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Pawan Goenka: I Don't Socialise Without My Family

M&Mís Pawan Goenka tells Forbes India why his busy schedule has left him with no time for friends

Published: Aug 4, 2011 06:29:17 AM IST
Updated: Aug 2, 2011 01:57:51 PM IST
Pawan Goenka: I Don't Socialise Without My Family
Image: Vikas Khot
Pawan Goenka,President, automotive sector, Mahindra & Mahindra

Pawan Goenka, 56
President, automotive sector, Mahindra & Mahindra
Experience: A former General Motors executive
Key Challenge: Building in-house research and development capability, taking the company’s products to global markets
Strategy: Giving direction to existing businesses and identifying new avenues of growth

In my current role, I am not responsible for the day-to-day operations of any of the businesses that form Automotive and Farm Equipment Sectors [AFES] of the Mahindra Group, but for providing a common thread and getting involved more in direction. This includes setting strategy, budgeting, the HR [human resources] side and looking at new areas of growth, both organic and inorganic. The way we are structured, we have five chief executives [CEs] responsible for running different sets of businesses.  I do get more involved in some of the new initiatives that we have taken, like Ssangyong or Mahindra Navistar JVs.

  Pawan Goenka: I Don't Socialise Without My Family

Considering the variety of businesses and the multi-locations we have, it is important for us to have a well laid out plan. So, we have two sets of calendars which are frozen almost a year in advance. I have a calendar for internal reviews called the sector review week. The sector review week happens during the second week of every month and in that I review every business to the level it needs to be reviewed.

We have one day on product development across all the businesses. We have half a day on technology, half a day on monthly performance, half a day on strategy and half a day on business excellence. We do one day of overall management of the sector which will bring in all the HR issues, strategy and finance issues.

Then, I have the once a quarter review of individual businesses; every quarter I review exports, Mahindra Navistar, Mahindra Reva, sourcing and the finance function. This helps me get a good connect with the businesses.   

Each meeting is different. If you take the operations review, it is very pointed like looking at last month’s performance. We have three businesses that we review in them: The automotive business, the farm and the Swaraj division.

There is a clear set template in which the presentation is made. We look at how the industry has performed, what we had planned for the month, what we actually achieved and explain the variance. If it is higher, we are happy, but if it is lower then we ask questions as to why it happened and how to take care of it in the future. It takes about an hour for each business to be reviewed, and within that time, I get a full picture of what is happening in that business.

One good thing is that my laptop always travels with me. Emails allow you to be on top of things without getting disturbed. Somehow, I have conditioned myself in such a way that I don’t get stressed. My philosophy is that getting stressed will only come in the way of getting out of a situation. If the sales are going down and I am stressed, then I will not be able think right. But if I am not stressed and do a clinical analysis, then we think with clarity.

I am also able to compartmentalise things quite well. When I am thinking auto, then what’s wrong with tractor does not divert my thoughts. And I do plan my day quite in detail. If you look at my calendar, you will see that almost every minute is spoken for.

I am blessed that I can sleep at any time for any duration of time. I can take a 16-hour flight from here to the US, get a shower and then head for a meeting without feeling jet-lagged. I time my sleep on the plane. I time it knowing well enough when I will be landing and ensuring that I am tired enough to sleep at night.

On the physical part of my life, my daughter keeps reminding me that I don’t realise I am getting old. My wife keeps telling me someday I will collapse, but I don’t feel physically tired. Sometimes, I tell them I am tired to please them, though I am actually not.

Unfortunately, my biggest concern is that I don’t get time to exercise.  Bharat Doshi, who is our executive director and also my mentor at M&M, keeps reminding me that. I had started to exercise and was doing very good — an hour every day. Around that time, AFES was formed, there was no time and I have not been able to start again. In fact, right now, the missing one hour of Pawan Goenka has become a talking point.  People ask me, ‘has your one hour come back yet?’

The work life balance thing does not bother me because I enjoy what I do. As far as my family is concerned, they have gotten used to it. But on Sundays, I am at home even if I am working. On these days, I almost never do anything without the family. My wife says that at least she gets to see my back the whole of Sunday because I am sitting at my desk doing my work.

There is nothing that I do on the social side which does not include the family. Many people have time for their friends’ circle, which I have to do without. If I have to carve out time for that, then there will be no time for the family. I don’t do anything which may be right or wrong — like play golf — that will take me away from the family.

We do make it a point to go for a movie if not every Sunday, then whenever possible. Once in a while, when we have 2-3 hours, my wife and I play scrabble. We do take planned holidays. We try and take at least a one-week holiday during the year. For the extended family, because everyone knows that I am busy at work, expectations are very low. So, if a family member is visiting us in Mumbai, nobody will count on me being available for him. And since my wife is an extremely good hostess, they never really miss me if I am not available.

(This story appears in the 12 August, 2011 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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  • Pankaj

    it was amazing to hear you today sir. was like dream come true to get a chance to present something we developed to you. though my presentation was was much below my expectation and preparation, but still it\'s a great day for me. Have learned a lot in that 5minutes. thank you sir.

    on Mar 19, 2014
  • Ramji Mohan Bhagwandas

    Mr Goenka raises an interesting conundrum -- if we spend all of our time working what do we do about our spirit, family, health and other relationships (eg friends) ? He has chosen to forsake it all for the sake of a job which is both depressing as it is borderline autistic. As a senior leader in one of India's leading organizations, Mr Goenka should be setting an example -- how to run a company and still have a few hours a day free for oneself ? Instead this story reads like what every "lala" wants to hear -- worker working himself to the bone and making every one else below him do the same. Fortunately, Anand Mahindra is known as a progressive leader, with a nuanced sense of building a tremendous culture. In my view, Mr Goenka should be put on a performance improvement plan -- lead like a leader, not like middle manager or retire early and let someone more balanced, more dynamic, more progressive take the reins. BTW I run a 2000 crore publicly listed company with 4000 person team (small by comparison) but if I pulled a stunt like the story above, I wonder how long before my bosses make me the Head of Corporate Strategy enroute to oblivion.

    on Oct 15, 2013
  • Mithilesh Kumar

    Mr Pawan Sir I have seen you on 22th April 2012, in Annual conffrence meet at Mumbai. Your 10 minute speech was very much effective for us. This is the my dream that I want to be a business man like you.

    on Apr 24, 2012
  • Mani.subramanyam

    Article is open oneself to balance between corporate professional life and family life, I found it same though I am from Finance background. No body is called successful if he does not balance his life that is what we could learn from the experiences of Big shots, my wife use to compare with my co-brother who is big shot in corporate world who normally assist his wife during her cooking management and that togetherness brings happiness in the family instead of reading paper,magazine etc.

    on Nov 2, 2011
  • Vamsi

    You need the real good blend of Discipline as per the detail above and most importantly the support of near and dear to perfrom at work for such long hours on enduring basis..Such focus is probably being reflected in the results in stock price of M & M.

    on Aug 10, 2011