Kumar Mangalam Birla
Chairman of the Aditya Birla Group
Are we doing everything we can to help people be the best they can be?" asked Birla in the Q203 issue of The Smart Manager. The question is close to his heart. Since he took over the reins at the Birla Group he has focused on fine tuning the group's talent pool. If this meant taking hard decisions Birla did not shy away. More than 350 senior managers left the group. Some through natural attrition, others through counseling, leaving space for new faces and new talent. "Management means attracting talented people, nurturing them, developing them, and giving them space," asserts Birla, "decisions need to be made at every level and decisions need to be quick. So, we have to spot, incubate and groom talent at every level of the organization, because more people need to be making high quality decisions." To build this culture in the group, Birla has created a system based on meritocracy. His HR initiatives fall under three broad heads: learning and relearning, performance management and organizational renewal. For example Gyanodaya, the group's learning center falls in the first category. It helps in the transfer of best practices across group companies thus sharpening the group's competitive edge. The training calendar is accessible to employees via Aditya Disha, the group wide intranet, and the teaching programs consist of a mix of classroom, outreach, and e-learning initiatives. Birla has also instituted The Organisational Health Survey (OHS) which tracks the satisfaction levels of 8,670 managers across the group. A direct result of such initiatives is that today his brand as an employer has enhanced significantly, allowing Birla to access to some of the best minds and talent available in the country. The group is considered among the top 20 preferred employers in Asia. For performance management Birla instituted the Aditya Birla Sun awards an annual internal awards system. Here each group company makes an open presentation on their successes and failures to a group of 400 managers drawn from different group businesses. This leads to information sharing and also encourages healthy competition in the group. Birla believes that star performers need appreciation and recognition. "It is very important for people who are doing well to be told they are doing well," he says. He insists that performance levels jump considerably higher after a person/team receives an award. The Aditya Birla award is for teams while the chairman's award is for individuals. A group company that has won numerous such awards is Hindalco. Birla has transformed Hindalco into a globally competitive non-ferrous metals company. The first step was to merge the copper division of Indo Gulf with Hindalco unifying the group's non-ferrous metals business under one company with 40% market share. He acquired 74.6 % equity stake in Indal for Rs 10 bn to make it a wholly owned subsidiary of Hindalco. This made him the largest producer of aluminum in India and today Hindalco-Indal command a 70% market share. Having made Hindalco competitive now Birla is pursuing market growth. He recently entered the Rs 2.50 bn branded foil market. Within a year of launch Hindalco captured a 40% market share and put a robust distribution in place. Last year Hindalco launched of as many as five branded products. The launch of "Aura" Alloy Wheels in early 2002, uniquely positioned as "dress code for your car", was followed by the launch of its kitchen utility range - Freshwrapp aluminium foil and Freshpakk semi-rigid containers, and Everlast roofing sheets. Hindalco also introduced "Al Planet", a unique exhibition format highlighting products from the secondary aluminium industry. For organic growth Birla has embarked on an Rs18 bn brownfield expansion at Hindalco's integrated complex in Renukoot to increase aluminum metal capacity from 100,000 TPA to 342,000 TPA. This will ensure Hindalco's leadership position in the domestic...
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