Forget peace if you are a top honcho in India

By siliconindia  |   Wednesday, 28 October 2009, 02:55 Hrs   |    6 Comments
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Forget peace if you are a top honcho in India
Mumbai: Being a top executive in India can be very stressful, since they need to adjust to different time zones for holding discussions with their colleagues and clients. Ravi Chauhan, Managing Director of Juniper Networks India is one of them, who wakes up early in the morning to prepare for conference calls with his bosses in the U.S., reports the Times of India.

Since Chauhan heads one of Juniper's fastest growing markets, his inputs are essential at any important meeting at the headquarters. So if Chauhan isn't taking conference calls at the crack of dawn, he's to be found on a redeye flight from Bangalore to Santa Clara for a face-to-face meeting.

It's not just the conference calls across time zones and constant travel, there's also the barrage of instant messaging that's beaming on iphones across continents, which require immediate attention. An estimated hundred such messages from Juniper's offices in the U.S., Europe, Hong Kong and Singapore each day is received by Chauhan. And though his colleagues are considerate about not phoning him in the middle of the night, they do call as late as 10 pm and if it's an intense discussion, unwinding and getting to sleep isn't easy afterward. "I end up catching up on my sleep during weekends," says Chauhan, "which my family doesn't appreciate, since that's supposed to be their time. With the exponential growth of business in India, stress levels have gone definitely up," rues Chauhan, who travels 20 days a month. And thanks to the irregular and usually heavy eating that travel entails, he's been putting on weight.

Chauhan's is not an isolated case, there are other top executives who are also following the same kind of lifestyle. Indeed, the corner room job has become more stressful than ever before. More recently, the stroke and death of Ranjan Das, the Managing Director of SAP India, has thrown open more questions than answers. Are Indian CEOs more stress-prone? Is the work-life imbalance of our top honchos so stark that it has now started taking lives? Do our CEOs find it hard to cope in a globalized set-up? Tough questions call for tough answers.

Gone are the days when a multinational company's (MNC) CEO's job was akin to Laatsahebs in the days of the Raj. The MNC CEO tribe is a particularly harried lot today; one such CEO sums it up succinctly, "I start the day earlier and finish the day later."

Longer work hours notwithstanding, incessant travel, endless conference calls across time zones, reporting to various bosses due to matrix structures, problematic clients, and a constantly buzzing BlackBerry play havoc with the CEOs' work-life balance. Lately, the intense focus on the still growing India operations as developed markets stagnate, has added a new dimension to the already high stress levels of Indian CEOs in MNCs.

Meanwhile, CEOs of India's promoter-led firms have their own set of problems. A host of hyper-growth issues, diversification initiatives, combined with aggressive acquisition sprees are taking a toll on them too. Off the record, they say that handling the promoter is the biggest tension in Indian groups because the promoter too is struggling to evolve with the professional managers, and policies change constantly. "Indian CEOs want to please everybody and be at the centre of all action. That leads to a lot of stress," says the top honcho of a promoter-driven IT firm.

All these concerns are against the backdrop of the considerable stress and strain of the daily travel across Indian cities. "The lack of daily efficiencies in India contribute to failure and result in stress," says Pramod Bhasin, President and CEO of Genpact. "For example, we have triple power backup in our Gurgaon office and that can be really stressful. Then there is absenteeism and an unreliable workforce that really puzzles me when I contrast it with the West."

The tough business environment notwithstanding, some tough decisions also have an emotional backlash that may sometimes be difficult to handle. While some CEOs find their way with the help of family, friends and the occasional corporate coach, some end up requiring professional help.

At the Vidyasagar Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience, Consultant Psychiatrist Jitendra Nagpal has treated the 36-year-old Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) of an auto component company, who arrived in a state of clinical depression because of the global recession affecting his business and the consequent need to layoff some of his employees. "I am increasingly receiving cases wherein CEOs have a conflict of their own personalities - their inner selves versus the projected image of the well-meaning CEO to the rest of the world - and this heightened during the recession," he observes.

But CEOs are also an adaptive breed. "When I leave office, I don't take work home. But I like to be interactive even when I'm destressed - watching sports and Bollywood films on TV and spending time with the family. Work and life are fun. You shouldn't take them seriously," claims Atul Singh, President of Coca-Cola India. For Kishore Biyani, Founder and CEO of retail giant Future Group, stress-busting is a spiritual craving. "Stress is a state of mind and we have to be philosophical to beat it," he says. For one, he switches off for 4-5 hours each day after getting home from work.

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