Drucker famously said, ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’. Unfortunately, culture cannot be bought but must be built. Given the plethora of opportunities available, the price of talent has been increasing. The fast pace of technological change further complicates organizational requirement to secure quality talent and ensure cultural fit. However, ‘bought out talent’ may not necessarily have the same long-term commitment to the organization as compared to ‘internally nurtured’ talent that has grown with the company. At Mahindra Home Finance, our effort is to have dynamic leadership that is homegrown. While there will be exceptions when we have to hire external talent for specialized roles, our first preference is always to empower current workforce through learning and development or scout for such talent within the Mahindra Group. At Mahindra, we have always laid strong emphasis on up-skilling, re-skilling, onjob training, and leadership development. There are endeavours that have been taken up at a Group level to empower the workforce with learning and development opportunities. Our employees have access to critical learning programmes for up-skilling through our in-house digital learning platforms. We also have special leadership programmes for future leaders that are anchored by the Group. At an organisation level, we also have career development accelerators that lend an opportunity to gain exposure to new positions and build cross-functional skills. We also have in-house training and development programmes for freshers joining us in frontline roles along with a mentorship programme to support them early on in their career journeys.

Q. How big are Tier 2 and Tier 3 markets for you? How are you preparing your talent in these markets for digitization drive and digital adoption? (Since BFSI sector in India has been the vanguard for digitization)?

Our entire customer segment is based out of Tier 2 and Tier 3 markets, if not deeper. Hence, we actively recruit talent from these geographies. Furthermore, we nurture them through the three mantras – organizational purpose, digital transformation, and empowered culture. We have seen them not just adapt but even push the boundaries in driving digital adoption. We have seen our cash collections decline from 95% to below 50% since our frontline teams and customers have adapted digital payment tools like UPI, BBPS (Bharat Bill Payment System), ACH etc. Today a majority of our disbursements are directly to the customer’s bank account through NEFT rather than through cheques. With the prevalence of mobile internet, we aim to provide the same convenience to employees and customers at the bottom of the pyramid that banks offer to the top of the pyramid – paperless operations, WhatsApp chatbots, employee and customer mobile apps etc. Every new application or transformative process that is implemented is accompanied with 360-degree training and development across key employee cohorts – beginning from key regional leadership to frontline team and lend adequate expert support for enabling a seamless change within the organisation.

Q. Do you see any changes in trends with respect to investment in L&D activities? Do you feel there is an organizational shift in focus with respect to on-the-job training and upskilling initiatives?

According to a study undertaken by McKinsey & Company, there’s a clear connection between company performance and willingness to reskill employees: an overwhelming percentage — 63% — of high-performing organizations favour in-house training for strategically important roles. Today, leaders are beginning to recognize that retraining existing talent for new roles is more effective than competing for scarce talent. While I believe that reskilling for future skills requires long-term planning, the cost of disruptive layoffs and hiring can be more expensive than providing continuous training for employees. Hence, I see more investments being made towards learning and development initiatives for enabling growth of promising talent at the workplace.

About Shantanu Rege

Shantanu Rege is the current Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Mahindra Rural Housing Finance. He joined the Mahindra Group in 2012 as an Executive Assistant to the Group Chairman, Mr. Anand Mahindra. In 2016, he joined the rural housing finance business as the Chief Operating Officer, which focused on catering to the bottom of the pyramid. Prior to joining Mahindra, Shantanu has worked in management consulting with McKinsey & Co. and private equity with Blackstone in Mumbai. He holds an MBA degree from Harvard Business School, Boston, Massachusetts and has completed his B.Tech in Electrical Engineering from IIT Bombay in 2006. A passionate Indophile, Shantanu has wide interests spanning across design, education, economics and politics.

Disclaimer: The opinions and views expressed in this article, including any accompanying data, are the sole responsibility of the author and should not be construed as reflecting the official policy or position of India Employer Forum.

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