Interview: Passion will get you further than talent

In a long career spanning over 30 years, K V Ganesh, President - Finance & CFO, TVS Srichakra Limited, has rich experience working in different segments like Manufacturing, IT/ITES and FMCG across locations, both in India and abroad, he has been associated with renowned multinational companies like HP, HSBC, PepsiCo, amongst others. He has been recipient of ‘CFO Top 100’ award in 2016, 2017 and 2018 consecutively from CFO India, and was named one of the most influential CFOs in the country by the Chartered Institute of Management Accounts (CIMA), UK, 2016. In a freewheeling interview with Corporate Citizen, K V Ganesh speaks on how passion is important for your career, millennial's and more…

Tell us about your education and career.

I come with a finance background, having done my graduation in commerce, B.Com (Hons), from Shri Ram College of Commerce, Delhi. I was probably lucky enough to make it to this elite institution having topped my school in the XIIth standard. I took up both CA and CS courses simultaneously, completing CS in 1986 December and CA in May 1987. I went on to do a Dissertation course in Corporate Taxation from The Institute of Chartered Accounts of India in 1995, Delhi (post-CA program). My passion for management made me take up an Executive Programmer in General Management (EPGM) from IIM Calcutta in 2011.

My career journey commenced in 1988 as Executive Taxation with Ballarpur Industries Limited (BILT), one of the largest paper manufacturing companies in India. Post that I joined Spencer & Co (RPG Group) as Manager Taxation in 1991. I then branched off to hardcore Finance and joined Pepsi, trying to get my hands dirty in 1994. It was good learning as I deliberately moved from the comforts of a corporate office to a factory setup, and learning the nuances of US GAAP at a very early stage of my professional life. From 2000, I commenced my interest in the IT/ITES sector, initially heading the shared services company of HSBC, followed by a similar set up of HP. At HP, I had the opportunity for the first time, of managing a global role, being based out of the US, spearheading the efforts of transitioning the IT major’s Shared Services segment into a commercial set up. During the past decade, my focus has been on companies listed on the exchanges, notable ones being Subex and now TVS Srichakra.

Why did you opt for Commerce?

Somehow I always wanted to be in the thick of business and felt that a Commerce course would give me that much knowledge and awareness to help in my ultimate objective. In retrospect, I feel that my theoretical knowledge of the subject has always helped me in arriving at pragmatic conclusions with an overall business perspective. I am of the very firm belief that at the top, understanding numbers is very vital, and everyone should be aligned with it.

What are the challenges you face in your role, and how do you deal with them?

Challenges are always welcome, and they just keep coming. The regulatory environment was very different in the early 90s from what we see today. The government is now proactive and much more responsive to the needs of the corporate sector, which by and large benefits enterprises at large, although it comes with the challenges of managing the regulatory side of it. One should not be shy to face the challenges but to embrace them as part and parcel of one’s professional life. Take them positively, they will benefit you not only as an employee but also as an individual. India, as a country, has started focusing on corporate governance in a pronounced way. The board of every listed company has become conscious of these changes and none can afford to bypass them. As a CFO, a key managerial person (KMP), you are saddled with all the responsibilities.

When I joined Subex, the CEO told me that this was not a normal job and asked me whether I had the passion to turn around the financial situation of the company. It wouldn’t be an easy journey. When I joined, I was welcomed neither by the bankers nor by some of the stakeholders, since nobody believed that I had the mandate to remedy the situation. After spending half a decade at Subex, I am proud to say that the company was able to deleverage its balance sheet and I was an active member of this turnaround story. This was a classic case of a transformational journey and I am very happy to share that I did not flinch from accepting a role of that magnitude and played a significant part in the achievement.

‘Look at options you are passionate about. It is said, “Passion will always get you further than talent.” Nothing is impossible for those who believe it. Set your objectives clearly, know what you wish to do for the rest of your life. If you are fine doing that year after year, then you are fine doing just that’

How has the role of CFO changed over the years?

In earlier times, the finance head used to be more of a bookkeeper, someone who used to manage accounts and compliance and similar activities. Now CFOs are seen more as business partners of the CEO. The job I have been doing over the recent past has been more to do with restructuring businesses, expanding the geographies of the enterprises, apart from unlocking their true value. Having a finance savvy person as a key think tank in the company has become a must for all organizations as it is the numbers which finally drive businesses in terms of top lines and bottom-lines. The CFO has a lot to offer.

How do you see the role of Robotics, Analytical tools and Artificial Intelligence affecting today’s business environment?

In earlier times, business decisions involving huge outlays were taken on a subjective basis. Under an Analytic’s environment, the same is based on data and the probability factor of success of the decisions has risen considerably since they are based on patterns recognized by Artificial Intelligence (AI) based on historical data. AI also provides very powerful data visualization digging at a granular level and coming out with flexible/customized reports helping in the precise understanding of current operations, enabling predictions which are accurate, say up to 80% at the minimum. Robotics optimizes human effort and reduces downtime to the minimum. It naturally reduces costs and brings efficiency to the maximum.

What is your opinion about freshers entering the corporate world, and what is your advice to them?

I would advise them not to just look for money. Money is important for all of us, but that is not the only thing one should look at while applying for jobs. Look at options you are passionate about. It is said, “Passion will always get you further than talent”. Nothing is impossible for those who believe it. Set your objectives clearly, know what you wish to do for the rest of your life. If you are fine doing that year after year, then you are fine doing just that. Also, do not give up quickly on certain failures. If you give up it means you never wanted it in the first place. Be like a postage stamp, stick to the thing until you get there. Do this and you would be successful, money will automatically follow!

What qualities would you look for in a fresher?

Primarily, I look for attitude, proactive approach, and exuberance. I look for someone who is curious about what the current trends are, and can contribute something different, and who has out-of-the-box thinking. I look for someone who has a never-say-die attitude and finds a way to solve an issue rather than mention, in different ways, why action cannot be achieved. Needless to add, I look at functional traits which one can always improve as you go ahead in your career. A positive nature is most important.

What is your opinion on millennial's who are very impatient and want fast results so they hop jobs?

Hopping jobs is not a sin; we all have hopped jobs at some point in time. You make changes in your life. Sometimes, you may not get everything that you wish from the job that you are currently engaged in. At that time, you may realise that you are better off doing something else which looks enticing which may result in the switch. In the initial phase of 10-15 years, a few changes are okay and welcome. It is then better to settle down in an organization which offers you the scope to showcase your talents and is also equally remunerative. Having said that, you may still come across cases where people would have changed jobs for certain genuine reasons, and largely unavoidable.

How was your experience dealing with youngsters? Were there any challenges?

Challenges? Challenges can be plenty. Some of them will come up with very strange ideas. My approach is very simple; I try to encourage even the weirdest and don’t dismiss them. The most common thing I see is that even if you tell them the idea won’t work, they won’t listen. You see a very dogmatic and obstinate approach. They will try to convince you with all their heart that the model will work based on their findings at the engineering/management schools. One has to encourage new and fresh ideas but at the same caution against over-exuberance.

‘In the initial phase of 10-15 years, a few job changes are okay and welcome. It is then better to settle down in an organization which offers you the scope to showcase your talents and is also equally remunerative. Having said that, you may still come across cases where people would have changed jobs for certain genuine reasons, and largely unavoidable’

What efforts are being made to empower and encourage women in corporate's?

There is a very conscious attempt made in today’s environment to encourage women to not only be heads of departments but also at Board positions. Conscious attempts are taken by many a corporate to ensure that there is no gender discrimination. Legislation's are also being enacted to ensure that women’s security is guaranteed at the workplace. Social media has been very active in voicing any acts of intolerance and a sense of maturity is fast setting in.

How do you manage your work-life balance?

Work-life balance is an art one needs to practice as we travel in the journey. Recreation/ relaxation is something one needs to imbibe on a regular basis, and consciously. I work really hard but keep my private time to myself to do things I wish to pursue. Apart from that, I practice techniques from the Art of Living which helps me to maintain a sense of calmness and an equal balance of work ethics and other aspects of life.

What is your idea of relaxation?

I enjoy listening to songs and try to dabble in my own way with some karaoke numbers of popular Bollywood songs. Sports have always fascinated me and I truly relish watching a very interesting cricket match played between two equal teams, sipping my favorite masala chai. Travel is something I enjoy and have been fortunate to have covered many countries both at work and leisure. I have learn a lot meeting new people and understanding from them their viewpoints about life.

What is the philosophy of life that you live by?

Keep it very simple. Life is to be enjoyed. It is a gift of God, don’t waste the wonderful opportunity. Don’t brood at all and take every day as a new beginning. God has given the opportunity to live, laugh and enjoy your time. Do not worry about small failures; take it as a stepping stone to the ultimate success. Have a clear goal and pursue that objective with determination and sincerity and success is guaranteed on all fronts. Please note that material possession is not the only thing one needs to focus on, but also other wholesome aspects of Life that ensure completeness in whatever we do.

By vineet kapshikar