Driving Change and Building Value – Pranav Bhanage [Interview] |LeadersHum
Pranav is an experienced CEO who has helped Oil and Gas downstream businesses in Asia and successfully delivered complex turnaround initiatives.He started his career in the technology space about 20 years ago and has worked in management consulting for about 10 years with companies like the Boston Consulting Group and Frost & Sullivan. And over 6 years now in Oil & Gas downstream businesses with PETRONAS Group.
Pranav thus, brings in a strong blend of strategy consulting, implementation, digital enablement and hands-on business management experience across key markets of Asia Pacific. Besides his professional achievements, Pranav takes pride in being able to make tangible difference to lives of employees and business partners by creating a profitable enterprises. Moreover, he has taken active role in mentoring and coaching junior staff across the world and seen some of them progress rapidly in their careers..
Pranav has spent last 20 years living in various countries such as the Philippines,Singapore, Malaysia, China, USA, and Indonesia. He has continuously adapted to different work cultures there and whilst at work, acquired good palate for global food,taste for global music and movies. Having lived out of suitcases for many years, naturallymakes Pranav an absolute junkie for airlines and hotel loyalty miles!
We have the pleasure of welcoming Pranav Bhanage today to our interview series. I’m Paras Segal from the peopleHum team. Before we begin, just a quick intro of PeopleHum – peopleHum is an end-to-end, one-view, integrated human capital management automation platform, the winner of the 2019 global Codie Award for HCM that is specifically built for crafted employee experiences and the future of work. We run the peopleHum blog and video channel which receives upwards of 200,000 visitors a year and publish around 2 interviews with well-known names globally, every month.
Welcome Pranav We are thrilled to have you
Hello, everybody, Hi to the viewers!
So Pranav, the first question I had for you is
Can you share with us, the story of finding your passion and getting to the position you are in now?
Yes, So I think there is no real story here. The theme is more of a discovery. I have done so many different roles in so many different jobs. It was all about finding out what I don’t like and then finding the next sort of goal to see whether I enjoy the other thing or not. So when I started back in the IT space, I was an engineer, by training and I think I did not really enjoy the art.
And so coming all of it, I already had variety. So it was back in early 2000 is the boon saying and it was quite exciting to work in a space. Having done that for three years again, I realize that perhaps this is not what is bringing out.
So then I undertook an MBA and then started doing consulting, which has started to enjoy as things went along. And since the schematic there, Paras really is about understanding, taking part in different things with more of a portfolio, you do many things and then realize that this is something I will really get on with.
And then I realized that yeah consulting, working with clients, trying to solve clients’ problems, much like what your teams also do from some solutions standpoint. I think that’s something I began to enjoy and through that, I’ve also discovered that I really started to enjoy the strategy implementation piece of it. Which is very different from strategy designs.
Where you have to work with different people. You have to really get your ideas across, push your agendas to do complex organization structure, etc, and then you can see a tangible shareholder value will return. So people’s development can kind of result from it. So that’s something I started to enjoy as well as I went along. And then I started to find opportunities, which were giving me that sort of experience, and it’s all built upon each other.
So eventually I said, okay if I can advise big CEOs of big country setups, to actually implement strategies, I should run my own pre-analysis structure at some point in time. So I sort of built up that way. I wouldn’t say that, unlike some other stories that you guys share on this platform where somebody has an inside right away. It’s like you know a guitar is my passion. Cricket is my passion or you know writing or movies.
I think mine is more of a story of discovery. It really is almost a relationship of work stories and every different point in time you have different passions. And then as you evolve in the career you start doing something more or something more than the other. And start to find opportunities to do that.
It’s more that sort of a revolutionary approach in the story. And I am satisfied with where I am. But of course, moving forward, I think, might be some new start that will be in your eyes and if it excites me, and perhaps I’ll have to emerge myself to go towards that.
So, that’s more of a sort of a broad spectrum in the sense of where I am and what I have been through. So I never dreamt of myself in a suit or something like that.
Yeah! But that’s an interesting take. It’s your quest of finding something that you like and enjoy working, that drives you towards! Interesting.
Thank you so much.
Quest is a good word!
So moving on to my next question for you, Pranav.
Now India is a country that worships education and labels. How do you believe a disciplined approach to life and education has helped you achieve or succeed in various roles?
Very interesting question, I think. I mean, Ill probably break it into two parts “The label worship” verses “The disciplined approach” is in two different parts to that. See, I mean, if you look at it from the perspective of a label worship, and if you look at the history of recruiting 100 years ago, the recruiting was entirely based on what he calls as references. So, you know, if I have a shop nearby my uncle says, Hey, why don’t you hire this guy and he used to hire!
So the element that the human enterprise was trying to find out was actually, the elements of trust. “Can I trust this stranger in difficult circumstances, can I trust him with my money, can I trust her with my confidential data and ability to actually perform.
So over the years, I think that the reference went down and then you started looking at labor as a marker of trust. So, for example, if you are from ‘A’ list of schools, it is a great marker, I think we can trust in this girl or this guy! Because he has been there. He has actually gone through the rigour of four years five years. He/She hasn’t really been chucked out of the school of whatever you know. So it is sort of a marker of the character and the trust
And I think that’s where this whole, I mean worship is a strong word, but I think that’s how the psyche of recruitment or psyche of, you know, trusting others evolves. So that’s why you have these, ‘No old boy groups’ or ‘all Night Clubs’, so on and so forth!
In order to build up that level of trust, how can I trust a stranger. And I think in principle that will continue because as the enterprises look at hiring other people which you don’t personally know. You would definitely want to look at certain labels to give you that comfort that Am I doing justice to this recruitment, or am I looking at the right set of people etc..
Alternately it’s gotten into, like in my personal opinion, it has gotten into like where almost putting the cart before the horse, that becomes so much blinded by the institutions with the names and etcetera.. This whole element of ‘Why it is used’ is getting missed out in certain areas, and then it can become a bit more biased or can be perceived as becoming more biased. But in some shape or form it will still continue, I mean in social media also you have influencers. If somebody says you are good then, yes, when people perceive that you know ‘thats really really good’
So, that’s what will happen and continue to happen! I think if you steer a little bit on the other element of discipline. Being disciplined is sometimes the organisation or recruiters want to find out. So, for example, if you go through very regular scores and you stay on course, then it doesn’t mean that you are smarter than the others, but you are structured, you are disciplined and have a corner ambition of four years.
And usually who was it was often called the boxes. So you will fit in a difficult, typical sort of a bell curve in the middle. So you’re not the superstar, so at least to you satisfy the 80% needs of an organisation.
So the rigour, the discipline to take on a course, complete and course, and do all aspects of it in a more studious manner or structured manner, I think that’s one thing that you can judge out of these institutions and much like myself or yourself and much like most of us.
We have gone through these structural education programmes, and I think it has helped us to definitely be more disciplined. I mean, we never wanted to complete a four year course and five years to do what we had to do. We put in all the efforts to make sure that we are not too bad, but it’s really not very stellar either. But we have done that, and I think that sort of trains your mind to take on challenges in the organisations which are much the same, in a much time bound as such you know it has the discipline of doing it.
The whole element of actually taking on a project, looking at all aspects of the project, ticking on all the boxes of pushing it to conclusion and making an impact on it. That’s the kind of rigour that these institutions and courses will build up in our education system and therefore we are people, who thrive in those kinds of environments.
It is, of course, one last bit on this where, whether this is the best way or the talent of the future, well, there are now doubts about. I mean, there’s a lot of trends around learning at their own pace, you don’t have to be sort of going through a structured programme. So there’s a lot more emphasis on the right trend and a lot more emphasis on education, etcetera, which will, in my personal opinion, become more for normal 20 years into the future. I think the way our kids are learning is very different from at least what we were doing.
So I think it is going to change when they come into the workforce. I don’t know whether their organisation will be able to understand or discipline about structured or not. But again, whether that skill of being disciplined, structured, typically loyal etcetera.. Whether those skills are necessary or not in those new age organisations is again a big question mark. So I guess, interesting times as we move ahead.
Interesting perspective. Because all these days right now, like anything at convenience, whether it is education or anything else, it’s going to be questionable and interesting to see if the discipline of being organised part of the house plays a big role or not.
It is! It is! I think it will pan out in front of our eyes, I think by the time we retire, we should be able to see some of it
So over to the next question Pranav!
So the next question we have is India as a young country, the kind of challenges that you face in hiring and engaging the right talent to succeed in this marketplace model?
India is not one India, the relations we carry is really a continental-size set up with its own specific behavior. But I think if I look at the trajectory of the economy and this sort of making a lack of anything of spurious sort of a relationship on what would be required would be really, in a growing economy, you need union people with a lot of ideas, but you also in people with the perseverance to actually take your idea to a conclusion in the future.
And these two things are something that would come out as a key is what you require from the young people coming up. The third element to these two things is actually the ability of the individuals to really take a wider perspective, look at different perspectives, and talk to different people. Take conflicting ideas. And actually it more or less comes into the tangibles of a product or a project, and then is implemented.
So three elements there, I think definitely need some amount of crazy thinking, we definitely need some amount of discipline to actually conclude your projects.
But the third important thing is really how do you become comfortable with conflicting ideas. How do you say that this doesn’t work in India? How do you come out of that? How do you say that “Hey, we are on a new project, so we need all of the new ideas” How do you get people with conflicting ideas together and actually come out with the middle ground and then push, drive inside sort of that and push that?
I think that’s something that will become a key element that will look at the kind of talents you require in this industry. We look at growing rapidly in the mixed, notwithstanding the near problems we are facing but, I think directionally we are definitely on a growth path and the changes would be constant.
So those of the abilities, I think the kind of the challenges that we will face and therefore the kind of skills softer skills be required, out of the talent pool that comes in. I think, out of the three things, definitely, we do have ideation, and I think we are really good at ideation. And having worked in different areas in the world, I think I find a lot of new ideas come in here on a daily basis.
All the elements of how we package it, How do we have the perseverance to close what you’ve taken and how do we live with conflicts, How do we become comfortable with conflicting ideas, I think that’s something that we will as a workforce would need to perhaps work on a little bit as we go along the journey. That’s my overall view on what I see the softer elements that the talent can have, they can actually do well in the next 10 to 15 years.
Correct! Correct! It makes a lot of sense. Thank you for this viewpoint.
So over the next question Pranav,…
Being in the lubricant industry, you might have had a lot of gig and seasonal or outsource workers in your organization. How do you think this GIG economy in India is going to change the workplace of the future?
It is an actually very broad question. Well, I think the gig economy is itself a new term, but I think in the Indian economic set up for many many years, we’ve always had these bunch of people doing odd jobs. When I remember when I was growing up, this guy fixed our furniture and would do something else during the Agri season, and used to go and have somebody to paint the house.
So you know, we have always hand and we still have a very large informal economy. And there is a gig element to it, I think it is the new age term. But I think, in essence, it has always existed in Indian economics. We’ve always seen people work on the farms, and then they used to come and do something in the town because there are some unfortunate circumstances. And then they again go back to the farm and do something there.
So its been there, and it will continue is what I think. The gig economy has given it a nice term, and it’s sort of it is like quasi professional allies, like you can now register yourself as driver or a delivery guy, or something like that and then you sort of formalise a little from what you are anyway doing for a long period of time.
So that is a little bit different from a contractual or outsource of those, in my opinion, and GIG is driven by what I would want to do, and I can switch it on and switch it off any time I want. I think contractual is still may not be on the payrolls, but actually is still a defined job with a certain amount of benefits, and there is still an underlying contract between the longevity of this sort of a deal
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So there is a difference in that, and I think both are right. Both will continue in my simple opinion. Both will continue because they have different purposes and different means to an end to these kinds of different jobs.
Just a little bit on the Gig switch, given the post COVID19 sort of situation, I think there will be some questions asked on whether it makes a lot of strengths to have their personal freedom with benefits and it doesn’t mean the gig economy is bad or good!
It just means that for individual needs to answer that vis-a-vis benefits, how do you weigh a personal freedom versus sort of guaranteed benefits that come along with with a more focused,more long term mission, job and that question would be asked by the people who are partners waiting in the gig economy, not necessarily from the on the organisations which used the gig economy but the participants.
They question themselves, Does this make sense, or should I go ahead and apply for a regular job. A job in a bank or whatever that it is. Because it may not pay me that much but it will still protect me in terms of crisis.
So that question would be asked for us and it will again come down to personal choice. Some people may think it makes a lot more sense for them to do the gig, and actually save enough for the rainy day and some people would say that Hey, no, I think I’ll rather take a look for a more permanent sort of job.
That’s an interesting take! Thanks for that Pranav, I must say it’s an unique perspective, but they also try to locate it more from a gig economic worker rather than just the organisation of the company. Interesting!
Yes! I think organisation wise, if I may mean if I may add to that, there is always a place for a different kind of needs of the organisation so those needs will not change.I mean some needs of the organisations are temporary in nature. Some needs are permanent so I think the needs will not change. In my opinion, it’s more of the participant or perspective nature
Thank you for that Pranav!
So the next question is
What are some of the focused areas and techniques that you use right now to manage change, which we are seeing around. And how do you go about inspiring and aligning people to the vision and the objective that you’ve said
That’s a good question, I think given the current circumstances, I would see a lot of change and change management happening with organisations across the world. And it’s a very important question of how we are going to manage change. I think from my experience Paras,
there are two perspectives of changes,
- What does management or the shareholders want! What is a shareholder value that you wanna drive through the change?
- The other aspect is the people aspect. So what is the change that I or you or any employee in the organization!
So there I think the fundamental principle at least I push my team or push myself push anybody who’s into this process is okay. What does it mean for us? How you define a two p state, how you define the new 2.0 or 3.0 to your people and the people in this case in a larger organization could be tens and thousands of people, How do you sort of communicate the two p state. And it’s actually quite difficult to do because it requires clarity of thought of people who are involved in a change and that’s the first step in order to actually start mobilizing the organization towards the change
And I think designing the two p, what would be the new organizations, I mean there are so many expenses around the world and a lot of the dissolving companies. Great job if you know actually advising, saying how you want to go about & what you want to do.
But sometimes the translation of that to what it means to me as an employee or as a participant of the organisation, not the shareholders of the management, but actually the employee, the larger base that sometimes is missing.
So there is something I atleast push people to say what it means? What? What do you really want to do? What is that Organisation 2.0 Is my life gonna be easy, Am I gonna be digitally enabled? Will my job be there or not. I think the kind of questions that come up from the bottom of the pyramid and then they have to be answered in a more structured way.
So if you are able to give that clarity of vision of where you want to go and what that to be state is, then what I have seen in my experience so that you’re able to rally the organisation towards change.
And then you can actually push them and push your agendas, and actually which, which makes your organisation structurally better, and more suited for the next next wave of growth or whatever that agenda would be.
So, to me that is the principle feature of change. And it’s also personal, if somebody says, “Hey why don’t move to Bangalore”. If I don’t move to delhi, you would ask. Okay, what does it mean for me to move to Delhi? I mean, what’s my life there? Which school do my kids go to?Where would I live? How’s gonna be the quality of life? Oh, that’s really the simple translation of the vision to an individual. So in our personal lives, we actually follow that and we push a lot. But when it is an organization you probably miss that, you’re taking 20,000 people.
You got to really tell them that guys, this is, you know, there’s a better city out there, a better life out there. And that’s why you will rally people around.
In sports parlance it is very easy. So you have a gold medal, which is your objective has been cleared. I mean you can really transform your team and mindset servicing. Primary object is that I want to win the gold or the World Cup or whatever
I think in the organisation, parlance is difficult because that gold itself could be either a shareholder goal, which doesn’t mean much for the people or it could be something that is a little bit more quasi, you may not be able to avoid a mass. You may not be able to relate to. And the company that does that well will always, I think always find that the transformation works for them.
But if you looked at the stats around change and transformation, I think it’s probably there have been more failures than success otherwise. There has been a lot of literature out there, many transformation projects have not, delivered to the level that was expected may not be an object failure, but it doesn’t go to the end goal you wanted
And a lot of it is who is, you know, translating your vision. What does it mean for the people, because at the end of the day, they will be the ones who would be the journey men and the beneficiaries.
So that’s my first sort of push that I give, and it’s helped a little bit in driving it, along with it, I mean there is this whole typical parlance of and frameworks of change and there identify initiatives, properly, value them properly, track them, trace them, get people to deliver on them, having the right steer with the right points in time, I think that is the typical framework that lot of organisations will carry and can do.
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And that’s like saying everything is probably more defined and is easier, but the people are spared of it. The tougher aspect is something which requires a lot more for and it requires a lot more questions as well. I mean you need to communicate with people many times before it really becomes a language of business, or this is difficult for the time to change their personal comforts and behaviours and it’s true for us also
If today, somebody says, don’t use zoom, use something else. My first resistance would be “Hey why don’t we go back too zoom, because I’m so comfortable with it, I know where to press.
And that’s what is transforming in a larger way in an organisation. That’s my take on this.. I would steer away from the whole of the process of change. I think that there is a lot of literature out there, a lot of companies have done a great job and are good at buying the process of change.
The people aspect of it, How do two people on the change, How do you make sure that moon disperse in the middle of change. How do you make sure that they give up when success is very close. How do you make sure their energy levels when they start depending How do you intervene and from them of indoors is of the elements which which are on the fences of change in our think really are very manage.
It’s an interesting take and yeah, do agree with you
Its an Evolution and evolution takes time.
Exactly, I think time sometimes, we don’t give that much attention to time but, I think a lot of the changes are a function of time
Yes, thank you so much for your viewpoints.
So the next question we have for you is Pranav..
Given the economic impact of the coronavirus that we’re seeing, what should organizations look to do given the recovery from the pandemic is supposed to be slow and gradual. And do you think, or do you anticipate that the market view to the change from business to employees and people or would you think that the organization should be more socially oriented, compared economically?
This is a very broad question, I think. Good questions and you probably might get a good insight if you were doing a panel discussion just around this question. But I think I’ll take my liberty to take my stand here. I think first and foremost obviously it’s an unprecedented crisis, you probably have heard this term everywhere and I am really glad and really thrilled to see the way they have cared for the regular people on the streets. People who are managing our utility supplies all these things in India are doing a phenomenal job of just maintaining
On the perspective side, I think I would say this is sort of a wake-up call for us as humans, right with the and now our generation, especially when we are always thinking that we are invincible, we can do whatever we want, we can transform cities in three days, we can damn the rivers and change the floors and do whatever we want.
We can really, really do whatever we want, and I think we have grown up with that kind of positive sense outlook, you know, where we say nature is, by the way, I mean it is there. I can do whatever I want. I can set ambitious growth. And this is sort of our call, you gotta respect nature. I mean, at the end of the day we are one of the many or organisms on this, and much like anybody else, we are also vulnerable to these kinds of things.
And I think that itself in my opinion before the organisation to change people’s outlook towards their own lives and you know what they want to do and how they want to prioritize. I think that that will happen, I mean I would definitely see that a lot of people would try to drive to work life balance, try to live a healthy life, try to at least get close to their families, or friends and that would be the first step in change in my opinion.
From an economic perspective, there has been a lot of talk around and many people have said many things about it. I think one thing is common there…
So in our generation, we’ve never had this kind of situation which defined its innovation, and it’s ubiquitously affected everybody across the world. So after the perhaps great war, the beginning of the last century did not have something that impacted everybody in almost a uniform indiscriminate way. And definitely there will be a pre-COVID and post COVID in all organizations, small or big or complex or simple, I think everybody
And now what that change will be, I mean there is no prescriptive way of looking at it, there can be the only opinion and it differs from industry to industry.
I think fundamentally people will start to value a little bit more. The profitability, the prudence of profitable growth versus a high-risk growth, or a highly elevated growth. I mean that kind of questions will come up first.
There will definitely be, if thought around, sharing economy. Should I have my own personal space, or should I share it with other people or not, I think those existential questions will be asked. There will definitely be an impetus towards in order deliveries and getting stuff at home and office delivered, rather than going and mentioning and doing everything on your own.
There will definitely be questions around work from home, you know, reducing the travel back in phone to office. I think those things would come up. So there are these changes that will happen from a whole directional perspective
Now specifically on the questions that you asked on how does it change the outlook of the employer towards employees? I think definitely a lot of organisations have responded in a very humane way, which is very good to see, I think overall we’ve always tried to put people first in checking on you to know how to help people. The other organisations are ensuring that people don’t have to get affected in the crisis etcetera
So there is a lot of positivity at least that can be read and heard about in the near term of office. But the long term impact of this is, I think, very hard to be prescriptive because it again will go back to what the companies will want to be as post COVID. How do they reinvent themselves in this crisis and come out of it and define a new version of themselves.
Their work will define their people strategy, so there could be some knee jerk reactions towards managing people etcetera etcetera.But in a long term again it goes back to the fundamentals of the businesses of what is going to be my post COVID version of my business. How do the employees enable that. I think that the fundamental equation will not change.
It is a crisis? What is the new definition of my business post COVID and therefore what kind of people strategy and will go back to the fundamentals of what is a vision or what do i want to try? Perhaps I mean, in my experience and my level, I may not be very prescriptive on whether it is going to be fundamentally preferred on the way people are managed. But yes, in the short term for sure, I think organisation are going out of their way to support, which is very, very, hearty to see. I think if people at least help people overcome these difficult times that we are all facing
Thank you. That’s an interesting take. It’s testing times and I do believe and agree with you. It’s kind of a great equaliser in what we’ve been seeing.
Correct, It is, I mean everybody is affected in the same way and so it’s almost like drawing a new starting line and say, “Okay, guys run again” and it’s a great opportunity for people who can Do well, eat right and run faster.
Absolutely. Thanks for that insight and your viewpoint.
So the last question we have for you Pranav today is
If you have any important sound bites that you would like to leave for our viewers
Well, given the testing times that we are in, I think the most important thing that keeps me motivated is that I look at every crisis as an opportunity and with that mantra you can actually self motivate yourself. You can actually open a fresh piece of paper and a pencil, which I do every day, and try to draw out on what we can do as an organization. What I can do as a person, post say June July when things normalize.
And it’s given us a chance to rethink our priorities, which I think we should all do. And I hope that all the viewers who watch this will at least come up with a simple to-do list post COVID19. What you will be or what you aspire to be of course for an organization perspective, you know what is that 2.0 design you have for your organization, whether it is a startup or a large organization.
Wonderful thank you so much. It was a pleasure talking to you Pranav as part of the series. I really appreciate your time and sharing your views with us. It’s been an enriching and learning experience for me personally and will surely think for our viewers too
Let’s keep in touch. Have a healthy life ahead of you. Thank you so much, Pranav.
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