Uday Kotak, Executive Vice-Chairman and Managing Director, Kotak Mahindra Bank, said if there was one thing that he would tell the new generation more than anything else, it would be to value one's character, as "that will really tell you what to do and what not to do".
Kotak was sharing his life experiences and career journey with the students of IIM Bangalore as the chief guest on the occasion of the institute's 42nd annual convocation on Monday.
The graduation ceremony saw 598 students, eight of them gold medallists, wearing mortarboard and marching around the campus radiating a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. The graduates were cheered on by their proud families, many of whom had made the trip to Bengaluru to be a part of the joyous moment. One could not help but stand up and salute these students, who are going to contribute significantly towards the future of this country.
Analysing his career, Kotak pointed to five key principles that helped him to achieve the success he has seen over the years. He termed them as the 5 Cs: character, conviction, commitment, creativity, and capability.
Character: In your entire journey, you may find many opportunities to explore shortcuts to accomplish a task. But you need to ask yourself one thing – whether it is right or wrong, and if you come up with the second answer, have the character to stand up and say “I will not do it”. It has helped me commercially. I have always taken decisions on the basis of what I was told by myself, and that has helped me a lot. Value your character, because that will really tell you what to do and what not to do. You parents have given you value, stand up to that at the workplace, because you will always find somebody there telling you to do it differently if you want to grow faster. Don’t make the wrong choice between shortcut growth and a sustainable career, and character is what you will get you there.
Conviction: If you are convinced about something, go ahead and do it. But be counted again. I have come across situations, many of which involved my own business decisions, where the line between conviction and foolhardiness was very thin. I had sleepless nights, but I stood up and took the call, stating clearly that it was not foolhardiness and that I was convinced about it; and I did it. But always question yourself, enquire as to whether a particular decision is the result of conviction or foolhardiness, before taking action.
Commitment: Every single day after I passed out from college, I have enjoyed going to work, which for me is a pleasure. I enjoyed my work, and have never felt like not going to office in the last 30 or so years of my life. When I wake up in the morning and get ready to go to work, it comes out of a sense of passion and enjoyment, which you can also call commitment. If you want to really progress, enjoy what you do and believe that true commitment comes out of passion and enjoyment in your work.
Creativity: You learn many things at business school, and you have many ideas that you carry and mix together to discover creative solutions outside the box. You must have the courage to stand up and say that you want to do it this way, however stupid it may look, and never be worried about what others say. It is always better to be considered stupid, and even be ready to fail, because the learning that you derive from that creativity will significantly benefit you in the future.
I often tell my HR team and business team that if you get an entrepreneur who has failed and wants to come back to the job market, that is the best person to get. Always choose creative people who are bold enough to think differently.
When I started Kotak as a financial services company (focused only on bill discounting), 97 percent of India’s financial system was accounted for by public sector banks. And bill discounting in that era was legally viable for the private sector. In fact, the RBI reports encouraged development of the bill market, and we were ready to be creative, and started business in a very small manner 31 years ago.
Started with only three employees, Kotak Mahindra Bank today has 46,000 employees, with the return to the shareholders compounded by 40 percent per annum over 30 years.
Capability: Capability is primarily about execution. If you are capable but don’t focus on execution, your capability will be wasted. Use your capability and stretch your rubber band as much as you can, and don’t worry about the rubber band breaking. What you have learnt here in IIMB has made your rubber band very strong, and you can keep on stretching it, testing the limits of your capability. Just go ahead and do it.
In conclusion, Kotak said, “Kotak Bank would not be what it is today if we did not think differently. As you move out of your cocoon, you will need to find creative solutions – dare to be different, test yourself, be ready to encounter challenges and also failure, learn from your mistakes, and know that committed execution is the key to capability. You have huge opportunities, but will face tough and challenging times as well. You have to be bold, but keep your values intact. You need to be resilient, and stand up for defending what you believe in.”