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7 Questions with Arvind Dev
7 Questions with Arvind Dev
Name: Arvind Dev
Current title: CEO
Current organisation: Samcara
Co-founder & CEO-Samcara-a Career guidance platform
Counselled more than 3000 professionals
Managing Partner-SSJ Solutions-25 years of Hiring Top Talent, more than 6000 in 300 firms
IIMA-St Stephens College-Modern School
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader of a small or medium enterprise?
The most challenging aspect has been the attraction and retention of talent. This is the most critical factor. At Samcara hiring our first employee proved to be the most challenging aspect. People who have other options are scared of joining a start-up and more so when the start-up offers a package equivalent to the industry average. Hiring the second employee took less time.
2. How did you become a leader of an SME? Can you please briefly tell the story?
Well, my father Maj Gen (Retd) TP Singh and I have been running a boutique placement services firm SSJ Solutions for over two decades. The objectives of that firm when we started it were two-fold: a) help retiring armed forces officers in the second innings of their lives, and b) help promising and talented individuals find gainful and meaningful employment opportunities. SSJ Solutions has evolved into a full-fledged HR Advisory firm since then. However, to get back to the story my father and I observed something that disconcerted us. Some of the people we had placed kept coming back to us. Since they were all bright and talented we had no trouble placing them again and again. However, we were not happy and wanted to understand why they were flipping jobs regularly. We decided to consult an expert - Dr Jayant Mukherjee, a doctorate from IIM Ahmedabad, that happens to be my alma mater. We conducted a study and the results shocked us into opening Samcara - a career assessment and guidance firm. This is how the journey, surreal though it seems now, really began. I am happy to inform you that Samcara interventions have proved to be meaningful and effective. This gives me the courage to aim bigger and higher.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
The important thing to remember is that it's not work alone which makes you successful. You need to have time for family, alone time, play time and sleep. if you don't think of it like that work takes up more time of your day. In times of work the urgent and critical things are done earliest possible. Then fill other things to be done around that schedule.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
The most significant lesson that I have learned is the ability to manage in a crisis situation. Every day is different; every day is a crisis of sorts. You can not even take a cup of coffee for granted. In the midst of all this, your employee engagement needs to be high. Leaders need to place greater importance on interpersonal skills and I had to hit the ground running.
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?
The book that has had a profound impact on me and not just my leadership is 'Rendezvous with a Monk' written by Jayant Mukherjee. Let me tell you about the book in brief.
Two friends arrive from the USA to visit a schoolmate. With them is a monk. The friends know that their schoolmate is writing a book on Swami Vivekananda. Discussions between the friends, the monk, the schoolmate and his family range on a variety of topics. In their quest to understand Vivekananda the protagonists dive deep into India’s rich spiritual and philosophical base.
The discussions focus on Meaning (of life), Vision, Work, Organization, Leader as Mentor, and Reality. During the course of their discussions, the protagonists navigate their way through the tributaries of humanism, philosophy, religion, and management. The turbulence of the other streams is smoothened by the strong, silent presence of spirituality. Finally, spirituality emerges and the other streams merge into it. Stories are told that make the thought provoking discussions interesting.
The easy conversational manner of the protagonists will make you believe that you are one of them. You will be extolled on not taking anything at face value but to ask questions and then choose your own path. This book leaves you with a feeling of optimism and self-belief. In short, this book emboldens me and helps me face life unflinchingly.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in an SME?
I firmly believe that one thing that all organizations and in particular SMEs must promote is learning. Learning lies at the heart of any attempt to promote leadership. How do we promote learning in Samcara?
a) We involve all employees in decision-making
b) We encourage employees to go beyond their professed competencies and try out new things
c) Employees are told that mistakes happen and are essential for learning.
d) Fear of making a mistake should not deter them from taking decisions
e) During induction, and even later, we encourage employees to shadow leaders. It enables them to learn about operations and the culture of Samcara.
f) We inspire young employees to have in-depth discussions with their seniors on topics of their choice. This gives them a tremendous amount of confidence and provides them learning opportunities.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader of an SME so far?
How we helped MBA institute students (250 of them) discover their true passions and interest and guided them in further developing their careers. So basically help them chart out their career path and start on the journey