TÊTE-À-TÊTE: Working mindfully and being humane

Minoo Titina, a strategic management thinker, is a strong proponent of strategic planning and being humane in one’s temperament. He believes strategy requires you to take the long view of life. Titina, who has received many awards and recognition, including the Bombay Parsee Association Excellence Award in Management in 1996 and the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose National Award for Excellence in Management from the Jagruti Kiran Foundation, says strategic planning must happen daily and it equips you to react to changes you don’t know about in advance

Minoo Titina (Left) with Ram Naik, the Governor of Uttar Pradesh at Raj Bhavan, Lucknow

What were your hopes and aspirations for you and your family?

I hail from a family of chief marine engineers, who have served in the Indian Merchant Navy. I am privileged that my paternal grandfather, a Chief Marine Superintendent Engineer, was the recipient of a silver and bronze medal from the erstwhile British Government for exemplary maritime service during the World War I. As a young boy, I, too, nurtured the desire of joining the merchant navy, but destiny had other plans. My younger brother serves as a director with a global chemicals trading conglomerate for several years now. My mother has been a source of great moral support to us, to this very day. I have been extremely fortunate to be blessed with an extremely caring and loving wife, Kashmira, and an equally wonderful daughter, Farah.

From Chemistry to Management. How did the transition happen?

I was very good in Chemistry, both at school as well as in junior college. I joined Wilson College in Mumbai and majored in Chemistry in my last graduation year. Post BSc and that was in the early 1980s, it was the heydays of management. Hence the obvious transition happened.

Lessons from your first job...

After completing my diploma in administrative management from the University of Bombay, I was working with The Times of India Group as a circulation supervisor at their Times of India suburban press in Kandivali (East). The press was in a growing stage then. Frequent night shifts and day time vendor visits made me a stronger and focussed individual. I would definitely compliment The Times Group for gravitating me through the daily grind and today, I largely owe my humble success to them.

What are the best management practices you rely on?

Effective Communication Skills-Management is all about communicating to the staff and clients. Effective communication is a must when it comes to successful management. The management should have a set of best practices defined for clear and effective communication from/to the staff and clients. When your management style is open and transparent, others respect you more. In addition, information directly flows from the problem areas to you. Always try to follow the open door policies that do not restrict your subordinates coming to you directly.

Strategic Planning is the most important best practice area when it comes to long-term benefits for the company. Usually, experienced people in management, such as Jack Welch, have their own, successful best practices for strategic corporate planning. It is always a good idea to learn of such ideas from exceptional people and apply them to your own context.

As a seasoned management professional, what has changed?

A lot has changed. We are a young nation, demographically speaking-65% of India is below 35 years of age. It is the millennials today, born between 1981 and 1996 which comprises the “Real India”. The youth of our country are very entrepreneurial in their outlook. There is no stopping them. I believe that today only the best wins and gets noticed. Whatever be your area of human pursuit, excellence alone triumphs.

Tell us about your present role at Enarr.

At the Enarr Group, broadly speaking, I am responsible for the study and creation of business models as well as to conduct business development activities for a soil stabilizer viz : RBI Grade 81 and CSR activities for our Nana Nani Foundation (a NGO for the welfare of senior citizens). The popular Nana Nani Parks in Mumbai city are our creation.

Do you think technology has a very deep impact in the field of organization and management as well? Has IT seeped through every pore of Organizational operation? And is it easy for you to adapt to new tech?

Technology, more so in the last five years has had an indelible impact in the day to day lives of mankind, and particularly in the Organizational functioning per se. The mobile has become a part of our physical self and has made the world one large global family.

Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Block Chain, Robotic Engineering and the Internet of Things (IoT) have seamlessly integrated the world in which we live in. IoT has made giant strides in the US and the developed world at large, though in India it is at a nascent stage. In 2017, corporates spent $22 billion on AI related mergers & acquisitions. Google has declared that AI will do more good for man than fire or electricity. Lastly, Block Chain technology would contribute greatly to the international logistics sector, it again being at a very early stage in our country.

Hence it could be safely stated that, IT has made a permanent mark on the organization/ management functioning globally. Anything new is different and takes time to imbibe. India has braced the new technologies completely, thereby paving the path for a new, dynamic vibrant economy.

What are the most interesting investment trends right now?

I am of the considered opinion that investment in mutual funds is the best in today’s difficult and trying times. A good fund manager conversant with the current market trends and the prevailing financial markets scenario should be consulted for the best results in terms of the investor’s capital deployment.

“Technology, more so in the last five years has had an indelible impact in the day to day lives of mankind, and particularly in the Organizational functioning per se. The mobile has become a part of our physical self and has made the world one large global family“

Who, according to you, has been the best management guru and why?

The inimitable, Ratan Tata. Chairman Emeritus of The Tata Group is my Management Guru. Mr Tata has in his over two decades of outstanding leadership, spiraled the “salt to software” group to dizzy heights of international success and recognition. Tata companies have evolved a collective commitment to evolving stronger connections between their values and first-in-class business practice, not by putting either one ahead of the other, but by finding mutually beneficial bridges between them.

Are things changing in management schools for the good?

I am very optimistic and gung-ho about the prevalent state of education in our management schools. Our nation is changing, and our higher- education institutions need to reflect this diversity. Diversity in the workforce fosters innovation and competitiveness in business. Studies consistently show that diversity drives innovation and fosters creativity. I am of the view that education in today’s management school is more participative in nature i.e. group discussions are predominant drivers of knowledge. Hence, it would not be out of place to mention that the management schools are the engines of India’s future prosperity story.

Do you think firms should generate value for society as well as for shareholders?

I agree with the evergreen words of the Late J. R. D. Tata ji, who was awarded India’s highest civilian honor, the Bharat Ratna, that, “If you get from society, you have to give back to society”. Corporates/corporations are custodians or trustees of public money. They have to give back to society in any form or manner. Hence, rightly so corporates should generate growth and value for society.

What do you think is the relationship between Corporate Social Responsibility and Business Ethics?

There is a significant difference between social responsibility and business ethics and the best way to differentiate the two is by defining both of them.

Ethics mean moral character and comes from the Greek word ethos. Ethical behavior is an aspect concerning the good and right. Ethics is focused on the good and bad, the right and wrong. Using it in business means the company must follow the right behavior to benefit the good of everybody, including the shareholders, stakeholders, and even the community.

Corporate social responsibility, often called simply CSR, refers to doing business in ways that benefit, rather than harm, society and the environment. Business sustainability refers to a company’s ability to survive into the future and to eventually outlive its current owners. Although, these concepts may seem dissimilar at first there is an inseparable link between CSR and business sustainability.

Can business ethics be taught?

Yes. It could be imbibed in the day to day work culture of any organization. I feel the “Code of Ethics” needs to be actively deliberated upon and discussed on a yearly basis. The Tata Group has an ethical culture, which is exemplary in nature and truly laudable by any standards.

By Archie Banerjee