THE RISE OF Future Retail Ltd and Future Group is well documented, a success story with its share of ups and downs and tears and laughter. Much like the company, the success story of Ravi Kejriwal, CFO, Future Retail Ltd, is also built on sound middle class principles and closely mirrors the meteoric rise of the company.
“My childhood was one of struggle,” Kejriwal reminisces. When most boys of his age were enjoying life without a care in the world, Kejriwal took his first tentative steps in the workforce. He was just 15, but then life had different plans for him. “Due to financial constraints, I became an earning member for the family at the age of 15,” says Kejriwal without a trace of bitterness at the tough hand that fate had dealt him then. It was at the age of 21 that Kejriwal finally had the time and the means to turn his focus on pursuing his education. He enrolled in the CA course and since then there has been no looking back for this hard-core finance professional.
A family man at heart, Kejriwal’s moorings lay in his strong family. “My family is the jewel in my crown,” says Kejriwal beaming with obvious pride and happiness. The selflessness of his being is reflected in the strong bond he shares with his family. “It’s a beautiful feeling where you like to give everything even if you don’t get anything in return and that’s a family.” Kejriwal defines his concept of a family beautifully. For him, family is an ennobling feeling, not a burden or a responsibility. It is this sense of selfless giving that helped him carry on the huge responsibility on his young shoulders at the age of 15.
Challenged the IAS officer during an income tax raid
To run a manufacturing plant on my own
Can cook delicious food and sweets
Coins collection & spending quality time with family
The family too has proved to be Kejiriwal’s biggest strength. “My parents have always supported and guided me to achieve the best.” It is in fact a family of high achievers and his siblings like him are luminaries in the finance field. Kejriwal’s elder sister is a chartered accountant settled in Sydney, and younger brother has a string of qualifications – CA, ICWA, CS and CISA, and is a banker with Deustche. His sister played a crucial role in shaping the career choices of her two younger brothers. “She mentored all of us,” says Kejriwal proudly.
A family with strong values has meant that his wife, a homemaker, has always stood by him in all his decisions.” When someone believes in you, it gives you courage and motivation,” Kejriwal reflects. The good breeding and upbringing is reflected in his children as well. Though he is mostly an absent father at important occasions in their lives, his two kids have never made him feel guilty about it. “My son has never complained to me for not attending his open house forums and prize receiving ceremonies in school,” says the proud father. But the icing on the cake for Kejriwal is his daughter whom he calls “my princess” and adds, “she is like my granny, and takes utmost care of me although still in school.”
KEJRIWAL’S SIMPLE PHILOSOPHY: THINK ONLY OF THE BEST, WORK ONLY FOR THE BEST AND EXPECT ONLY THE BEST.
A strong family support indeed has been the foundation on which was built Kejriwal’s successful journey as a professional. He recognises this and appreciates the contributions in his life that have come from various members of the family. In fact, in his childhood, Kejriwal had never given a thought to becoming what he is today. Unlike his contemporaries, many of whose lives and career progressions were well mapped right in childhood by their parents, for Kejriwal it was only the blessings of his mother and support of his wife at every significant stages in life that have brought him to this position of honour. “Today I am an achiever, it is due to my self-confidence that I have achieved that others may not even dream of,” acknowledges Kejriwal. Pushed into the mainstream at a tender age, he had not only learnt to become a breadwinner but also became a confident young man who knew what he wanted and how to achieve that.
It is not surprising then that Kejriwal is most satisfied with what he has in life so far: “I have my dream family, dream house, my dream car and have visited my dream holiday destination.” It is this total agreement with whatever life doled out for him that makes him a unique individual. Not many at such a young age as him would be uttering such words.
The love for family and home was apparent in what he chose to do with his first salary. Kejriwal was no superfluous young man even at that young age. Hence, there were no parties nor personal indulgence for him. “I spent the first several months’ salary on renovation of the house that we lived in. It was the most proud and loving moment.”
You Can Win, by Shiv Khera
The Eiffel Tower, Paris
Kejriwal’s first job proved to be the learning board not just for the skills as a finance professional that would help him climb higher and higher up the professional ladder, but the necessary chutzpah as well, a necessary ingredient in any recipe for success. After completing his chartered accountancy, for Kejriwal’s the first opportunity came knocking from India’s leading CA firm, AF Ferguson & Co. “Here I shaped up my skills on the job.” AF Ferguson and Co was a great learning place for the young CA. It provided the right mix of ambience and action – great teamwork, sound professionalism and exhaustive learning with 24–36 hour deadlines on many occasions. “The experience there enriched my inherent capabilities to deliver complex tasks with ease,” Kejriwal says acknowledging the contributions of his first company in the making of the mature professional that he is today.
The 25 years he has spent in the finance profession has been an exciting one exposing him to an eclectic mix of opportunities and learning experience. “Finance is my passion,” concedes Kejriwal. It is not mere number crunching for him but a way of life, “a mirror to the business on what, how and why a particular model is in existence.” And, Kejriwal has been exposed to many models, each unique with its own set of challenges. From essaying the role of internal mentor on Time Management to recovery of funds lost to overview operations in India and abroad to creating panic on the projects to fraud detection to handling legal court cases to selecting Femina Miss India on jury panel, Kejriwal surely hasn’t had a dull moment in his varied career roles and goals.
Part of the Future Group stable for more than a decade now, Kejriwal has been witness to the company’s phenomenal journey from a small organisation to a diversified group having multifold turnover. His role, too, has seen growth over the years and Kejriwal has worked in several capacities – from capital budgeting to business plan formulation, corporate actions to risk management, cost optimisation to commercial operations, and to presiding as the CFO of the mega mart Big Bazaar. “This company is truly the manufacturer of leaders in the industry,” Kejriwal opines on the role Future Group plays in shaping the career progression of professionals. “With the theme of speed and imagination, customer orientation and value for money, the long term growth objectives of the company have been shaped well,” Kejriwal says and adds, “I feel proud to have contributed significantly in establishing requisite controls in the operations.”
Kejriwal’s contributions to the company have also been no mean feat. The most significant accomplishment of his career is the turnaround he helped the company acheive with a loss-making entity. He explains, “The group CEO asked for review of a loss-making business and after my review it turned around into a profitable venture.” No wonder, being so much complementary to the company’s goals, missions and vision, for Kejriwal, his vision is the vision of Future Group achieving organic and inorganic growth in retail to serve maximum consumers in India. “I see myself growing with the company,” he emphasises the unique relationship he enjoys with company.
Kejriwal’s practical, down to earth nature is visible in his career choices as much as his personal ones. When ask for his inspiration in life, he doesn’t spin a grand story nor does he mouth obscure quotes of great philosophers. He found his inspiration very near to him, in a college friend. He gave him a simple kernel of wisdom that has helped Kejriwal at every tricky corner in his life. “My friend convinced me that all the closed doors may not be locked . . . they may be waiting for your gentle push! Your attitude defines your life,” Kejriwal reminisces.
“A race cannot be won by accelerating in top gear, but it can be won by changing gear at the right time.”
Kejriwal’s gospels are all such homely truths. “In today’s fast changing world, many times we feel that we have been rejected by something good but actually we are being re-directed to something better, he says – a perfect weapon to fight despondency and a feeling of failure when they creep up.” A man of measured responses, Kejriwal does not believe in wasting words. To him, “a meaningful silence is always better than meaningless words.”
He gives us lots to ruminate when he tells us, “When you are interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient, but when you are committed to something, you accept no excuses – only results. Think only of the best, work only for the best and expect only the best. All of us do not have equal talent but we have equal opportunity to develop our talents, it’s just the matter of commitment to ourselves. I don’t believe in any fiction character.” Using the metaphor of racing cars, he adds, “A race cannot be won by accelerating in top gear, but it can be won by changing gear at the right time. Timely decisions in life can help win the race of life” – an advice that is a reflection of his life philosophy.
Given his busy schedule that made him miss many special landmarks in his children’s life, it is understandable that his biggest worry is achieving some modicum of work-life balance. “I believe, managing time is the biggest challenge for the CFO of a public company. Apart from this, a CFO must also be an expert at multitasking, executive management and team management, risk management, financial planning and analysis, corporate development, policy and investors relations.
With so much on is plate, how does Kejriwal unwind? The super busy CFO explains his to de-stress mantra – consolidate and devote some time for social services – but all this is on his bucket list as yet.
Meanwhile we leave him with his bible book – You Can Win – knowing that he has already aced the game called life.