Culture to me is the soul of the organization and it often gets established right at the beginning, starting from the top. My advice would be to be very cognizant of your mission and values – the cause you espouse. That will set the tone for your culture and honestly, the values we drive at the workplace are really not that different from what we practice personally. As long as you keep the voice of the people and their wellbeing core to your philosophy, success will follow in wake of a great culture.
How has your journey with Encore been so far? You took over a leadership role at a fairly young age and have built to where it is now. How has the experience of leading an organization of this size and scale been for you?
It has been an exhilarating journey and I have enjoyed every moment. Having said that, I must be honest and admit that in my initial years, the enormity of the role hadn’t dawned on me. Here was I, a barely 30 year old young executive, trusted with the uphill task of setting up operations in India for an international specialty finance company.
This experience reiterated to me the importance of hiring the right people, creating an inclusive and people centric organizational culture, and learning to respond to change with agility. I will always be grateful to the Encore Leadership who believed that I could deliver the goods, which in some ways, was a truly humbling experience as well.
In my years at Encore, if there is something that I continue to learn each day, it’s how to be a leader, understand people at an emotional level and master the art of setting and achieving goals that are often termed as impossible. In the process, I have grown not only as a leader or a people manager, but as an individual as well. To be honest, the values that we espouse as a work place – fairness, breakthrough results, respect, integrity and collaboration – have changed me at a fundamental level and for me, these values are my personal code of ethics and all pervasive in my life.
What have been your major challenges till date and how did you deal with them?
We are in the debt collections business – a difficult and challenging business where results don’t always come easy and each consumer interaction means dealing with a lot of emotions.
Often my people have to work odd hour shifts, continuously upgrade their skills, utilize the training and development opportunities made available, be cognizant of realities of offshore operations and after all this, perform and stay at the top of their game.
Having said that, kudos to the Encore Giants for creating success stories year on year. This is motivation enough for me.
You have recently acquired Baycorp in Australia. Are you looking at more acquisitions in the next 24-36 months? What value are you looking to add through these acquisitions?
We are amongst the best in our trade and have found various ways to complement the businesses we run. Acquisitions are just one of them; and each acquisition or greenfield for that matter, has to be a strategic fit; not just in terms of the value it creates for our stakeholders but the cultural experience and learning it brings to table for our primary asset- our people!
In case of Baycorp, our recent Australian arm, we are looking at transferring IP and our global best practices to ensure that it becomes a market leader in the region.
How do you see the industry evolving in the next 3-5 years? Do you think the government is doing enough to make a significant impact on businesses like yours or something more needs to be done?
In my opinion, the asset reconstruction sector is at a nascent stage in the country. The dynamics of economic decisions and policies of the past seem to have created a significant pressure on the balance sheets of some of the larger banks.
The sector does come across as starved of capital and subsequently, has limited capabilities to provide long term solutions for the debt burden across various pockets of the economy.This is where I do believe that with the change in policy environment, foreign players can step in and make a difference with their financial expertise and capital investments.
Overall, I would like to view it from a very positive lens since there are so many opportunities for growth and scope for improvement in people and processes. The renewed optimism of regulators and legislators towards the sector is a welcome change. Ultimately, the beneficiary is the consumer and so it should be!
From business perspective, how different is the Indian market compared to the other markets you are present in?
On the asset reconstruction side, the Indian market is still evolving and comes with its own set of unique experiences, be it in terms of the kind of consumer segments we deal with or the policy environment. However, what I do really appreciate about this market is the opportunity it presents and flexibility it offers to all players. There is enough to satiate the appetite of all players and now it’s up to us to go out and deliver actual results and create reconstruction success stories that would win us the confidence of the banks and other financial institutions, and the consumers!
The current NPA figures that are reported in India are outrageous and the recent media attention to some high profile cases has only highlighted the need for some dramatic reforms in the banking sector. Where do you think are we going wrong and what do you think needs to be done?
I don’t think there is any wrong or right. As an economy, we are on a learning curve and I believe a revamp is in order.
Considering the current scenario, it is up to the banks and financial institutions to have the transparency and courage to call a spade a spade and deal with their Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) in a timely manner. The sooner they let them go, the better it is for the economy as a whole. Having said that, we need an environment where banks feel empowered to make decisions to deal with their NPAs without the fear of being questioned by various governing institutions.
It is a complex and multi layered process, one that will take time and deliberation. We need to consciously stay clear of short term fixes here. Guidance and support of our regulatory bodies is paramount.
With the RBI’s current focus on NPAs and bad debts, do you think it provides a significant window of opportunity for companies like yours?
It sure does. And I must appreciate the RBI for the faith it has shown in foreign investors.
What are your key focus areas for the next 12-18 months?
The key focus areas for us is to never really change. It is always going to be the pursuit of growth for our people and business. In the Indian asset reconstruction context, I will add that winning the confidence of our banks, financial institutions, regulators and consumers is something we will look to focus on through highly robust and compliance driven operations.
Encore has consistently been ranked amongst the “Great places to Work”. What does it take to create a truly great place to work?
In a nut shell, it takes people caring for people to build a great place to work. At Encore, we have always nurtured an environment of trust and authenticity that allows honest conversations to take place. This, in turn often helps create a very warm and personalized experience for our people, creating a feeling of pride and belongingness. Additionally, our HR philosophy, “Advantage Encore”, treats our people as internal customers and focuses on creating a delightful experience by empowering each one to succeed in their role.
Lastly, I will like to call out our efforts in diversity and inclusion. We have directed a lot of our initiatives to make this a reality on the ground; with about one fourth of our workforce being women. From having the right policies to sensitizing all people managers to creating special mentoring programs, we have gone the distance. We are incredibly proud to be an equal opportunity employer.
A lot of new organizations struggle in creating a great culture at work. What is your advice to organizations looking to build a great workplace?
Culture to me is the soul of the organization and it often gets established right at the beginning, starting from the top. My advice would be to be very cognizant of your mission and values – the cause you espouse. That
will set the tone for your culture and honestly, the values we drive at the workplace are really not that different from what we practice personally. As long as you keep the voice of the people and their wellbeing core to your philosophy, success will follow in wake of a great culture.
How does a company like yours take care of their talent requirements? What are the things that you look for when hiring for key leadership positions?
People are our primary asset and we are always looking for talent. The other way we deal with it is by providing a gamut of learning and development opportunities, and training to our people. This is what empowers them and helps them succeed. We do believe that leaders can be nurtured from the ground up and it reflects in our organizational structure, where we put our Account Managers at the top!
At Encore, we simply look for “Authentic Leaders”. Individuals who can connect and inspire people by role modelling our values and cultural tenets. Success for us is a bye-product of the passion that each Encore Giant brings to the workplace.
How do you feel the Search landscape needs to evolve to suit the changing needs of clients?
I think that the search landscape needs to look beyond keywords and find ways of tapping into life experiences as well. Focus should be on not just finding job fits but cultural fits as well.
Talent is just the beginning. We need to understand and appreciate the story and aspirations of each individual. That more often than not will determine the kind of work environment they will prosper in, which is of immense importance for both the individual and the organization.
On an informal note, how does your average day look like? What keeps you occupied when you are not at work?
An average day is all about connecting with my teams across the globe. Dealing with both strategic and operational decisions. But by and large, staying in sync with the pulse of the people – for that truly determines the direction we can take and how agile we can be.
Beyond work, spending time with my family has become a luxury nowadays. So when not at work, you can find me at home playing with my two lovely daughters and enjoying a quiet cup of tea with my wife. She has been an extremely supportive partner and much of my success is because she took care of everything else!