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Five generations of talent, a 75-year legacy

The employees of Mahindra Group represent a multi-generational talent that has contributed to the building of this global federation’s 75-year legacy. The binding factor across generations for the Mahindra family is the three pillars of Rise — Accepting no Limits, Alternative Thinking and Driving Positive Change.

The Fernandes family with Keshub Mahindra

Meet Brunell Fernandes, a millennial on the go. Currently working as a manager at the Mahindra Automotive Division in Kandivali, she started her career 13 years ago when she joined the company – straight out of college – as the only woman on the shop floor. Brunell, who spent the better part of eight years of her career in the engine department, recounts, “The initial scepticism soon tapered off, thanks to the supportive and inclusive work culture of Mahindra.” Winner of the Rise Award for gender diversity in 2019, Brunell adds that she feels blessed that her family has been part of several of the Group’s milestones.

You could say Brunell was born into the Mahindra family. Brunell’s father Diago Fernandes, worked with the Group for 40 years – first as a footballer in the Mahindra team and then as a coach of Mahindra United, before retiring from the Purchase Department in 2010. Incidentally, Brunell’s brother Bradley too is a proud Mahindraite. He started with the R&D department of the company 16 years ago and is now a manager with the vendor development — CDMM Division of the company. “We are privileged to be part of the Mahindra family and be identified as Mahindraites,” says Brunell.

The Fernandes represent the multi-generational talent that has contributed to the building of the Group’s 75-year legacy, as they are of the Group being a preferred Employer of Choice. If employee turnover figures are any indication – the human capital data of 2018 says that only 10 percent of the employees below 30, and just three per cent of those above 50 left the company voluntarily – connoting high retention rates across age groups — in other words, a stint at Mahindra is not just a job, but an opportunity to build a career.

Good people make a good business

Evolving from a predominantly manufacturing company into a global federation with interests across sectors, the Mahindra Group has been offering a world of opportunities to almost five generations of talented people. In this Indian multinational group, one can start in a small company in some corner of the world and head another company in another part of the Group’s global operations. As Anand Mahindra, Chairman, Mahindra Group, sums it up, “My hope is that anyone who worked here, whether for a short duration or their entire career, will say ‘I was the best that I could be while I was at Mahindra’.”

Over 25 years ago, Prochie Mukherji, Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff to the Chairman of Mahindra Group, joined Mahindra as an HR professional. Five years later, she moved to the role of Chief of Staff. There was no job profile discussed — just the brief to get done what ever needed to be done. Since then, Prochie has donned a range of hats from communications to the architect of the intensive exercise to identify and articulate Mahindra’s core values and core purpose, co-creating the Bluechip Conferences, leading the team that built the INR 600+ crore research facility – Mahindra Research Valley in Chennai. Recalling the trust that the company has shown in her, Prochie adds, “I couldn’t change a light bulb, and yet the company trusted me with this important R&D project — and I discovered my own capabilities in the process. This trust in the skills and abilities of employees is something that inspires us to outperform.”

Kausalya Sreenivasan is the CEO of Orizonte Business Solutions

Similar is the experience of a young intrapreneur at Mahindra. Kausalya Sreenivasan, CEO, Orizonte Business Solutions, feels that Mahindra looks at every employee to see how that individual can be nurtured to realise the person’s fullest potential. Her life-changing moment came when she was hand-picked as the CEO of Smart Shift, the first intrapreneurial venture funded by the Mahindra Group. “What touched me was the belief and faith shown in me by the Mahindra leadership. I fell in love a little more with the company,” says Sreenivasan, who has spent 12 years with the organisation. “If you are talented and committed, the Group has a rich tradition of taking care of your professional and personal growth,” says Sreenivasan.

Enabling leaders to instil and influence the right kind of culture and empower employees is at the core of Mahindra’s culture. “My style of working is to empower, enable and give space; when I joined the Group, I realised that the company’s style is totally in sync with mine,” says CP Gurnani, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Tech Mahindra and Member of the Group Executive Board, adding that this approach ensures responsibility and delivers results.

Exchanging ideas, inspiring innovation

As the multi-generational workforce that Mahindra is today, the challenge is to understand each other. At one level, the millennial workforce is no different – they have needs and aspirations and have sensitivities. And at another level, they are different, because they have been brought up in a digital era where instant gratification is the norm. So, while the millennials leverage the wisdom of seniors at Mahindra, the seniors have the keenness to learn from them, adding to the vibrancy of Brand Mahindra.

Udit Tewari is the Deputy General Manager, Marketing, Classic Legends

Udit Tewari is a good example of this culture. Being posted to China as a comparative newbie in the company was one of the most challenging phases of his life, says Udit, Deputy General Manager — Marketing, Classic Legends. It was more than adjusting to a new culture and language when he was asked to lead a new function in a new country. What helped was the sharing and guiding culture of the company. “My seniors were there for me. They showed me the ropes and oriented me beautifully to the culture in China,” says Tewari, who experienced his Rise moment in that country when he met a proud local driving a Mahindra tractor and offered his services to Udit as he was a Mahindraite.

Bringing the philosophy to life is no mean task. But as Rajeev Dubey, former Group President — HR and Corporate Services, CEO — Aftermarket Sector and Member of the Group Executive Board puts it, “The challenge ultimately is to unleash the full potential of employees and situations, which is possible only if there is a high degree of passion. And one of the tools to do this is Mahindra’s three+five framework, which effectively brings to life the core purpose – Rise.”

The '3'refers to the Rise pillars, which are attitudes/views of the world that must come into play seamlessly and effortlessly in any situation: Accepting No Limits, Alternative Thinking and Driving Positive Change.

The '5' refers to the five behaviours which will bring the three pillars to life and lead to sustained business outperformance and passion. The whole mind approach combines the left brain of logic, intellect and rationality with the right brain of emotion, connection and empathy. The multiplier of energy, passion, engagement and a sense of ownership. Managing fear and leveraging failure: For innovation to occur, people need to experiment and take the risk. Mindfulness: The sense of being open to all possibilities that exist in any situation. Trust: Last but not least create trust through authenticity – say what I think and do what I say, and do so continuously.

On the secret sauce that binds Mahindraites, Mukherji adds, “Reputation for integrity is a magnetic factor of Mahindra. Here you get the best of both worlds — a professionally managed company which lives by intrinsic core values that place a premium on human dignity."

Mahindraites for life

It’s the philosophy of people first and the culture of empowerment that has drawn the brightest and the best talent to the Group over the decades. From the sharpest minds emerging out of Ivy League colleges in the US to the brilliant brains graduating from India’s premier institutions; from technocrats who were determined to put a newly independent India on the global map over 50 years ago, to the ambitious millennials who benchmark their goals against the best globally, the Mahindra Group has attracted the finest talent that has lived its values and built its legacy.

Rajesh Khanolkar is the Manufacturing Head in Aggregates Business

At the core of this corporate journey have been people who have grown through the system, joining Mahindra Group right out of college and growing to leadership roles over the years. Like 47-year-old Rajesh Khanolkar, who joined the company in 1993 after a campus interview and is now the Manufacturing Head in the Aggregates business of the Group. “Learning has been a continuous process at Mahindra, as we get exposure to the best global technologies and systems,” says Khanolkar. “The confidence that comes with the culture of excellence at Mahindra is unmatched,” says the proud Mahindraite.

Jagdish Mitra, Chief Strategy Officer and Head of Growth at Tech Mahindra.

Another example is Jagdish Mitra, Chief Strategy Officer and Head of Growth at Tech Mahindra. Jagdish joined Mahindra in 1993 straight out of campus on the completion of his graduation from Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi. Of his 27-year journey at Mahindra, he says, “The trust that the management places in its people is surreal. It gives you the confidence that you can exceed beyond your own expectations.”

Pravin Chavan is a Deputy Manager at the Nashik plant

For many, the aspiration to join Mahindra starts at home — as they see their parents work with pride for the Group. “Since childhood, I saw my father working in Mahindra — he joined the Group after retiring from the Indian Army. I was always keen on seeing the automobile manufacturing process, and once, during the Founder’s Day celebrations on October 2, I got an opportunity to visit the plant and witnessed the bonhomie among all employees. That was the day I thought I would love to work for this organisation,” says Pravin Chavan, who joined as a trainee at the Mahindra plant in Nashik after his BE-Mechanical and today, six years on, is a Deputy Manager at the plant.

Challenges, fulfilment and inclusive growth

To nurture promising talent, the Group has a robust learning and development practice. To attract and retain its young workforce, the Group provides an environment where they can connect directly with leaders, ask questions and understand the company’s vision. A millennial-friendly environment needs to be comfortable and creative, making the young managers feel valued.

On their part, millennials, who constitute half of the Group’s workforce, have created a game-changing impact on the businesses and communities that Mahindra operates in. “Millennials represent change, and this change has been a constant at the Mahindra Group since its inception in the 1940s. The young talent looks for meaning and purpose in life, and the Mahindra Group has always been known as a purpose-driven organisation,” says Prince Augustin, Executive Vice-President, Group Human Capital and Leadership Development at Mahindra. He says this is what makes it an excellent fit for the millennials and a preferred employer for talent.

Satyan Tambat is a Senior Manager at the Nashik plant

The vibe and culture at Mahindra is such a big draw that there are many instances of people parting ways with the Group, only to return to the fold after some time. Take Satyan Tambat, who left as a Manager at the Nashik Plant in 2011 to set up his own business and for whom Mahindra was an automatic choice when he wanted to return to work for an organisation. “There’s a high degree of freedom here, right from ideation and conceptualisation, design and execution stage. We are always learning and exercising new concepts and new technologies,” says Tambat, who is now a senior manager, having served 17 out of his 29 years of work-life with Mahindra Group, adding that he is a Mahindraite for life now.

Using everyone’s ability and goals, making every employee regardless of their generation, feel engaged, giving a purpose and meaning to their work by creating a shared mission are just some of the factors that attract people to the ‘employer of choice’. As Rajeev Dubey puts it, “Mahindra offers you idealism and a purpose. This is work that allows you to contribute, not only to the betterment of the organisation, but to the world at large, while working with cutting edge technology. This pushes you to deliver much more than what you think you are capable of.”

Though the dividends of a multi-generational workforce are many, this is not an easy feat to achieve. As Ruzbeh Irani, President — Group Human Resources and Communications and Member of the Group Executive Board, says, “Organisations that have a vibrant and diverse set of employees are the ones that innovate and outperform. At the Mahindra Group, we believe that diversity is multidimensional. It includes among others, gender, culture, religion, nationality and the differently-abled. It also includes inclusivity. As Mahatma Gandhi said, ‘No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive.’ In a multi-generational workforce, inclusivity of embracing opposing views is essential.”

That may sound like a tall order to fill but Mahindra has been getting it right for over seven decades, and that’s why six of its Group companies are in India’s Best Companies to Work For 2019 — Mahindra & Mahindra; Mahindra Finance; Mahindra Home Finance; Club Mahindra. Two companies in the Group are in India’s Great Midsize Workplaces 2019 — Mahindra Intertrade and Mahindra Lifespaces.

The story of Mahindraites for life — Bharat Doshi

It was the 1970s. A rank holder in chartered accountancy, Bharat Doshi was a 20-something internal audit executive stationed at Mahindra’s Kandivali plant, having joined the company in 1973. The Chairman of the Group, Keshub Mahindra, had noted that his London-educated CFO relied heavily on the young Doshi to make sense of Indian tax laws and regulations that often stymied business ventures back then. “I want to see the boy the next time I’m in Kandivali,” Keshub Mahindra told the CFO. After his interactions with Doshi, he saw potential in the young executive. As much as he wanted to fast-track Doshi’s career, he also wanted to be sure that it was worth the effort for the Group to invest in his growth. “What’s the guarantee you’ll stay?” Keshub asked the young CA-cum-law graduate. Doshi listed his only condition: he would stay till he was “happy”. “Then, it’s my job to keep you happy,” declared Keshub. Bharat Doshi went on to work with Mahindra for 40 years, retiring in 2013 as Executive Director and Group CFO. He played an integral role in the Group’s growth from an INR 50-crore company when he joined to an INR 44,000-crore conglomerate by the time he retired.

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