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7 Questions on Leadership with Ashish Hallan

Updated: Dec 12, 2023

Name: Ashish Hallan

Title: President & Chief Operating Officer

Organisation: Cholamandalam MS General Insurance Co. Ltd.

A multi skilled professional with 25 years of experience in building profitable Sales and Distribution across FMCG and financial services like Exxonmobil Lubes , ICICI Lombard General Insurance , HDFC ERGO General Insurance. Currently working as President and Chief Operating Officer at Cholamandalam MS General Insurance.

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Ashish's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

What I have found most challenging has been building consistency in team members while the organisation grows at a faster rate than market growth rate and as well as managing internal & external customer satisfaction levels.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

A good leader is a good learner and every individual teaches you something it could be moral, personal or professional. I started my career with ExxonMobil Lubricants and learned about Retail Distribution. In 2002, due to regulatory changes insurance sector opened up and I joined ICICI Lombard and still hold the honor of being one of the founding members. This organisation gave me the opportunity to handle a team of more than 400 people PAN India. In 2008 I joined HDFC Ergo, it enhanced my role multifold and I was handling a team of 1500 people.

My leadership skills developed over this period of time by handling each of my team members with a different approach, keeping them motivated for the broad organisations objective while parallely helping them in achieving their personal goals.

In the current role team is further enhanced to more than 3500 and learning as well as teaching journey continues.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

I am an early riser and start my day at 6 am with 20 minutes of meditation and 30 minutes of walk or run followed by breakfast . I am a time bound person who follows a set routine where I reach my workplace by 9-15 am, finish off my previous day work actionable if any by 10 ,before I get into office meetings for the day.

I finish my work day by 7 pm and reach home by 8 pm. After this, I spend time with my family.

My day ends with 10 -15 minutes of meditation.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

In an interaction with one of my former supervisors , I asked how he has been able to change the culture of a big organisation and made its performance higher in terms of manpower, productivity as well as other key indices including enhancing shareholder value - he replied, “Work on the feedback given by the ground level employees, and focus your organisational growth on the basis of those feedback’s and market requirement”.

This was one of the learning’s that most people forget as they climb the corporate ladder. And I’m considering this lesson to be implemented at my current position in the organisation.

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?

Alive at Work – Daniel M. Cable . I was fortunate to have met him at London Business School and attended his lecture as well as got personalised book copy from him.

This book actually talks about boxed cultures. As usually, employees are bound in organisations by KPI which restricts their capabilities to develop or perform out of the box. If this culture can be broken, employees can become more motivated , happy and perform higher than expectations. I am happy to understand this and try to implement it across various departments and people.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

Aspire to Inspire should be the motto of any leader. Embracing a mindset of learning and growth would be the advice I would like to give to a young leader.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

A good career is one where you learn at the start, then go on to contribute by multiplying your learning with all the experience and wisdom garnered along the way. Empathy and Sympathy are the two qualities which all leaders should possess.

An incident which changed the perspective of my life was when a former team member passed away suddenly leaving aged parents, a non working wife, a son who had to appear for his 12th boards and a hefty home loan to pay off. To help the family I organised a crowd funding campaign to Pay off the loans and give them some savings to start their life afresh employed his wife in my then company so that they can manage their living independently.

Leading this campaign without any self motive gave me a true sense of being a leader.

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