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Sumit Issar - Rise To Lead

Sumit Issar - Rise To Lead

Published : 6/19/2024 | Category : Leaders

Kandivali became the place where I started my journey at Mahindra, and it also became my home.

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"After completing my engineering degree from Birla Institute of Technology, I decided to move to the city that never sleeps - Mumbai. When I moved to Mumbai in 1995, it was a very bold decision for me as I had refused an offer from another automotive company and had nothing in hand. On my way to Mumbai during peak monsoons our train got struck at Kandivali station and I had to deboard. Little did I know that fate was giving me a hint. Kandivali became the place where I started my journey at Mahindra, and it also became my home.

When I joined the Mahindra Group, I started my training as a GET on the shop floor at the Kandivali plant. This experience with the machines was very exciting and helped me a lot in my career later in terms of understanding technology and automation. I did my management at Mumbai which also played a key role in shaping my career.

Early in my career, as part of the Steel division (which was also the first business of the group), I learned the art of multitasking – I was reporting to multiple bosses, so I had to ensure I knew how to manage time and expectations well.

Today, I have been with the group for close to 3 decades, in varied functions in the company from operations, sales, sourcing, supply chain management, product development and strategic planning, it has been both a humbling and persevering experience. Each decade has taught me some important lessons that have stayed with me and that I pass on to my team. Group values and ethos have been the binding force behind me over these years along with the support from my family-wife and two daughters.

In my first decade with the group, after one of my first meetings with a senior client, I learned that it's important always to do your homework before any meeting, be well-researched, think fast and be prepared for any questions. Around Y2K when productions had decreased, our existence as Mahindra Intertrade was under threat, these challenges helped me to think very differently and frugally. Our steel business was not glamorous and was insignificant within the group, and I knew that I had to change that. This is when we got our first break into groups’ automotive business and what a long way we’ve come!

Another lesson I learned was that relationship building is critical, use your strengths to connect and find solutions with a people-centric approach.

The next formidable challenge was to venture into the electrical business – and were told that we would never be able to do it. India depends on manual labour, and no one will go for a fully automated setup. But we went against the advice, and took bold risks, and today it has paid off. The next decade, I would like to believe was the turning point for us. In 2005, we opened India’s first independent automated blanking line. Till then only auto OEMs did it in-house and we challenged ourselves to show that we could do it as well as them. Over the next few years, we expanded, setting up plants in proximity to our clients – keeping technology at the forefront. We focused on scaling, and time just flew; the company started gaining traction. I learned that one must continuously update and upgrade – technology is a key differentiator in any business. I also learned that to be profitable, we should always customize and adapt to our customers’ needs. The proximity of our plants to our customers also helped us decarbonize our business.

We also ventured into recycling with CERO – one of the few joint ventures with a 50-50 partnership with the Government of India. This came as a suggestion in one of the war rooms. We knew this idea was ahead of its time yet we decided to set up India’s first automotive recycling plant with the latest technology and executed very frugally. Today, our tagline is “Decarbonizing the Automotive Industry”.

By 2021, we thought the time was right for us to brand ourselves. We did not want to be called a steel processing company anymore. We wanted to be known as a world-class component player. We are working on that Mission. Till 2023, one key thing which was missing in our journey was boldness. We now want to scale up exponentially leveraging our strengths built over these years. With support from automotive, we are now opening 2 more world-class plants – fully automated with IoT4 and ready for the future.

Over the last 3 decades, we have gone from being a 10CR company to a ~5000CR company, from being not known in the Mahindra Verse to being one of the top 5 companies. Many of our colleagues at Mahindra Accelo have been part of this journey company, and it is our shared love of challenges and continuous learning that has kept us going.

Three leadership lessons I would like to leave you with: - Do fewer things at a time but execute them perfectly, constantly challenge the status quo and do it innovatively and frugally. Lastly, be future-ready by embracing the latest technology in your workplace. All of this help, if you keep your team at the centre."

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