I don’t have a Chip on my Shoulder

Sharing some excerpts of my interview in the Financial Express, dated November 2008:

His uncanny resemblance to a star in the extended family is pretty evident. Today, he might be on the wrong side of 30s and not a film star, but he’s pretty much a star in the industry he is in.

%name I dont have a Chip on my Shoulder

For Nikhil Nanda, Joint Managing Director of Escorts Limited, his work is his passion and it’s pretty evident from almost everything about him.

It’s little surprise when you realise it comes from the grandson of HP Nanda, a pioneer in his own right when you think of the Indian Industry. ‘’He is a man I really look up to. To think of it, he came to India with his family and Rs 500. And look at where he took the Indian industry. He was a man of great vision and I consider him as one of the founders of the Indian industry.’’

And if there is something that this young Nanda wants to do, it is to take the Group to the heights his grandfather would be very proud of. What is interesting to note is how business slowly crept into his system.

He was about 13 when he was sent to Doon School because his parents thought a good boarding school could make a lot of difference. It did, ‘’I learnt a great deal at Doon. Be it travelling on DTC buses to Dehradun or the very time table I had to follow at the hostel, everything changed me as a person. I kind of grew up a lot in those years.

“I think somewhere along the line I’d always been toying with the idea (of joining the family business). But yes, I’d say it was in Class 10 when my grandmother passed away and I spent a lot of time with my grandfather (HP Nanda) that I decided to get into the family business.”

After finishing his school, Nikhil went to Wharton Business School, Philadelphia. He graduated in Business Administration in 1995 and majored in Management and Marketing. And his stint abroad as a student, says Nikhil, “made a man out of me.” Because not only did he learn about subjects, he also learnt about people from different backgrounds. “These things I’d say really broadened my perspective.”

After coming back in 1998, Nikhil joined as Director, Business Development, Escorts Yamaha Motor Ltd. (EYML) when he was all of 21 and worked at the shop floor for almost four and a half years. It wasn’t easy given the fact that he was still a young man and he admits as much. “It certainly scared me. And from that perspective, I gave up a lot of aspects of my life. I had to become serious in my life. I got married when I was 23. I had children at a young age. So everything in my life came in really early. So I was focused in taking up responsibilities and in settling down at my workplace. It just evolved. Both my parents have been very facilitating. They’ve been around but let me take my own decisions. And so far, I have been happy with all my decisions.” He was responsible for formulating the joint venture agreement with Yamaha Motor Company and the strategy for the motorcycle business.

The 34-year-old has been actively involved in day-to-day operations of the company since he took over as its Executive Director in May 2000. As a member of the core group, he has been responsible for strategising the Group initiatives and developing, recommending and executing maximum value for its shareholders.

What probably makes Nikhil deserve the accolades is because of the kind of person he is. “I don’t have a chip on my shoulder. I like to work very closely with my team, I don’t have a bossy attitude and I like to mingle with my people. To be a successful businessman, you have to have traits of being a people-centric person. A lot of time the top job is about motivating people. I’ve always liked mingling with people rather than adopting a top-down approach. A lot of times, it’s also about walking behind your team to make your people walk the talk. Escorts is not HP Nanda, Rajan Nanda or Nikhil Nanda; Escorts is about the 10,000 people who are working here. They constitute the genetics of the company.”

The year 2007 came with more responsibility as he was appointed the Joint Managing Director. It’s a challenge he took on easily for the simple reason that designations, says Nikhil, are not important. “What does a designation mean? You can take away a title from me, but you can’t take the passion away. I love this company. The passion and resolve I have for this company will remain. I think a title is something you have to earn.”

%name I dont have a Chip on my ShoulderAsk him if he has earned his and he smiles, “I’m far too young to have earned it. Even when I’m 50 and you ask me if I’ve earned it, I’ll probably still say, I have a long way to go. I’m far too ambitious for my company. And I’m going to be realistic on that ambition. I simply want to take this company to the position of respect and regard it had two decades ago.”

His young shoulders, you realise, have learnt to deal with responsibility and difficult times with ease. Take, for example, the restructuring of the Group which began in 2000. “You have to have the faith and move on. This is my life and I’m never going to give up. I wake up every morning and the only mad dream I have is what can I do to add value to this company. It’s a passion I can’t put in words. I breathe, I live Escorts. If you tell me to take a trillion dollars and sit at home, I can’t do it. I want to be a part of this evolution India is seeing and have the Escorts flag flying high.”

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