I wish I had met Aditya Vikram Birla in his lifetime

Aditya Vikram Birla

In August 1996, Kumar Mangalam Birla requested me to design an internal quality award for the Aditya Birla Group. This young prince of a mega business empire demonstrated amazing listening skills. The true sign of a leader in the making.

He informed me that the awards ceremony must happen on 14 November, 1996, the birthday of his late father, Aditya Vikram Birla. Further, not only was I to define the criteria, but also assess some identified plants in India, Thailand, and Indonesia. The timing and scope were a challenge.

I am glad I accepted the invitation, because the exercise taught me much. Particularly about visionary leadership. About shared leadership.

I learned how Aditya Birla had engaged with managers and workers at every plant. His distinguishing quality was empathetic listening. He also motivated the teams at each plant to perform faster, better, and cheaper than competitors. He had quality in his DNA.

I also learned how Rajashree Birla interacts with the families of workers. She can recite the names of individuals she has met, without prompting. She also surprises most of the wives by picking up on a past conversation seamlessly. A best practice for employee endearment.

The seeds of this quality culture had been sown decades before liberalization. Wow.

I embarked on the assessments in September 1996. Some of the highlights of my intense travel were:

  1. Hindalco: Economics of captive power generation
  2. Indo Gulf Fertilizers: Migrating birds from Siberia resting at a pond in the plant
  3. Vikram Cement: A dust free rose garden embracing the plant
  4. Thai Carbon: Hospital standards for housekeeping
  5. Thai Acrylic Fibre: Women workforce assuring exceptional housekeeping
  6. Pt Elegant Textile: Indian management sensitive to Indonesian values.

Was this for a quality award?

Yes it was. Aditya Birla, had already recognized Mother Earth, Society and Employees as customers. And he walked his talk.

People listen to what you say. They believe what you do.

I wish I had met Aditya Vikram Birla in his lifetime.


2 thoughts on “I wish I had met Aditya Vikram Birla in his lifetime”

  • Suresh sb,

    It is always enlightening to read your experiences which is studded with pearls of wisdom, best management practices and demonstration of leaders living their values.

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