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Challenging the mainstream with the courage to change

Published: Dec 27, 2018 03:56:41 AM IST
Updated: Jan 31, 2019 02:18:36 PM IST

Challenging the mainstream with the courage to change
Inventors of the new - Sanjiv Mehta, Chairman and  MD, HUL, Rajeev Jain, MD, Bajaj Finance and R Narayan, Founder and CEO, Power2SME' (Left to Right)

Ahead of their times, on the cusp of a changing world, various change agents in the world of business have demonstrated the importance of individualism and the ability to inherently defy the status quo.

Take, for instance, the case of Sanjiv Mehta, Chairman and MD of HUL, who dared to break the juggernaut’s mould to deliver efficiency through sheer originality. He realised that decentralisation of decision-making was the only way to get things moving faster at this giant FMCG. “Being larger does not give us a licence to win,” he declared, unapologetically pointing out how the company needed to experiment a lot more. In a bold move, he pushed through the biggest decentralisation of decision-making the company had ever seen. And, he initiated this “massive rewiring of the company while the mains were on”. Processes which would have filtered across many more layers in the past, and played spoilsport with speed, now went through seamlessly. The outcome is here for all to see; his gamble paid rich dividends. Mehta’s faster and nimbler HUL became fit enough to take on rivals ranging from regional brands to Procter & Gamble and Henkel and even the omnipresent Patanjali.

Then there’s Rajeev Jain, MD, Bajaj Finance, who rejected the mainstream, appreciating the role of sound ALMs as a foundation for robust liquidity, long before the industry realised its relevance. “We had been showing ALM data for the past five years. Two years ago, nobody paid much attention to it, so we pushed it back as annexure in our presentations. Now when investors ask for it, I tell myself, ‘Thank God, I did not treat ALM as an annexure to my business model’,” he quips.

Challenging the given, his courage of conviction pre-empted Bajaj Finance from falling prey to the liquidity crunch and contagion effect that has rocked the non-banking financial companies (NBFC) sector and several housing finance companies (HFC) since August 2018. Maintaining a positive ALM gap across different future maturity time periods helped Bajaj Finance keep its head above water in one of the worst liquidity crises in recent times. He stood by his belief that liquidity risk is one of the most important dimensions of running a lending business.

And, when the world was waking up to this truth, he already had a positive liquidity gap in most of the lending buckets in his domain.

In the realm of start-ups, where the power of the alternative is likely to be explored and mavericks achieve success in unconventional ways,  R Narayan, a creator of the new, sought to give value to SMEs though more competitive sourcing, as he realised that between 65% and 85% of an SME’s wallet went towards buying raw materials. Over the years, his company, Power2SME, built up a track record of enabling small businesses and enterprises to enhance their overall productivity and achieve measurable business value through its offerings. It plays a crucial role in sourcing input raw materials for SMEs, at the most economical price points, in varied categories like Chemicals, Inks, Paints, Metals, Polymers and more. The result: Creative disruption of the age old SME need to invest time, energies and large budgets on sourcing and a shift in focus to the core functions of accelerating growth, both in terms of revenue and development. High on individualism, he recounts, “We put together an ecosystem for the SMEs so that they could focus on productivity and sales.” And, within five months, the company had posted sales of ₹50 lakh.

Taking risks and following his gut, he started with an SME segment notorious for its lack of transparency and payment woes: Construction. Even there, he could choose an easy problem, build a fairy tale and confront the monster later or challenge the given with the courage to change. Narayan opted for the latter.

Over the next few years, he set up a sub-vertical which enabled financing for SMEs and then one more to cater to the MRO (maintenance, repair, operations) needs of the SMEs. From procurement of raw material to financing to service needs, Power2SME became the fulcrum around which everything moved quickly. How does Narayan achieve his goal? He’s known for his belief, “We just need to stay focussed on our work, and not worry about what the world is doing.”

Even today, these inventors of the new world are unafraid to travel the long and lonely road, taking risks and following their guts. With their belief in the power of originality, these creative disruptors make every second count as they lead the world from its current trajectory to the next!

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