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"Take Care of Your People"

Suresh Narayanan, Chairman & MD, Nestle India
twitter-logoAjita Shashidhar | Print Edition: February 23, 2020

Q. What was the best advice you ever got and from whom?

A. I had returned to India at the height of the Maggi controversy. The problem was to do with reputation, business. A fourth of our turnover had come to a grinding halt, five out of eight factories had been shut. For us, trust and responsibility is the anchor and that was up in flames. It was an existential crisis.

Q. Who did you approach for advice?

A. The best advice I have ever got was from a non-corporate person. I had gone to meet my grandmother in Bangalore to take her blessings. Before starting this journey, I needed a confidence building measure. I told her about the huge challenge and asked her what her advice would be.

Q. What was the advice?

A. She told me that I should take care of my people. That was the soundest piece of advice I have ever got. She is not an MBA or a corporate captain but she is a fond grandmother to all of us. That, I believe, is something I will always cherish. She was enormously wise. Her advice to focus on people was wiser than any professor in a business school would have given. That's what I value the most.

Q. How effective was it in resolving the problem?

A. Four years on, in terms of value and volume, we are well ahead of what we had done in 2014. The company is on the path of excellent growth. We have innovated and renovated 60-plus new products in the last three years. I believe some have called our performance an outliar. But it is a tribute to the people and teams that have made this happen. Adversity builds enormous strength, it also give you huge opportunities. Nestle India has benefited in some sense from this trial by fire.

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