It’s do or die for India heads of MNCs

Bindu D. Menon New Delhi | Updated on September 01, 2013 Published on August 31, 2013


Free lunches are over and expectations are outpacing performances

Indian CEOs and top executives in retail and consumer goods MNCs are on notice — perform or perish. With India touted as the fastest among emerging markets, multinationals that have invested here are looking for good and fast returns, even if it means replacing their once-star performers.

Human resource experts and executive search firms say head-hunting now is mainly for replacements at the top.

Bhavishya Sharma, Managing Director, Athena Executive Search, says there is immense pressure on performance as global dynamics are changing.

“Individual performances are highlighted and the role of the contributing CEO is being watched carefully. When there is growth, people don’t judge, but in a slowdown, every penny counts,” he says. “Also, the expectations from CEOs have increased tremendously, at least in managing turbulence.”

Burger chain McDonald’s India, in a public notice, said its Managing Director of 17 years, Vikram Bakshi, will no longer hold the post. Bakshi, who is said to have established the brand in India, was eased out due to “failure to perform” and “issues related to ownership”, according to industry sources. The company, however, claimed that his term had ended.

In June, Walmart Asia President and CEO Scott Price announced the exit of Raj Jain, head of the company’s India operations. He was replaced by Ramnik Narsey. Here, again, industry sources say the exit was largely because of Jain’s inability to manage issues such as bribery charges and lobbying with wheeler-dealers.

Similarly, Manu Anand, Regional President for India and South Asia at PepsiCo, was also allegedly shown the door for not hitting the profit goals from the company’s Indian Premium League investments.

BlackBerry’s Sunil Dutt quit soon after the launch of the company’s new operating system. BlackBerry has been losing market share to rivals Samsung and Apple (iPhone).

Chocolate-maker Cadbury’s erstwhile Managing Director, Anand Kriplau, too, seems to have paid the price for not protecting the company’s image during the tax-evasion investigation it faced. Cadbury, however, denied this reason.

The economic and political situation in the country has added to the uncertainty.

“It is not easy doing business in India and the growth wave is slowing, leading to lower patience,” says Ronesh Puri, Managing Director, Executive Access, a search firm for top level hires.

“Free lunches are over and leadership everywhere is under question. There is a mismatch between expectation and actual performances.”

Both Puri and Athena Executive Search’s Sharma expect a turnaround only in 12-18 months.

To pull through, CEOs will have to get more responsive in managing costs and challenges..


Published on August 31, 2013

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