One of the youngest professionals and the first Indian to become the CEO of India and South Asia for Japanese consumer electronics major Panasonic, 45-year-old Manish Sharma says he is a firm believer of ‘Indovation’ – developing products conceptualised and customised for Indian consumers. The electrical engineer, who has had stints across product development, sales, planning and marketing in LG, Haier and Samsung prior to joining Panasonic, also serves as President of the Consumer Electronics and Appliances Manufacturers’ Association. Here is Sharma’s take on:

What it takes to fit into a Japanese firm

Fundamentally, there are many similarities. Just like India, Japanese culture is deep-rooted in its traditional values of individual respect and work orientation; therefore, it was not very difficult to integrate myself within the work environment here. My previous experience of working with the other South-East Asian brands also came handy. Moreover, having spent close to a decade in Panasonic, these values come naturally to you. For instance, we in India use ‘ ji ’ to show our respect while talking to seniors and in Japanese culture ‘ san ’ is used.

Staying relevant in a VUCA age of constant change

The changes that are happening today are not only radical but also transforming in nature with worldwide repercussions. For instance, 280 characters on a social platform have potential to make or break a situation. Therefore, one must be extra cautious and vigilant to stay relevant. It can be done by:

Encouraging multitude participation

Being agile

Embracing fun

Striving for clarity

Staying up to date with the evolving trends.

Managing an effective work-life balance

It‘s difficult for me to manage a perfect work-life balance. But, I believe in prioritising tasks which ensure higher levels of productivity, giving me time to spend with family and friends. Most importantly, I try not to carry my work back home. One needs to understand that some days are very crucial in our personal lives, and some in our professional lives. The key is to give the best to both – family and work. Also, ‘me’ time is extremely important.

The necessity of an MBA (he does not have one)

I’ve been working since 1996 and during the course of the last two decades I’ve come to the realisation that true learning can only be achieved if you have the right attitude. Ever since graduating from engineering college, I have worked across functions such as product development, manufacturing, sales and marketing and business planning to have arrived at this position. I would rank apprenticeship as the highest qualification, as it not only helps you understand and deal with business but assists you to grow alongside a team while grooming yourself. A business degree is a handbook to learn the skills for its effective handling and segments constituting it. My daily experiences are my biggest source of learning.

Top three leadership challenges faced by CEOs today

Identifying and communicating what success looks like: To do so, leaders themselves should be well versed with it. Once they are clear on that aspect, only then will they be in a position to communicate the strategies which will help propel them there.

Creation of a shared purpose: The challenge for leaders today is to successfully translate what they know and how they have been raised in an organisation into a language, which the millennials speak and identify with.

Lack of honest feedback: There is a considerable lack of honest feedback within organisations, which in turn results in the firm not being able to identify the gaping holes at their workplace.

A great book on leadership and management

Our founder Konosuke Matsushita’s book, The Path . It is a book that helps you believe in your dreams and embrace challenges.

The screen of choice for work & entertainment

Panasonic Toughbook. It is a rugged notebook. It works in extreme conditions and is the most reliable device when it comes to data.

I recently picked up photography during my leisure hours and I find Lumix GH5 as the sturdy companion for this.