As Rajeev Chopra moves to Belgium to take over as head of Philips Global Luminaire, he tells Prince Mathews Thomas that he will take lessons in creativity and adaptability from India
Bachelor’s degree, IIT Kanpur; MBA, Tulane UniversityCareer:
Started in Hewlett-Packard, Asia Pacific; worked with Microsoft, Cisco. Joined Philips in 2003; last position was CEO & MD of Philips India.Q. Starting your career in the FMCG sector, you moved to IT and then joined Philips, which has elements of both FMCG and IT. How was the transition for you?
Fundamentally, the basic principles in every job are the same, though there might be some industry particularities.
Those basic principles are: You have a customer, what does he want, and how do you offer the customer in a way that is better than anyone else. One has to do this in such a way that you are also profitable.
I have also learnt that one needs to set up business in a way to ensure that you get your short term results. But you also have to do things that will let you have results four-five years down the line. So, one needs to do things like seeding new businesses.
In the last few years, another aspect has become very important: Every company in India needs to know how to deal with competitors from the rest of the world and how to respond to them. Illustration: Sameer Pawar
Q. What principles do you follow while hiring talent?
It is important to understand what kind of organisation, people and skill sets you want, and how to get them. Whenever we have positions to be filled, four out of five, we will fill internally. One out of five I will try to get someone from outside. People inside the company tend to miss out on what is happening outside. The person I pick from outside, I would like him or her to be sharp, and fit well into the company and its culture.Q. How unique a market is India for Philips?
I hesitate to use the word ‘unique’, as that element is there in China too. But if you look at India, we have that top segment that has millionaires and billionaires. These people can afford the best in the world. So, a market that is like any in a developed country. Then there is the huge middle class that is aspiring to get the best. Then we have the rest. Each of these segments is fairly big. No other country, except China, has this. At Philips we have catered to each of these segments. Q. As you relocate to a developed country, what is your learning from India?
I have never worked in a developed market. So, very quickly I will have to pick up the nuances. What working in India allows you to do is to observe, learn and adapt. I think Indians are creative, given the environment we live in. We have to be creative and adaptable. I take that with me.
The biggest chunk of customers in India is the middle class, who want value for money. In the Western world, this segment is growing and increasingly it says, ‘Show me value’. We have served these customers fairly well in India and I take that with me.