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An experience which inculcates a ‘never give up’ attitude

  • The initiative, conducted over Sept, Oct and Nov by Karvy, is viewed as a great morale booster among employees
  • The initiative has encouraged a culture of creative thinking, say some employees

 Ratika Gujral Manjrekar with CEO Abhijit Bhave
 Ratika Gujral Manjrekar with CEO Abhijit Bhave (Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint)

It’s not every day that you are cherry-picked to become the CEO of a company. Prashant Wagh, vice-president (VP), wealth management, at Karvy Private Wealth got the chance to sit—literally—in the top boss’ chair as part of Karvy’s “CEO for a day" initiative.

To make the day memorable, Wagh’s family received a bouquet, announcing his new designation, at their home in Pune. The 37-year old moved into the company’s guest house a day ahead of the “big day". The next morning, he was chauffeured to Karvy’s Mumbai head office, where he spent the day familiarizing himself with the tasks of a CEO.

Ratika Gujral Manjrekar, 32, associate VP, wealth management, and Naveen Govind, 41, VP, wealth management, were two others chosen as “CEO". “I thoroughly enjoyed the help and assistance being provided to me seamlessly. The reporting business analyst kept all the collated data ready for me before the conference calls with the pan-India teams and review during the day. The executive assistant to the CEO organized and kept things handy for me and the chauffeur, who drove me around; all of these proved to be a great set of helping hands," says Manjrekar.

They were also handed a new set of visiting cards mentioning their designation as CEO. “It indicated how seriously this initiative was being taken, not as a feel-good activity," Manjrekar says.

The initiative, conducted over September, October and November, is viewed as a great morale booster among employees. Besides bragging rights, the chosen employees got to attend the high-level decision-making process and spend time with the CEO, Abhijit Bhave. The Karvy CEO was keen on receiving feedback and ideas that help the business.

“An employee who wishes to become the CEO writes down various ideas that help the company achieve its corporate objectives holistically, and how he/she would implement the same if he/she were to actually become the CEO. The opportunity to become the CEO for a day and running an organization in itself was a huge motivator for many colleagues to give detailed inputs to try and achieve their aspiration," explains Bhave.

Applications were invited, and the three selected from the 38 who expressed interest.

Getting into the job

For Manjrekar, the day began with a pan-India conference call with different team leads, followed by a western region review, where she sat in on performance reviews and in meetings setting targets for the next quarter with regional head and line managers, including her immediate boss. The day ended with a meeting with the company’s core team and a one-on-one chat with Bhave, during which he advised her on ways of achieving her career goals, how to grow in life, etc. Interestingly, Bhave also had other advice for Manjrekar. “He called me in the morning and said that as it was going to be a heavy day, I should take out some time for meditation. And I did. I picked up some meditation music online and took out half an hour to meditate," says Manjrekar, who admires Ratan Tata and N.R. Narayana Murthy for not only making their companies profitable but also giving importance to corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.

For Wagh, the highlight of the day was being able to share his ideas about each department in detail and explain how this would benefit the company’s growth. “It’s a brilliant feeling when everyone listens to you and your thoughts. I enjoyed the Q&A session during the conference call with employees across centres too, as I was feeling the heat of reactions on some of the points I made. I really felt the importance as well as the responsibilities of the CEO’s chair in that one hour and learnt a lot about leadership. It’s definitely not an easy job when you interact with a large set of employees with different thoughts and experiences," he recalls.

Top takeaways

Wagh and Manjrekar have a renewed appreciation for the role of a CEO, having experienced the challenges it comes with. “It has changed my approach towards the company’s policies and has been a big boon to me as I was able to see the CEO’s perspective towards the company’s functioning. I am now able to convey the organization’s thought process behind any strategy/product mix to my team effectively and make them understand the long-term benefits. Front-line employees react to policies, as, most of the time, they only think about short-term pros and cons, but I was able to curb that," says Wagh.

Manjrekar believes the experience has inculcated a “never give up" attitude. “On the professional front, it has given me a lot of recognition—colleagues, seniors and even employees of other organizations have inquired about this day."

The learning, though, is not just restricted to employees alone. The initiative has encouraged a culture of creative thinking. “Sometimes the top management may lose sight of some low-hanging fruit, which may be easy wins. We found that all the three colleagues selected to be the CEO took quick and implementable decisions," Bhave says.

CEO Understudy is a series that looks at the experience of people who have had the opportunity to follow the CEO for a day and glean insights about the top job.

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