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On the power of creating an emotional connection with customers

Shashank Srivastava of Maruti Suzuki India Limited on his productivity principles, the ability to narrate your vision as a story, and more

Shashank Srivastava, 58, Senior Executive Officer, Marketing & Sales, Maruti Suzuki India Limited.
Shashank Srivastava, 58, Senior Executive Officer, Marketing & Sales, Maruti Suzuki India Limited. (Courtesy Maruti Suzuki India Limited)

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At a time when switching jobs to progress career and pay are the norm, Shashank Srivastava is a clear outlier. The 58-year-old is car-maker Maruti Suzuki India Limited’s senior executive officer for marketing and sales and has been at the company since 1989 when he joined as a campus recruit from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA). 

“This is my first job and I am still in it after 34 years. I already had two offers with L&T and Asian Paints during placements but when I heard Maruti Suzuki would be recruiting on Day 3, I spoke to the people involved and got myself an interview slot because I wanted to be in the automobile industry,” says Srivastava, who hold an engineering degree in telecommunication and electronics. 

At Maruti, he started in the corporate planning and marketing strategy team and has held multiple roles from logistics and regional manager to international marketing and dealer development and has also seen Maruti’s transition from a public sector unit (PSU) company to a listed entity. 

Also Read: Why IKEA India's Susanne Pulverer believes in the power of asking questions

“Even though I had joined a PSU it didn’t function like what we would imagine PSUs to be. It had a modern culture and an open office layout [which was iconoclastic in India in the late 80s and early 90s] ,” says Srivastava, who grew up and studied in Bhopal. 

Srivastava, who has traveled to 163 countries thanks to his job, speaks to Lounge about what he learnt from Maruti Suzuki chairman RC Bhargava, the importance of having the ability to narrate your vision as a story, and why he enjoys the podcast HBR Ideacast.

Who do you consider your mentor?

I have worked alongside many brilliant colleagues however, RC Bhargava, the chairman of Maruti Suzuki, stands out. He has been my mentor for many years and I’ve learnt a great deal about leadership, business strategy, and people management.

One major insight you worked on with your mentor’s guidance?

One transformative insight I have implemented through Bhargava's guidance is the importance of creating an emotional connection with customers. Customer-centricity is the cornerstone of operations at Maruti Suzuki, and Bhargava guided us to go beyond functional benefits and focus on creating a deeper, more meaningful relationship with customers.

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What does being a mentor mean to you?

There’s a saying: “A sign of a good leader is not how many followers you have but how many leaders you create.” I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment. As a mentor, my goal is to help others succeed and empower them to become leaders in their own right. Mentoring is all about having a larger vision and the ability of narrating or story-telling it to the mentees so that it becomes their vision. True leadership is, therefore, not about being in charge but inspiring and guiding others to achieve their full potential. When we invest in our colleagues’ growth and development, we develop better leaders and build a more substantial organisation.

Describe your morning schedule.

I wake up at 5:30 am, and go for a walk; it helps me clear my mind, boost my energy, and fuel my creativity. Then I catch up on news, send greetings and messages to my colleagues and team members and eat breakfast with my family. This morning routine is an essential part of my daily success strategy.

What’s the one positive work routine you have developed during the pandemic?

Working from home during the pandemic was challenging as it blurred the boundaries between work and personal life. To counterbalance this, I inculcated a habit of consciously taking short and frequent mindful breaks to stretch, meditate, or even enjoy a cup of tea. These breaks helped me to recharge, enhance my focus and maintain my wellbeing. 

Also Read: Life is my greatest mentor: Anshuman Magazine of CBRE

Any book or podcast recommendations about mentorship and workplace growth?

One book I highly recommend for anyone interested in mentorship and workplace growth is Leadershift by John C Maxwell. It is a powerful guide for leaders to evolve and transform by adapting to their organisations' changing needs and challenges. The book emphasises the importance of mindset, skillset, and toolset shifts essential for leaders to thrive in today's dynamic business world. I also recommend the podcast HBR Ideacast, which features in-depth conversations with top business thinkers and leaders on topics ranging from leadership to innovation.

Any serious hobbies?

One of my favourite hobbies is playing a game of chess. It's a great way to relax and offers valuable lessons that can be applied to both personal and professional life. Planning ahead, anticipating consequences, and taking calculated risks are all critical skills that can be developed through chess.

What are some of the productivity principles you follow that have made your professional and personal life much easier?

I follow several productivity principles that have helped me accomplish my goals. At the core of these is the importance of prioritisation, delegation, and accountability. To start my day, I identify the most critical tasks that align with my goals and strengths and prioritise them accordingly. I also believe in empowering my team by delegating tasks based on their skills, interests and learning goals. This not only helps maximise productivity but also fosters a sense of ownership and accountability. Ultimately, success is achieved through collaboration, effective communication, and a commitment to continuous improvement.

Also Read: Life is my greatest mentor: Anshuman Magazine of CBRE

Monday Motivation is a series featuring founders, business leaders and creative individuals who tell us about the people they look up to and their work ethics.

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