Indian CEOs focus on growth

2005

Where business leaders in the U.S. and Europe busy themselves with issues such as reputation, cultural change, and succession planning, the CEOs of India's top companies put all their energies into driving innovation, growth, and business results.

A study by HR consultancy Hay Group has found that while almost all the CEOs of India's 30 top publicly traded companies focus exclusively on growth, fewer than half of U.S. and European CEOs say that this is their the top priority.

The striking contrast emerged from an 18-month study completed in 2004 to assist India's Public Enterprise Selection Board, which is responsible for evaluating and appointing CEOs and senior executives of publicly owned companies.

A number of other key areas that set Indian CEOs apart from outstanding top executives in other countries also emerged from the study.

Indian CEOs achieve growth through consistently seeking out new information, technology and ideas to improve their businesses, the research found. Compared to their peers in other countries, they showed virtually no focus on internal organisational politics or personnel issues.

"We were surprised by Indian business leaders' extensive focus on growth and innovation, as well as the extent to which they took business risks to address society's needs," said Tharuma Rajah, General Manager of Hay Group's Kuala Lumpur office. Meanwhile, most of CEOs interviewed told stories about working to meet the needs of the enormous middle- and lower-market segments through reliable, but inexpensive, goods and services, an approach which the report says is indicative of the altruistic business philosophy required to thrive in India's rapidly-expanding market.

Another aspect of the Indian approach is the patience and integrity needed to deal with the country's political and regulatory culture.

"Fortitude and resilience are critical traits for the CEOs in this business culture with our stringent government reviews, lengthy negotiation process, and tough and thorough media interviews," said Gaurav Lahiri, Operations Manager of Hay Group's New Delhi office.

According to the study, Indian CEOs tend to keep business relationships more formal and professional than their Western peers. While showing compassion for others, these executives evaluate employees on professional attributes such as education and experience rather than on personal qualities. They also tend to avoid close relationships in the workplace.

"What executives from other cultures and countries may view as impersonal, perplexing, even contradictory behaviour, senior Indian executives see as proper and necessary," said Mary Fontaine, Global Director of Hay Group's McClelland Center for Innovation and Leadership.

"They see these as important traits for the success of their corporations, and also for their country and society."