Chanda Kochhar
Managing Director & CEO, ICICI Bank

Adaptability, efficiency, and the ability to meet diverse customer needs are key to running a successful business in India. Adaptability is important because in a dynamic business environment, one has to stay on top of new trends and constantly deal with volatility. India is a competitive market and customers are value-conscious; so figuring out ways to minimise costs and be more efficient is crucial. Meeting diverse customer needs is vital because the market ranges from global corporations to small businesses, and from wealthy individuals to people below the poverty line. Investment has slowed, leading to a fall in economic growth and weak sentiment. However, India’s long-term potential, driven by its demographic profile and the vast need for infrastructure and industrial investment, remains intact. To stay ahead, companies have to keep balancing growth, profitability, and risk in tune with the environment and the stage in which their business is. They also have to build and maintain the trust of the stakeholders—customers, employees, investors, regulators, and society at large.

Onkar Singh Kanwar
Chairman, Apollo Tyres

Staying focussed on the basics and not getting carried away by the irrational ways of others are key to success. I believe in the principle of profitable growth. Without profitability, it’s not viable to keep growing market share in the long term. Another aspect that has always been on my mind is the need to create an institution. Also, ethical, transparent, and fair business practices will always remain relevant. The basics for running a business successfully never change and there are no shortcuts. These basics include the flexibility to adapt to a global mindset and the ability to motivate employees. Also important: allocating resources wisely, whether people or currencies. Openness to new influences, especially those in the area of innovation, is also necessary. And, though it hardly needs to be said, a passion for the job is vital to success.

Harsh Goenka
Chairman, RPG Enterprises

A successful business is one which cares for the environment, invests in social programmes, delights customers, and gives robust returns to its financial stakeholders. The ingredients [for companies to succeed] are happy people, an exciting workplace, and innovative minds. Once they have these, the rest will fall in place. The challenges will only increase in future. That’s why I emphasise on developing human resources and hiring talent. Get the right people and provide them a work environment that guarantees opportunities, growth, and work-life balance. Then, people are motivated to excel and deliver on time. This will cascade into a culture of excellence and help strengthen client partnerships.

R. Mukundan
Managing Director, Tata Chemicals

To maintain a leadership position, companies have to keep pace with changing consumer trends and technology, and make the best use of opportunities through innovation. Indian consumers have become brand- and quality- conscious and are rapidly embracing technology. Hence, companies must create the right value proposition and use relevant technology and design to develop business models that suit the local environment. Motivated talent, sustainability, and innovation will play a key role in shaping successful companies.

M.G. George Muthoot
Chairman, Muthoot Group

To run a successful business in India, one needs to build a brand on the basis of ethics, reliability, trustworthiness, integrity, and goodwill. If you take care of your customers and exceed their expectations, growth and opportunity will follow. In a dynamic or saturated market, innovation is not only a way to achieve growth but also a way to get an edge over competitors. As customer dynamics change and technology pervades communications, companies must build a loyalty strategy and be proactive in engaging with customers. Another must for any company is to be a responsible corporate citizen; it not only generates immense goodwill, it is also a business tool.

Brotin Banerjee
Managing Director & CEO, Tata Housing

Players in the real estate industry have to meet the expectations of customers who have global exposure and awareness. Customising products and services, and niche marketing, will be critical in such an environment. The economic growth witnessed in the past two decades and developments in technology have resulted in a shift of power from companies to consumers. The companies that will flourish won’t be those that are the strongest, not even the most intelligent, but those that are the quickest to adapt to changing consumer trends and technology.

Dr. Prathap C. Reddy
Founder & Chairman, Apollo Hospitals Group

There will always be obstacles to anything one wants to do—anything bigger, better, and newer is rarely achieved easily or fast. Setting up the country’s first professionally-run private hospital system three decades ago was a big idea, and achieving it was no easy task. The sector at the time was dominated by a motley assortment of government-run institutions, trusts, and charities, and breaking into it seemed impossible. But what I had, and what I think any entrepreneur who wants to become a leader needs, is what I call the three P’s—purity, patience, and persistence. That’s what helped me make Apollo the leading health-care chain in the country. The other thing that a leader needs to instill in employees and the general public is trust. In my case, if patients lose trust in a doctor, it could end up as a long-term loss.

Naina Lal Kidwai
Director, HSBC Asia-Pacific & Country Head, India

There is no consistency in the behaviour of markets these days. So, we have to be able to read the signals well in advance. Another area that’s important is teamwork. No one person can be an expert in everything. So, having the right team and one which works together is essential. A good team will have diversity, so that ideas representing a broad continuum of thinking and different leadership styles can emerge. Besides teamwork, it is important to be in touch with front-line people and relationship managers because that is where the tyre hits the road. From them, you can know what’s going on and what’s going wrong. The other critical point is regulatory emphasis: Being in touch with the regulators and having their confidence is vital. In global business too, the compliance environment has changed after the Lehman crisis. So, running our business not just to Indian but global standards is of utmost importance.

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