I believe learning is important. It’s not only important for professional people but also at a personal level for students. In fact, it is important for anyone. Learning is the most important thing in life.
July 2022: In this exclusive interview with Manish Kulkarni, Director, Pro MFG Media, Amit Bhalla, CEO, Hercules Hoists, sharing his thoughts on leadership, says that learning is important.
You are passionate about running. Could you share corporate leadership lessons from long distance running?
Although I don’t look like a runner, I still go running four times a week. With running, one simple thing automatically comes into your behaviour is that you never give up. I never give up and keep playing. In marathon running, you never practice for the whole distance. Most of the train trainers would train you for about 70 percent to 90 percent of the distance; they will never actually ask you to go the full distance. Once you start running, it is like one step at a time. You keep walking or running, it doesn’t matter. But you can’t stop before the finish line. I think that is the single most important lesson. It also trickles down to your personal life; it also trickles down to your professional life. The joy of crossing the finish line and reaching your goal after 1000s and 1000s of small steps cannot be explained in simple words. So keep trying, keep moving and keep going closer to your goals day after day, month, after month, year after year. Never, never give up.
Could you highlight the importance of reading for leaders? And which books have influenced you the most in your life/career?
I believe learning is important. It’s not only important for professional people but also at a personal level for students. In fact, it is important for anyone. Learning is the most important thing in life. If you look at Industry 4.0, the most critical challenge that the current workers are going to find - and not only the blue collared ones but also the white collared one - is the need to upgrade and to understand that a new language of business is going to happen very fast. We thought that electric vehicles would take time. Now you know what is happening with electric vehicles. People thought digital payments will happen maybe 20 years later but with just one transformation of demonetization, digital payments became a reality. Technology life cycles are crashing. The most important thing is these technologies are disruptive technologies and their impact on businesses is also happening very fast. For the material handling industry, I would say that we were lucky that it did not impact it to a certain extent. But you never know! Banks thought that it would never happen; they thought people would keep visiting the branches for withdrawing money and doing other transactions. Today, everything happens on a smartphone. Look at what happened to Nokia. Look at what happened to automobile companies. Look at Swiggy; nobody in the world would have thought that Swiggy would become a competitor to Big Bazaar or DMart. E-commerce is changing the retail business. Cab booking apps are disrupting the automotive industry. Food apps are changing the food business. So what will come up and hit us is something that we should be very careful about in terms of our businesses and the impact that technology will have on our businesses. I read titled ‘The Attacker’s Advantage: Turning Uncertainty Into Breakthrough Opportunities’ by Ram Charan. It was written around three or four years back. I attended his master class and he gifted this book to me. The book actually talks about picking early signals. These early signals are there in the newspapers, they are in the books, they are in the Ted Talks, they are on YouTube and they are in the numerous opportunities. Learning - whether through reading or through podcasts or any media - is the most important thing in today’s professional career. Learning is a part of the whole process. It is a very crucial and critical part of your professional growth and staying relevant. It is not growth orientation but it is actually hygiene; a necessity without that you can’t even survive. Some of the authors who have very deeply impacted my thought process Include Ram Charan and his books – ‘Execution’, ‘The Leadership Pipeline’, ‘Boards That Deliver’ and many others. I have also been influenced by C. K. Prahalad, who wrote fantastic books like ‘Core Competence of the Corporation’ and ‘The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid’. At present, I am reading ‘Harsh Realities’, which is about the Marico business, Mr. Harsh Mariwala and his rags to riches story. It’s the story about transforming a commodity business into a brand business. It’s very impressive writing.
There are people who read comics and watch Kung Fu Panda but still learn something out of it. That restriction is not there; you can go across anywhere and anything and you will find that there’s always learning there. We should have a curious and absorbent mind.