Sanjiv Kashyap, chief financial officer at Uniparts India Limited shares thoughts on his personal life, how he keeps himself motivated, and why India has the potential to be a world leader, among other things.
Philosophy: World should be a better place since we were born in it. Compete with self and not others since it is meaningless to compare yourself with others. The only person you should try and improve is the “person you were yesterday”. Bounce out of the successes, travails and failures of yesterday since “tomorrow” is the harbinger of hope. Leave the past behind since that was the “old you” and ahead is the “new you”. There are people who do not even know you and this is the person they will think is the only you. Besides, I always advocate that single minded pursuit for excellence is the biggest fatigue factor. There have to be certain times when flowing with the natural order should be the only option.
Political views: I am a very apolitical person and do not have a political ideology as such. However, will support the person who has an economic and development agenda and the political will to ameliorate the sufferings of the poor in India. The casteist, regionalist, reservationist and the lack of meritocratic approach have already shackled India from taking a flight towards greatness.
Vision for self: To help and advise corporates in strengthening their corporate governance practices and lay a platform for their honest and sustainable growth.
First job: Northern Digital Exchanges Limited, a company promoted by Ballarpur Industries Limited and PSIDC in the joint venture space. Crompton Greaves Limited was its marketing agent.
THE NUMBERS GUY
Why I love finance: Finance is the core of every economic and business activity that we do. Right from the government budgets to household budgets to corporate budgets, determination of working capital and long-term growth needs, putting both short term and long term financial, marketing and operational strategies to work, financial planning and analysis, managing tax regimens, mergers and acquisitions, restructuring of operations, corporate governance, compliances, ERPs and Business Intelligence and Analytical tools, investment banking, diligence activities, risks identification, management and mitigation, etc., all have their pointers towards financial numbers. The plaudits are earned based on the blackness or redness of the financial statements as a consequence of a job well done or shoddily done. All technical work, research and development and even NGO related activities move ahead only on the wheels of finance. Further, the financial numbers tell a story, but is that the full story? No, one needs to go behind the numbers, unravel the operational mysteries, put course-correction measures, install predictive analytical tools and again get the adrenaline flowing in anticipation of matrices getting achieved. In my opinion, this is where the fun of operational finance comes in. Further, the finance person comes across as a highly organised, logical and reliable, even a borderline perfectionist. And when your profession matches your personality, the result is a greater career satisfaction. Financial jobs allow them to use both the left (analytical) and right (creative) sides of their brain.
One career high: To get five chairman awards: Worldwide Excellence Systems and Quality Achievement Team Award in close to 3 years in one of my earlier assignments, for quality driven actions and delivering the service difference.
My strongest skill in finance: Business and financial analytics
The most rewarding project/moment of my profession: Though there have been many highpoints in my career, but to be recognised by the doyens of my profession in the CFO100 Roll of Honour for the second consecutive year, is definitely a very humbling experience.
If I were to redo a project: Rewrite the financial, accounting and taxation standards in a manner that would capture the workforce as a tangible asset and not as a cost element in the financial statements. Every company talks about its workforce as an asset but there is no capturing methodology available. Furthermore, at the very first sign of a downturn, this “asset class” is the first to get the boot and very few companies even make the efforts to retrain and re-skill their workforce to ensure that they remain relevant. Artificial intelligence and the new technologies should not be allowed to create this disruption since these can play havoc with the body politic of our social fabric. The other project that I would like to work on is to rewrite the Income Tax Code to make it taxpayer friendly and then ensuring incentives to the tax-payees based on the payouts by them.
One big mistake/failure I turned into an opportunity: Since the family consists of engineers, it was natural for me to choose an Engineering career. Something happened which moved my interest from the field of Science to the field of Finance, and then there was no looking back. I went on to complete my Chartered Accountancy and Company Secretary courses simultaneously.
The legacy I would like to leave behind: Actually in India, we do not think and talk about legacy enough. The best and the greatest legacy to leave behind is a "good name", an excellent human being who made a habit of “practicing” better than “precept”. Despite imperfections, I always wanted to be a thorough professional, who demonstrated uncompromising ethics, high integrity, morals and values, respected everyone’s uniqueness and identity, a hardcore optimist with a great positive attitude and zest for life. The list can go on and on, but the challenge is to live it day in and day out.
One unforgettable lesson I learnt: Listen to your heart. There is no point in being logical every time since “heart” rules the happiness quotient in one’s life. By accepting a situation, you are not surrendering to it but creating avenues to tide over it. Importantly, the moment you think you have made it/arrived, you are finished. Also, never say “never” without a proper evaluation. Stay positive and it always works out. Resilience, attitude and single minded devotion are all it takes. Negatives thought hurt and are self-defeating.
India of my dreams: My dream is to see India as the world’s biggest economic, technological and a military superpower which also is the “conscience keeper” of the world. All my fellow countrymen to be competing fairly with no reservation quota, where meritocracy rules everywhere, there is respect for law and civility and sustainable rural prosperity is the objective. In short, the country with the highest Happiness and Satisfaction Quotient.
Lesser Known fact: I sing though I do not have a high pitch, have a fetish for watches and shoes and have represented my state in the National School Games in Guwahati. Have been a sportsperson and played almost every outdoor sport.
My eureka moment/epiphany (life-defining change): In one of my earlier assignments with a global major, though being quite young and in the financial field, I strongly put my points of view to the senior management against the product, marketing and advertisement strategies that the company was planning to roll out in India. My views were greatly appreciated and accepted and I was recognised with the Global Chairman awards.
I as a mentor and mentee: As a mentor, I feel obligated that I have to give back to the society at least 10 times of what I have received. Towards that, I continuously nudge the mentees or all juniors to “don’t just set goals but hunt them”, look at a different perspectives in a manner that may give clue for a solution. If seen differently, put the solution forward in a manner s/he thinks that s/he only has provided the solution. It gives them a great kick and enhances their self-esteem. I pick my moments in an effort to bring out the best in people and telling them to always be in a “re-invent” mode. As a mentee, I like to pick the brains of my mentor, continually and continuously, after I have done my reading and research on any specific subject matter.
One shocking discovery about me: Behind the veneer of a serious and studious persona lay a person who was an extrovert, had a great penchant for enjoying and living life, besides showering love and affection to all.
The most memorable characters in my story (family, mentors, colleagues, etc.): My story starts with the adage that “the parental debt can never be repaid”. What we are is because of our parents’ blessings. Further, the family is the backbone of any successful career and the best sponge to absorb any setbacks.
If I were to write a book it would be about: a fictional spy thriller
The leader I would love to be/the role I would love to play: As someone said – whether the expenditure is emotional or financial, the purchase price would be negotiable. Without eulogising myself, I love to lead with personal examples and quote from my personal experiences since I have experienced them. There is no better teacher and influence than time and experience. But all said and done – there are very few people who learn from others’ experiences. As they say, the impact of an accident is felt more if your kith or kin is involved. Reading is one thing and imbibing is another.
When not playing numbers: Watching soft romantic, comedy or fantasy movies in the cinema theatre, watching historical/mythological programmes
How I de-stress: By listening to the soothing melodious songs of 1970s, watching movies and telling myself to cheer up even after a bad day, since tomorrow always has the potential to rekindle the hope, both consciously and surreptiously.
What gives me hope for the future: India of my dreams is taking sure but steady steps though elephantine, on the information technology (IT) and technical fields, and I am wishing that a Nobel Prize should not be too far off for an Indian. The Indian education system, despite its innumerable flaws, still does not allow for technological dumbness and digital amnesia in its annals that the western world is showing. The fact that India’s workforce is the youngest in the world, the potency of the youth, its insatiability and the invaluable experience that it is hurtling towards, will stand it in good stead. In the words of the Indian Scholar Rejaul Karim Laskar, "When greying population will be seen inhibiting economic growth of major countries, India will be brimming with youthful energy". The youth wants opportunities to excel, get rid of reservation system in its present form and move towards a sustainable and equality based growth including in the rural areas. Once the rural populace prospers, the day of “sone ki chiriya” should come sooner than later.