Speech of Mr. K. I. Vishwanathan, Vice President, Marketing Division, ITC Ltd. in the 21st Convocation Ceremony of SCMS Cochin School of Business

Mr. K. I. Vishwanathan, Vice President, Marketing Division, ITC Ltd. said, "It indeed gives me immense pleasure to be here today in your midst, on this happy occasion." in the 21st Convocation Ceremony of SCMS Cochin School of Business

Dear Students,
It indeed gives me immense pleasure to be here today in your midst, on this happy occasion. It is of great benefit to experienced managers like myself to be among such youth since you bring a lot of energy to the forum - energy to work hard, energy to think smart , energy to innovate ,energy to achieve - and I can soak up some of the energy.

As a business manager one always tries to determine what customers want and equally importantly what they don't want. I am reasonably sure of what you don't want - a long winded, boring speech. I hope what I believe you want to hear, would make sense to you.

Typically a speech on such occasions would dwell on advice. Advice to manage your career, advice to be successful, advice to manage business etc., To that extent my speech is similar but the difference is that I am going to leave you with some suggestions to ponder, to introspect and not, per se, give you any advice. Because advice tends to be prescriptive but management is an inexact science where such prescriptions do not always work.

It is not to suggest that I have practiced all these suggestions. Some, yes but largely by observing more successful managers. And it is obviously not an exhaustive list - you can and will keep adding to these based on your experiences.

Hard work vs smart work
It is a popular myth that smart work is in lieu of hard work. There is probably no success without prople putting in enormous amount of work, persevere against all odds to achieve tasks. Extraordinary results come from doing simple things diligently. All of us love that Eureka moment but the reality is that the Eureka moment is the culmination of efforts carrying out an enormous number of simple tasks in an exceptional and consistent manner. So, be aware that what will succeed will be hard+smart work

Routine vs Big idea
All of us are excited, caught up with big ideas, big innovation, disruptive concepts, standing out through differentiation etc., but the reality is Big Ideas don't occur every day but routine does happen every day. It is our ability to accept routine as a necessary and integral part of life and work, while at the same time working towards Excellence and Big ideas, that will set us apart and make us successful. You will find many people constantly complaining that work is dull because it is routine. Most of our lie is about adhering to a routine - simple tasks like brushing, bathing, eating, exercising etc., When we can accept this as reality and therefore are comfortable with it, why then do we find it unacceptable in work?

So, the suggestion is that in any work that you are engaged with you will find a lot of it is routine, accept it as reality but keep looking for that 10% space that causes excitement, a sense of achievement which may lead to that Big Idea

Keep learning
The formal education for most of you is probably getting completed today. While a lot of what you have studied will be useful in appreciating and managing businesses, what is crucial is that you continue to keep learning going forward. The prerequisite to keep learning, is to keep an open mind and to do so you have to be humble. You don't know where good ideas can come from. They need not always from your seniors in the organisations, equally educated peers or management books. When you keep an open mind to learning and receiving ideas, you will find enormous number of sources to learn from.

I am a great believer that good attitude compensates for a lot of other shortcoming. I urge you to read the book FISH to understand this. The essence of what it says is that in reality we generally won't have much of a say in the choice of kind of work, our bosses , our co-workers etc., but what we have and should have complete control is our ability to bring in a positive attitude towards everything that we undertake to do. This simply could be the reason between success and failure.

Who you know matters
Most of us keep focussing on what we know and keep improving on same. I would urge you to focus as much on who you know - in essence means building a network of influencers, well wishers with in the system and also outside. This will improve your ability to influence the course of events in a manner that is right, just and rewarding.

Be ready
I find that a lot of youngsters expect Organisations to have a clear career path chalked out for them. This is a myth and an unrealistic expectation. At best Organisations can have the career path drawn for a few years and not long term. Because careers get shaped up not only by a lot of what you do but also due to what happens around you - sudden growth in business, acquisitions , some other personnel leaving etc., What you can and should do is to be ready for larger responsibilities and more importantly seen to be ready.

Lastly, learn about Sustainability
This is not a suggestion, almost a prescription. All of us are aware that natural resources are finite and limited. In our greed to attain material success and under the garb of development, we have been exploiting these resources indiscriminately. As you would have been observing and reading, Sustainable development has become a matter of concern , globally. Consequently the societal and statutory pressures on Organisations and all of us to demonstrate in action, eco-consciousness , eco-responsibility will increase in future. A few years ago the list of stake holders to any Company would have included only shareholders, customers, government, employees. Today the list has expanded and will include suppliers, environmentalist, immediate society around your operations, media etc.

You would have heard that the new Company's Law mandates that 2 % of a Company's profits should be spent towards Corporate Social Responsibility ( CSR ) and SEBI has mandated for Business Responsibility Report (BRR). This is how seriously this issue is being viewed now.

Unfortunately, I don't think, the subject of Sustainability is part of curriculum anywhere today but is emerging as a serious and important area. Apart from doing things that are right, this could also become an important criterion by which markets - capital, customers, suppliers- will evaluate and differentiate among Companies. I would urge you to read more on this very important subject.

Dear students,
As I come to the end of my speech, I do hope that you would find these suggestions useful and help you manage your career successfully. As the world of opportunities beckons you, go make a mark and make your dreams come true and have an exciting and rewarding life and career achieved through diligence , hard work and fair means. I wish you all the best!