"You Are the Custodian of the Culture of the Organisation"

Ramesh Iyer, Vice Chairman & MD, Mahindra Finance

Ramesh Iyer, Vice Chairman & MD, Mahindra Finance / Photograph by Rachit Goswami Ramesh Iyer, Vice Chairman & MD, Mahindra Finance / Photograph by Rachit Goswami

Q: What was the issue you were grappling with?

A: We were setting up retail finance options across the country in the mid-'90s. The biggest challenge was to recruit teams locally. They came from different backgrounds. The challenge was to align them to one Mahindra culture. Trust and empowerment were the two pillars of success.

Q: Who did you approach for advice and why?

A: I used to work under a general manager (GM) named Gidwani, in my previous job. Those days, GM used to be head of the unit and I was the junior-most employee. He used to come very early to office. I often followed the same route to learn from him. His advice came in handy.

Q: What was the advice?

A: He once said people should fear you not for your authority but for your knowledge. If people fear you for your knowledge, they will respect you for that. The other thing he used to tell me is that you must respect everyone irrespective of age, level and capability. But more importantly, as a leader, you are the custodian of the culture of the organisation.

Q: How effective was it?

Today, this seems the culture in this company. People are emotionally connected. They build pressure for performance but don't use unacceptable language. It helped build a very family type of culture. I may not have witnessed the benefit when I was growing into leadership roles. But once I came into Mahindra Finance, I started relating to it substantially. I was almost the first employee along with Executive Director V. Ravi. We both started the company with one table and two chairs. In last 25 years, I have never lost my temper. I have not used language that is very offensive to people.