Mumbai: Kumar Mangalam Birla, chairman of the Aditya Birla Group, has decided to reshuffle the top management of various businesses in the group as several senior managers are set to retire by May.
Santrupt Misra, the group’s human resource development (HRD) head, will take on additional responsibility as business head of the carbon black business. The group—with $28 billion (Rs1.4 trillion today) in revenues in the fiscal year ended March—is the fourth largest carbon black maker in the world, with operations in four countries.
Misra, a management graduate from Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneswar, has been the group’s HRD head since he joined from Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) in 1998. That was also the year Birla snared Debu Bhattacharya from HUL and Sourabh Misra (known as Chandu Misra) from ITC Ltd. Chandu Misra is the managing director (MD) of UltraTech Cement Ltd while Bhattacharya is MD of Hindalco Industries Ltd.
Rakesh Jain, who joined the group a few years ago from General Electric’s plastic division, will be the new MD of Aditya Birla Nuvo Ltd that houses the group’s new business such as financial services, telecom, branded apparels and outsourcing. Jain is currently the business head of the carbon black business. He may also be inducted into Aditya Birla Management Corp. Pvt. Ltd, the in-house think tank that advises the group on corporate strategy, acquisitions, mergers and new business opportunities.
Bharat K. Singh, current MD of Aditya Birla Nuvo who had been with the group for nearly 12 years, will retire.
According to the group’s policy, executive directors have to retire by 62 and managers at 60.
Besides business heads, the group is also making key changes at the second-rung management level.
D.D. Rathi, president and chief financial officer (CFO) of Grasim Industries Ltd, will now step down by May. He will be replaced by Adesh Gupta, Aditya Birla Nuvo’s current CFO.
Sushil Agarwal, a group loyalist who worked briefly with late Aditya Birla and later with his son Kumar Mangalam Birla, will now take over from Gupta. Agarwal was one of the executive assistants to Kumar Birla and oversaw the private investment of his chairman in Applause Entertainment, which produced the Amitabh Bachchan-starrer Black.
These senior internal changes mark a distinct change from the group’s practice of snaring key executives from outside to fill up vacant posts. In 2007, the group appointed a new team to manage its financial services business. Ajay Srinivasan was appointed MD of the financial services division and Pankaj Razdan his deputy chief executive. Both were brought in from outside the group. When Indian Rayon and Industries Ltd (now known as Aditya Birla Nuvo) acquired Madura Garments in 2000, Vikram Rao joined the group from Arvind Mills India as president of the apparel business.
“It depends on the need. Now we have enough internal candidates to fill up these posts,” said HRD head Misra.
The management reshuffle reflects three things, said Misra: The group believes it has the requisite internal talent to take leadership positions; the entrepreneurial ability of the group to take bets and risks with people; and the group’s success in creating managers who can manage different business at different point of time.
Arvind Agrawal, RPG Group’s president of corporate development and HR, said internal candidates are “known devils” and risk-free to that extent. A company has had an opportunity to see the person tested in various opportunities and roles, he added. In the RPG Group, which has interests in tyres, retailing, power and transmission towers, 80% of its 20 CEOs have managed at least two business within the group.
“But when you want to challenge a paradigm or a status quo, it is always better to look outside for talent,” Agrawal, who had been with the RPG Group since 1999, said.
“We have a policy of retaining key executives within the group in various functions to use their experience and expertise,” said Misra. For example, Hindalco’s former president A.K. Agarwala now heads the group’s business review council and R.K. Kasliwal, Hindalco’s former CFO, now advises his former firm on its Rs25,000 crore domestic expansions in Orissa and Uttar Pradesh.
Similarly, Rathi, a key executive who helped Grasim acquire Larsen and Toubro Ltd’s (L&T) cement business and later restructure it, will now move to other activities within the group. Grasim is fighting a legal case with L&T for the latter’s unsold shares. “D.D. Rathi can help us bring these matters to close and we can use his experience,” said Misra. Singh will also move into other functions within the group, he added.