Working Moms

Nandini Piramal’s staunch belief: culture, ethics, and values key to Piramal Group’s growth

Tanvi Dubey
26th Jan 2018
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Nandini Piramal, Executive Director of Piramal Enterprises, talks about the multiple hats she dons at her company, and how she ensures she maintains a work-life balance.

“The ultimate goal is happiness; isn’t everyone on the quest to happiness?” a simple remark with priceless value by Nandini Piramal, the Executive Director of Piramal Enterprises sets the tone for our conversation.

As someone who has had to work doubly hard to ensure people don’t write off her achievements on the basis on her surname, Nandini shares how she has learnt to be a winner in every situation.

The 37-year-old, who joined her family business in 2006, is responsible for leading the Over-the-Counter (OTC) business of the company. She simultaneously heads the Human Resources function at Piramal Group, and the Quality and Risk functions at Piramal Healthcare.

Here are some excerpts from our conversation - about her life, the company that her father built, and the various functions she leads on in the Piramal group:

Independence at an early age

Being the child of a working mother and an entrepreneurial father who balanced work and family life made Nandini independent very early on.

“In order to achieve success, hard work and sacrifice are important to our family. My family has been my continuous source of inspiration,” she says.

In 2001, she graduated in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from Oxford University, and joined McKinsey in 2003 and worked there for an year. In 2006 she completed her MBA from Stanford University.

“My experience in the US and UK gave me exposure to the global business landscape as well as the opportunity to immerse myself in day-to-day operations. This has given me a holistic experience and not just a top-view of the business,” she shares.

Working and studying away from home made her independent and the exposure to global practices has also, over the year, contributed to a lot of fresh strategies that she infused into the group once back home. Her stint at the family Pharma Solutions plant in Morpeth also helped her understand the business operations from the ground level.

Part of her DNA

Armed with this exposure and different perspectives, Nandini joined the family business in 2006.

“I have seen my mother and father build the business over the years and it is therefore a part of my DNA,” she reveals.

However, joining the family business hasn’t been a cakewalk for Nandini. It has been a challenge to ensure that she makes her own mark in the organisation, and lives up to the legacy that her parents have built.

Speaking of challenges, she says, “The biggest challenge was to create a distinct voice for myself as an individual and not on account of my surname. People working with me aren’t obliged to say yes without reason and should be able to rationalise their decisions with me without any hesitation.”

For Nandini, the Piramal Group is more than a legacy; the company’s values and vision are something she believes in strongly and works towards upholding through her work. The crucial element in the success of the group has been the values and the choices the company has made, she feels.

“The values, vision, and outlook of the group are what truly resonate with me. The Piramal Group has always focused on delivering value to every stakeholder through its journey as one of India’s largest conglomerates. It is fulfilling to be a part of an organisation that is at the forefront of India’s business landscape and also contributes to the community at large. Our purpose of ‘Doing Well and Doing Good’ anchors me personally as well.”

Making it all about people  

Nandini has loved every moment of her journey, building, growing and thriving through the years. “It is thoroughly satisfying to be able to significantly contribute to the growth of our employees as well as play a role in ensuring the group’s high quality standards,” she says.

On the HR front, she shares that for all the strategies they have crafted, people have been the focal point. In 2014, the company initiated a comprehensive HR Transformation Journey called ‘SEEDS’, which is regularly reviewed by CEOs of the group. SEEDS focuses on creating a high performance culture, building people capability across levels, building a “One Piramal” culture, enhancing efficiency in people systems, and attracting and retaining high quality talent.

The group is also working with a new approach to attract fresh talent.

“Millennials are attracted towards the startup-like culture that provides an abundance of autonomy, purpose, and mastery. In view of this, we have infused the group with a fresh approach towards talent to address the needs of millennials. Our talent strategy encourages entrepreneurship and focuses on growing leaders internally. We identify top talent through a rigorous process and put them through a long-term development journey that offers them fast-tracked careers and great exposure,” Nandini says.

Good decisions define company growth

In her role at the Quality and Risk functions at Piramal Healthcare and the Over-the-Counter (OTC) business of the company, Nandini says good decisions have been the cornerstone in the group’s overall growth.

For instance, in order to reach a market capitalisation of US $20 billion by 2020, the Piramal Group needed to grow at over 49 percent CAGR, via both organic and inorganic growth, and through geographic expansion. According to Nandini, this growth blueprint mandated a need to invest in people processes along with a sharpened focus on culture and capability building; that is the decision the company took.

In the context of the pharmaceutical industry, Nandini shares that the terms of quality standards with regulations are getting more stringent, and that Piramal has put into place systems and processes that ensure the highest adherence.

“We have defined an escalation mechanism so that any risks with regard to quality or compliance are brought to my notice in a timely manner. We also conduct internal mock audits across our plants throughout the year to make sure standards are met 24x7. This explains why we have a flawless track record in the audits that we have faced from regulatory bodies including the US FDA.”

Work-life integration

With all the different roles Nandini juggles, how does she manage her time and work on work-life integration?

Her response is prompt. “I strongly believe that everyone should maintain a healthy work-life balance to be able to contribute effectively at work. I personally make it a point to allocate equal time to my family and work, and my attention towards each of them remains undivided. However, I am also blessed to have a strong support system back home to help me manage the two.”

Nandini has learnt well from her two first teachers - her parents - who despite a very strong work ethic never compromised on family time. And that’s the message she wants to share with other working mothers.

“I was the child of a working mother and I am a working mother. When children see that their mother’s work, achievements, and success are important, they learn to respect and imbibe those qualities,” Nandini ends.

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