India Inc India Inc: Monday, 01 August 2011 14:33

Corporate Millionaires

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Leaders seize opportunities, managers avert threats. Both together progress more.

Leaders amplify strengths, managers reduce weaknesses. Both together develop more.

The best leaders show us how to build great companies while treating employees well, how to improve dysfunctional corporate cultures, reinvigorate tired brands, and develop new strategic plans. They make bold decisions and acquisitions. The worst leaders prove themselves difficult to work for, stubborn, out of touch, and sometimes in over their heads.

Intropreneurs it seems are the new entrepreneurs.  Corporate leaders are playing an increasingly significant role in the Asian enterprise success story.

If glass ceilings do exist, here is one woman who has smashed through them under the global limelight: Indian-born strategist Indra Nooyi is the powerful CEO behind Pepsico. Hailing from Chennai, this corporate dynamo heads one of the world’s largest food and beverage companies. Nooyi exudes confidence and well she should after being noted as one of the world’s most powerful and influential women.

No mean task in the cut-throat world of business. After graduating with a Masters degree from Yale, her corporate history includes Motorola, the Boston Consulting Group and ABB. She joined Pepsico in 1994 and became its CEO in 2006. Nooyi was instrumental in spinning off Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut and taking the company to a new and more socially responsible level. Her leadership saw profits soar and she has made her mark on the global business landscape.

Many corporate millionaires made their fortune in the banking and finance sector. Anshu Jain, the Deutsche Bank supremo of investment banking will take over from Josef Ackermann in May 2012. Ambitious Jain saw the banks profits rise, in his peak contributing nearly half of Deutsche Bank’s profits. Financier Jain, who was born in Jaipur and who does not speak German, is worth an estimated £60 million. A cricket enthusiast, he recently bought and then sold a stake in the Mumbai Indians team – the Indian Premier League team owned by Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance group.

It’s not all plain sailing though. Rana Talwar, formerly director and group chief executive of Standard Chartered Plc, left on a sour note amid rumours that he had been ousted due to culture clashes. If banks are to be truly global, then there are lessons to be learnt from these intropreneurs. Talwar started off in Mumbai-based Citibank and was soon heading its consumer business in the Asia Pacific and Middle East sectors. Like many serial intropreneurs he has shifted from corporation to corporation, moving to Standard Chartered Bank and then Centurion Bank of Punjab. He was the first Asian to become group CEO of one of the biggest banks listed on the London Stock Exchange.

Another financier, Luqman Arnold, has had a 40-year career spanning commercial, investment and retail banking, insurance and asset and wealth management. Arnold, the son of an English father and Indian mother, was born in Kolkata and spent much of his investment banking career overseas, but is now settled in London.

Former president and chairman of the group executive board of UBS AG, former CEO of Abbey National PLC and previously at Paribas and CSFB, this corporate giant has been noted as a saviour of the high street banks. First it was Abbey, then the notorious Northern Rock.  With Abbey he cut the business down to its core divisions, reduced costs and sold off assets and then sold it to Santander. With the global images of the Northern Rock crash etched in everyone’s minds, only time will tell if the same strategy pays off.

The high tech sector is not without its giants. Pakistani-born US resident Nabeel K. Gareeb served as chief executive officer of MEMC Electronic Materials Inc from 2002 to 2008. Gareeb served as the CEO of International Rectifier Corporation, where he was responsible for worldwide operations, research and development and marketing of the core products of MEMC Electronic Materials Inc. An intelligent corporate player, Gareeb has also seen his wealth multiply.

Ramani Ayer has been the chairman and CEO of The Hartford, one of America’s largest financial services and insurance companies since February 1997. The highly educated Ayer has a Masters and a doctorate degree from Philadelphia and a Bachelor's degree from the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai.  He is a modest yet innovative leader with sharp problem solving abilities.

Born in Kerela, Ayer is now a US national and an influential figure. After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Ayer joined a team of insurance chief executives invited by then US President George W. Bush to discuss the insurance industry and its stability after the terrorism-associated insurance claims. Although they reported to Bush that the industry could bear the financial burden of the terrorist attacks, the executives determined that legislation should be developed to protect the insurance industry if another attack were to occur. Ayer served as a strong advocate for the development of new national insurance legislation and policy development.

One of our best known corporate leaders is Vodafone’s former dynamo Arun Sarin. He graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology with a BS in engineering back in 1975. In 1978 he gained an MS in engineering and an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley. He started his career as a management consultant before moving, in 1984, to Pacific Telesis Group in San Francisco. In April 2003 he became the CEO designate of Vodafone Group Plc and assumed the post of CEO on in July 2003.

Sarin started his career as a management consultant and soon was the corporate giant behind Vodafone, seeing it achieve record profits under his leadership. Richly rewarded for his efforts, despite turbulent times, he retires a multi-millionaire.

The only safe ship in a storm is leadership. These global players are testament to the growing talent of leadership and sharp business acumen in the Asian business community. They are entrepreneurs within enterprises dealing with global issues and have made an enormous impact on the corporate world, gaining recognition at the highest of levels during the toughest of times.

 Dr Spinder Dhaliwal is the author of Making a Fortune – Learning from the Asian Phenomenon (Capstone) and compiles Britain’s richest Asians:

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