Name: Prashant Verma
Organisation: ICPG PTE LTD
FMCG marketing and sales expert with 20 years across Unilever, Marico and 2 startups in South Asia, Middle East and South East Asia.
Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!
I hope Prashant's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
Managing expectations consistently has been one of the biggest challenges.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
A year after my MBA I joined ICICI Bank in India. By default the role was to manage a huge sales team, though mostly off role but about 10 people which grew to 150 by the end of the year. I simply grew with them and literally treated them as my tribe. After this role, in all other roles which came, it became easier for me to behave like a leader.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I am a early to rise and so so on early to sleep. Mornings are dedicated to self which includes physical activity. By 9 am I am ready to start my work with different geographies. I prefer finishing most of my work by 11 am SGT as it allows me to be free for my calls with India which starts around that time.
Most of the meetings are pre-determined with agendas. Max activity happens around evening which goes till about 8.30. In between I get some time to spend with family for dinner and conversation. It is bed time by 10.30 -11 pm for me. Rinse and repeat.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
Recently in one of my investor calls, there was some criticism on our growth rates in one of our Geography. While we review that area every month, we took it for granted with the ways of working and the output.
By taking that criticism as a wakeup call we were able to re-look our operations and put it back on the right track. Point being receiving criticism at a leadership level and taking it positively is something to be reminded of, because as leaders we are so engrossed with our work that sometimes it needs someone else to point the "flaw".
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
Zero to one by Peter Thiel. Since I ran a startup from scratch and that too as single founder. I was able to ask myself tough questions and take course corrections.
Also till I did not do my Zero to One and validated my product market fit, I ensured that our cashflows were never compromised.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
Stay humble, stay connected to the ground.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
One of the townhalls in Unilever days, the India CEO gave an exorbitant growth target of INR 500 billion by 2015 in the year 2010. We were INR 175 billion, and he was basically asking us to almost triple. But when he explained that to double our business in 5 years we need to grow by 14% and that has been our past many years performance.
To triple we needed only 24% growth, combined with price increase etc, the volume growth required was only 15%. Point being, dreaming big and breaking it down to every ground member of the team in showing it is achievable makes the dream a target...otherwise it remains a dream.