Business Today

Leaderspeak

A consumer specialist, he is known for finding gaps and building brands which fulfil crucial needs of consumers
twitter-logo BusinessToday.In   New Delhi     Print Edition: November 3, 2019
Leaderspeak
Devendra Chawla, MD and CEO, Spencer's Retail -- Photograph by Reuben Singh

Q. The biggest challenge in your career

A. Challenge is part of life. I remember the time early in my career when I was heading the largest bottling unit for Coca Cola, and the issue of pesticides in colas created doubt among consumers. Suddenly, business volume collapsed, and everyone around us started doubting and questioning the brand's promise. Earning back the trust of customers, stakeholders and regulators was the biggest challenge and learning experience.

Q. Your best teacher in business

A. Everyone around you is a teacher. I have worked with MNCs, start-ups and established entrepreneurs who were full of energy, enthusiasm, intelligent thinking and high risk appetite. All these have helped evolve my thought process so that distant opportunities can be identified and pursued to create value. Customers are at the core of my decision-making, and their insights equip me to envision things yet to be commercialised.

Q. A key lesson for young people

A. When change is the new norm, complexity and velocity become intrinsic to business. In such a complex and dynamic ecosystem, business models are continuously evolving with time. That is why one has to undertake multiple transformational journeys to stay relevant. Apart from learning on the job, you should immerse yourself in new-age courses. Learning is a constant endeavour. So, learn, unlearn and relearn throughout your life.

Q. Two essential qualities of a leader

A. Leadership is defined by the purpose that acts as the True North and guides one's action. People and values remain at the core of strategic leadership. Values connote a deep commitment - that of doing the right thing for the right reason regardless of circumstances - and it keeps you moving. A leader is a mentor and a career coach who infuses optimism and nurtures creativity so that others could become leaders as well.

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