Guwahati, Aug 26: Amarjyoti Barua, a native of Assam, was recently appointed as Executive Vice President, Group Strategy, Mahindra Group. Thus he became one of the key persons of the group. Barua who hails from Baligaon in Jorhat served several global companies in some key positions and was posted in as many as eight countries in the last two decades.
In an exclusive interview, Barua shared his journey with The Assam Tribune.
Question: How excited are you at this moment with the new responsibilities at hand?
Reply: Very excited. I have always wanted to have a hand in shaping the future of an enterprise and my role as the head of strategy for the Mahindra Group allows me to do just that.
Q. Having worked in several places across the globe in some responsible positions, what made you come back to India?
R: My wife (Priya, who is also from Assam), and I were always keen to come back to India. When we left India for the first time, we thought it would be for a short while. One thing led to another, and we ended up staying abroad for a long time. However, our heart was always in India. We never wanted our children to grow up far away from their roots and their extended family.
Q. You have mentioned Mahindra as a ‘truly iconic group which is committed to India and its development’ in the press statement issued when you joined the company. Going ahead, what would you like to say about the company in brief?
R: Many may not be aware that the Mahindra Group was founded to further the industrial and agricultural development of India. Since then, the group has sought to address some of the problems facing India while establishing the country on the world stage. Mahindra Tractors and Swaraj Tractors (another Mahindra brand) were at the forefront of (tractor) innovation during India's green revolution. This innovation comes from their deep understanding of Indian farmers gained over years of working with them and for their betterment.
This ‘connection’ with the masses is what has made Mahindra the largest producer of tractors by volume in the world. We have numerous examples that demonstrate Mahindra Group’s connection with India. Mahindra Finance is today one of the country’s leading NBFCs when it comes to rural lending. Mahindra Logistics helps many companies manage their warehouses and logistics needs. Mahindra Accelo is one of the largest organized recyclers in India. Mahindra Last Mile Mobility is trying to mitigate vehicular pollution in cities with their environment-friendly electric three-wheelers.
Look at what the group is doing today with the launch of its latest line of SUVs. These SUVs were developed in response to the Indian consumer's desire for high-quality passenger vehicles that are authentic, stylish and meet the lifestyle needs of our customers. These vehicles can compete against the best of the best. They are already making their mark in markets like South Africa, Australia & South Asia.
The list just goes on.
In fact, Mahindra’s philosophy of RISE is based on the belief that the Group will prosper only when the communities served by it also achieve progress.
Q. Coming back to your personal life, we know that you did an MBA from FMS Delhi and a Bachelor’s in Economics (Hons) from Hindu College, Delhi University. But before that, where did you study? Tell us something about your early days in Assam.
R: My father retired from the Indian Air Force after serving the country for over 30 years. During this time, he was posted to cities all over India. I pretty much grew up across India in places like Chennai, Tezpur, Ludhiana, Gwalior, Ambala, Delhi, Bagdogra, etc. As a result, I changed schools almost every 2 to 3 years. Most of my schooling was in Kendriya Vidyalayas and Air Force Schools.
During all this time living across India, my parents always made sure we had a strong ‘connection’ back to our roots in Assam. We made it a point to visit Assam 2 to 3 times a year. They insisted that my sister and I speak Assamese at home and celebrate Bihu. We loved celebrating Durga Puja in our native village of Baligaon (in Jorhat). And most of all we cherished meeting our cousins and going fishing with homemade fishing rods. I will never forget those moments. These memories keep me connected with Assam all the time, even though I no longer reside there.
Q. In the corporate world, there is tough competition and you have been able to achieve your goals and reach an enviable position today. Tell me, what your success mantra is.
R: This may sound very philosophical, but I believe and follow what is also captured in the Gita around Karma. Simplistically put, my focus has been on doing everything to the best of my abilities and the rest will follow. I have also always believed in the innate ability of every person. I strongly believe that with the right focus and guidance, individuals can deliver fantastic results. This holds true for teams as well.
Q. Is this what you always wanted to do or you even tried to do something else when you were in college?
R: Honestly speaking, I never intended to be in the corporate world. As a child growing up, I was infatuated with the armed forces. I wanted to be an officer in the Army or a pilot in the Air Force. Unfortunately, I ended up having to wear glasses in my teens which caused me to drop my dream. Then I started focusing on graduating as an engineer from the IITs. As luck would have it, I didn’t fare too well in the IIT entrance exam. On the day I received news of not making it to the IITs and was sitting heartbroken in my room, a very successful economist visited our home and told me to try my hand at economics. Following his advice, I graduated in economics with the aim of becoming an economist. During my college days, I used to read a lot and it was while reading turnaround stories like Lee Iacocca’s work at Chrysler that I really got hooked on the corporate world. Since that time, I have always believed that sometimes in life you have to go with the flow.
Q. I would like to ask you a question with special reference to Assam. Here in Assam most people even today still prefer to go for government jobs. But people like you and several others have proved that theory wrong. Even without doing a government job, individuals can be successful. Will you please say something about that?
R: I have to say that this is a topic that is close to my heart. I have often heard people say that there is a bias against people from the Northeast and we can’t do well in the corporate world. Many say, there are stereotypes such as our accent and looks which are holding us back. My own experience is very different. All over the world, there is a talent deficit. Companies are constantly looking out for good talent. They don’t care where you come from, how you look and what accent you have. They care about your work product and what value it adds. I have met so many successful people from the Northeast during my 20-plus years abroad that I am convinced that if you have the talent, you can make it anywhere. I would like to challenge the youth of the Northeast, and specifically Assam, to venture out of their comfort zone. I admire the girls and boys from the region who have made a mark in the hospitality industry. It is so admirable that they have the confidence to take up these roles which are far away from their homes and require so much self-confidence. More youth from the region and many more Assamese must have this confidence.
Q. How do you see the future of Mahindra in the next 10 years?
R: I am very bullish about Mahindra’s future. This is not because I work for Mahindra but because I think the company has figured out the secret sauce to being successful in India. It is the alignment to industries that will be powered by India's demography. The bustling population of under 35-year-olds, the fast growth of rural and semi-urban markets, the innovation and entrepreneurship that is propelling India into the next couple of decades … These are all trends that the Mahindra Group is well aligned with. The key is to execute well and not lose focus on the core value of ‘doing good’ for the communities that the Group serves.