How Jyotsna Uttamchandani quit a cushy job at Microsoft, returned to India, and scaled family business Syska Group
After a nine-year stint in the US with companies like Microsoft, Jyotsna Uttamchandani returned to India to join Syska Group, the family business. She currently handles the Syska Mobile Accessories business (offline channel) and a team of 1,800.
When Jyotsna Uttamchandani left Pune for the US to do her graduation in Computer and Information Technology, she always knew that one day she would come back and join the family business, Syska Group, and take it to the next level.
But before that, she decided to gain some experience in the US itself and, soon after graduation, received a job offer from Microsoft US where she joined as a premier field engineer (PFE).
“As a PFE, I was assigned to Microsoft’s enterprise customers to act as an adviser on how to run the Microsoft software in their environment efficiently. I then switched jobs to gain some experience in the sales sides of things and worked as a customer success manager responsible for the ROI of our enterprise manager,” she says.
After nine years in the US, Jyotsna returned home, and to Syska as Executive Director.
Joining the family business is not as easy as one would make it out be, she says, especially when the world has a perception of how, as a second generation, they are provided everything on a platter.
“However, when you join a business that your father has been associated with for the last 30 years, and has not even taken a single holiday, the world is completely different. I still remember my first day when an employee asked me if I were going to work in a similar fashion as my dad. I remember thinking to myself that I am not here to wear my father’s shoes, but to carve my own path. The high is that you have your own company and when it does well, you feel proud,” she says.
Being accepted as a leader
Despite the burden of expectations, Jyotsna took over the national offline channel sales of Syska Mobile Accessories, which has seen a jump in growth in less than two years to 54 percent and a its SKU lineup increase from 16 models to 52 running models.
She handles a team of 1,800 people and also manages 600 channel partners of its distribution channel. The number of retailers across the country has also grown exponentially from 7,000 to over 27,000, seeing tremendous growth.
Jyotsna’s biggest challenge was to be accepted as a leader. “The Accessories team consists of 1,800 people who have been around since we started the family business 20 years ago. My joining directly as a boss, and not to forget a female boss, had mixed responses. However, over time I gained their trust and established my own credibility.”
She also realised that if she had to bring in changes that she wanted to in the company, she needed to meet them halfway, get out and visit the market, meet channel partners, and understand the business from every angle. Over time, her team realised it and the support became mutual.
Ushering in change
From an organisational point of view, and as a millennial Jyotsna wished she could change many things. She began by changing the work timings of her team.
“There are days when we still work late nights when required. However, on regular days my team has a strict 10am-7pm regime. I regularly conduct mentorship and teambuilding activities. My team is now assigned tasks to mentor one another and have quick bi-weekly meetings to discuss what they did differently. We also rotate roles and responsibilities in my team at our head office. I have also brought in interns from colleges who are part-time employees and follow a 2pm-7pm shift that helps them gain both work experience alongside education,” she says.
Being a tech-savvy person and a big fan of the cloud and artificial intelligence, Jyotsna is currently working on incorporating Power BI and Azure tools for MIS, sales forecasting and procurement to gain better insights on data for better ROI.
But if there is one major change Jyotsna would like to bring to the Syska Group is to make it a five-day working company. “Currently, we work on Saturdays and sometimes on Sundays too when it is peak or festive season. But the plan is to be a Monday-to-Friday working organisation,” she says.
On future plans, Jyotsna quips, “As of now, I am completely focused on this baby. We want to be present everywhere and in the hands of every customer. It is not only about sales and growth in numbers for me, but it’s always been about making an impact and making a difference.”
(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)