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The idea of a medium-term plan won’t work anymore: Harish Manwani

Our Bureau Chennai | Updated on June 29, 2021

Harish Manwani

Harish Manwani delivering the keynote address titled ‘Leadership in Turbulent Times’ on the first V Narayanan Memorial Endowment Lecture

The concept of medium-term planning is no longer relevant in a world which is more uncertain and turbulent. Organisations should set short-term plans to wade through the immediate crisis and create a long-term destination and a sense of purpose for people to reach them, said former Chief Operating Officer of Unilever, Harish Manwani. He was delivering the keynote address titled ‘Leadership in Turbulent Times’ on the first V Narayanan Memorial Endowment Lecture on Tuesday. The lecture, organised by the Madras Management Association (MMA) and POND’s veterans, in memory of Narayanan, who served as the chairman and MD of Pond’s India Ltd., which later became part of Hindustan Lever Ltd. (HLL).

“This is now all about the short term which is managing the ‘here and now’ and the long term which is creating a destination for yourself and a sense of purpose for where you want to go. The rest you have to manage dynamically,” Manwani said, adding, “The idea of having a medium-term plan for, say, three years won’t work anymore as long as it is rolled over every quarter or every year.”

It was among the eight leadership lessons that Manwani had shared for the turbulent times. The other lessons include, staying relevant to all stakeholders and not just shareholders, embracing technology irrespective of the industry, caring for the employees, creating a purpose larger than the business through ‘leadership’, creating horizontal culture in organisations and continuous focus on growth irrespective of the temporary setbacks.

Earlier, in a special address, N Sankar, Chairman, Sanmar Group recalled his 50-year friendship with V Narayanan in five different viewpoints — as a human being, an entrepreneur, professional manager and a leader of men, a much sought-after external director and lastly as a good friend.

“He was an entrepreneurial manager. Like an entrepreneur, he identified business opportunities ahead of others and found ways to exploit those ideas into profit. While entrepreneurs do it for themselves Narayanan did it for Pond’s India Limited and its stakeholders,” Sankar said.

Sankar also recalled that despite the licensing and export-import regulations in the 1970’s, Narayanan was way ahead of his times and identified export orientation as one great opportunity. He began exporting cosmetic products, mushroom, footwear, thermometer and host of other products to Russia and thereby maximise the returns for Pond’s India.

After his retirement from Pond’s, Narayanan was on the board of several leading companies including Glaxo, Lafarge, Bata and Chemplast Sanmar.

“Narayanan was firm in his expectations, but he was someone who trusted employees and gave them freedom to do things. He gave a lot of big projects to youngsters and supported them to achieve outcomes,” said V Balaraman, who succeeded Narayanan as the Managing Director of Pond’s India.

Balaraman also announced V Narayanan (Pond’s) Memorial Endowment Fund which will be managed by MMA. The fund will be used to provide merit-based scholarships to students and also to host a series of memorial lectures on the topic of leadership.

Published on June 29, 2021

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