Up, Close & Personal with Top Chief Supply Chain Officers

Share on

Industry Leaders

Up, Close & Personal with Top Chief Supply Chain Officers

Their journey started from backroom logistics and over the last three odd decades, they have seen, experienced and influenced the supply chain evolution in India to reach the Boardrooms. From ERP based technology to seamless digitalization, from godowns to Distribution and Fulfilment Centres, from limited information to real time visibility in their supply chains, from an operations driven function to customer centricity, and positioning India as a significant player in the global marketplace, we, at Celerity Supply Chain Tribe, selected these Top 10 CSCOs for all this and more. It was indeed a moment of pride to honour these exceptional personalities for their incredible contribution in making supply chains a SEAMLESS business affair.

Here’s presenting their lighter side for our readers to learn not only the business acumen but also strike the right balance between their personal & professional lives. 

What has been your passion project till date?

Yogesh Mishra

Yogesh Mishra, Executive Director – Supply Chain, HUL & Head – Supply Chain South Asia, Unilever- I would want to talk about my current passion projects at HUL. We have undertaken this huge step towards digitalisation with Re-imagine HUL, and the digitalisation of the supply chain as a part of that program is something that really excites me.

Swapn Malpani, Joint President & Global Head – Supply Chain & Procurement, Cipla Ltd.- As a supply chain professional, my passion project has been focused on supply chain operations optimization and driving continuous improvement. I have been deeply involved in implementing advanced technologies and innovative strategies to enhance efficiency, reduce costs, and minimize risks within the supply chain. Overall, my passion project revolves around leveraging technology, data, and sustainable practices to create a highly efficient and responsible supply chain that delivers value to the organization and its stakeholders.

Nitin Kathuria

Nitin Kathuria, Executive Vice President & Head Supply Chain, Marico Ltd.- Safflower Contract Farming was the first major assignment that I had undertaken in Marico very early in my career. I have fond memories of it for the reasons beyond business impact. This genesis of the project was built on farmers’ wellness and thus provided me immense satisfaction to make an impact at that scale. Additionally, leading a team of 150+ members very early in my career gave me invaluable leadership lessons.

Saurabh Palsania, Joint President (Strategic Sourcing), Shree Cement Ltd. - One of my passion projects I would like to mention is the replacement of fossil fuel by Industrial and Municipal Waste in Cement Kilns, which helped in significantly reducing the carbon emission and carbon footprints of the organization and making the environment greener for the next generation.

Sreenivas Rao

Sreenivas Rao Nandigam, Global Head – Supply Chain, Sun Pharmaceutical Industries - Setting up a factory at Uttaranchal while at RB with the time constraint of 10 months from the scratch.

Jehangir Katrak, VP – Logistics, Warehousing & CFA, India, Tata Consumer Products Ltd.- I have done many projects in my career spanning over 25 years, but the most challenging one was the integration project that I was entrusted to do three years ago. The Foods business of Tata Chemicals merged with Tata Global Beverages to form Tata Consumer Products in Feb 2020. There were two CFA networks that had to be integrated into one single network. As you know, the complete lockdown on account of theCovid pandemic started in Mar 2020, the entire project had to be executed during that time when teams were working from home and travel was restricted. The transition had to be orchestrated without any impact to business. The kind of meticulous planning and work done during that period was phenomenal by the project team. This is one project which will always remain close to my heart.

Yogesh Sarin

Yogesh Sarin, Director – Supply Chain, South Asia, Dell - Several of them but most interesting were around end-to-end supply chain management of partners in contract manufacturing and 3PL, which was both challenging & satisfying. It started with contract negotiations, selection & onboarding, evolved with collaboration and relationship management through engaging technology-led performance management operations. Driving continual positive customer experience as an outcome is aways a rewarding experience.

Sandeep Baxla, Sr Vice President Supply Chain, Indofil Industries- The challenge and excitement of establishing the Supply Chain Organization in Indofil Industries Limited, lured me to leave Henkel. Two years that it took me to set up the Supply Chain department from scratch was managed akin to a project with clearcut milestones and deliverables. I would rate this stint as the most enriching and professionally satisfying project.

Deepak Sharma

Deepak Sharma, Head – Manufacturing & Supply Chain, Bajaj Electricals - My passion project is always delivering value for the organization through out-of-the-box thinking. I can recollect from my time in GE, where I led the project on cost reduction and meeting the X% deflation target (it’s a historical number) for the supply chain function. I set ambitious targets for my team and was able to achieve them.

Another interesting project was from my stint with Indus towers as VP, supply chain management. Initially, the supplier satisfaction score was among the lowest. I had to develop & implement Supplier Relationship management and Structured Contract Governance program with suppliers. My focus was on value creation rather than just negotiation with suppliers. This helped to turnaround the situation and we achieved the highest supplier satisfaction survey scores in the industry.

Balaji Reddipalli, Head - Supply Chain (Consumer Products), Borosil Ltd. - Developing a statistical forecasting model using causal inputs has been one of my passion projects till date. Now I want to use some AI/ML in this.

How do you unwind yourself after a tough day @ work?

Yogesh Mishra - Listening to Music and Watching cricket are my favorite ways to unwind.

Swapn Malpani

Swapn Malpani - I unwind by engaging in physical activities like running, going in the pool and long-haul walking. This helps release stress and clear your mind. While during my long walks, I also connect with friends and family to catch-up and have meaningful conversations.

Nitin Kathuria - Spending time with family which includes two young boys is the best stressbuster for me. Also, I like to work on my physical and mental well-being through long distance running and yoga, which provides me necessary ‘Me Time’.

Saurabh Palsania

Saurabh Palsania - Quick 30-minute walk and listening old songs.

Sreenivas Rao - Honestly unwinding has been tough for me and I am wanting to learn ways to do so, having said that spending time with the family and work out at the gym next morning helps me unwind.

Jehangir Katrak - Not much time is available on weekdays to unwind, but I try to get my ‘Me Time’ 30-40 minutes before bedtime. Typically, I surf channels, internet, watch movies or go for a stroll after dinner with my family. The ‘unwinding’, I would say, happens only on Sunday, which would include playing badminton with my group of friends, going to the gym, or taking long walks, etc. What is more important is that, if you love and enjoy what you do, then you really do not get tired. But yes, one needs to unwind and recharge batteries!

Jehangir Katrak

Yogesh Sarin - I am naturally a morning person, so preparation for any day starts with a disciplined fitness regime that rejuvenates body & mind and allows to shift focus away from work pressures ahead. Unwinding for me is spending quality time with loved ones.

Sandeep Baxla

Sandeep Baxla - I am a family person and like to be with them after work. An hour of brisk walk in the evening also helps me to unwind and take stock of the whole day’s work.

Deepak Sharma - It is indeed true that most of the workdays have become tough over the past few years in this VUCA world. My simple way of unwinding after a tough day is to spend time with my family, watch some comedy shows and follow my favourite sports. Watching a cricket match, highlights & expert commentary is also one of my usual ways to relax. During the weekends, I also like to go on long drives with my family.

Balaji Reddipalli 

Balaji Reddipalli – I listen to music – sometimes Carnatic, sometimes Rock or a random selection that suits my taste then.

How do you manage the pressure and the challenges that come with the job?

Yogesh Mishra - I always handle every situation with the owner’s mindset. This really helps to put forward my point of view with conviction.

Swapn Malpani - In my experience following strategies helps manage pressure and challenges on the professional front.

  • Develop a strong team and empower them
  • Prioritize and delegate effectively
  • Promote candid communication and collaboration
  • Continuous learning and improvement
  • Foster a culture of accountability and resilience

Nitin Kathuria -Every role will have fair share of challenges and expectations. In your mind if you focus more on the other sides of the same coin i.e., opportunities and fortune to leave a mark, suddenly these negative terms disappear. Taming your mind, thus, is the single most important element in dealing with these things.

Saurabh Palsania - Clean and concrete planning and maximizing delegation of job.

Sreenivas Rao - Recruiting the right set of people and trusting them with responsibilities has been the way I manage the challenges in the job.

Jehangir Katrak - There are times when you are in a challenging situation, things are out of your control and there is a lot of pressure that comes along, but irrespective of the situation I remain calm, which helps me to think clearly thru the problem/ situation and come out of it. In such a situation, it is also important to be aware of the feelings of the team members and people around you and boost their morale. One must be measured in one’s approach.

I passionately believe in the saying, ‘When the going is tough, the tough gets going’.

Yogesh Sarin - I strongly believe that supply chain is recommended for passionate professionals seeking reasonable adventure and not scared of uncertainties. With that as a personality trait, you would get your kick with ease without anything appearing as challenge.

Sandeep Baxla - I reach office quite early in the morning. I use the first one hour of the day in reviewing and adding to my ‘To Do List’, finish reading and replying all my mails, ensure all my meetings/VC for the days are blocked in the calendar. Basically, planning my entire day. I strictly ensure that my tasks for the day are completed and avoid carry forward. I avoid procrastination. I do not micromanage, trust my team, and give them complete independence in decision making with very little interference.

Deepak Sharma - Clear Communication and Connect with the stakeholders and facing the problem head-on is essential for me. I usually get my team into a short meeting/huddle. By getting together we communicate clearly on the problem, identify responsibility of individual team members. We use Brainstorming, benchmarking & other techniques to find solutions. It is usually followed by creating a clear action tracker for implementing the solutions and including support required for execution, is the next step. It is a MUST to identify action owner clearly and set the timelines for implementing the solution. I follow it up with regular governance and review with my team for any support they require. Timely escalation is also a critical thing which I encourage.

My philosophy at work is ‘People First’. So, I take care of my team by being approachable, planning coffee-connects, team dinners, outings & even family get-togethers. I believe If people are happy & comfortable working in organization, then they’ll deliver.

Balaji Reddipalli – Pressures are almost always temporary in nature, while the long-lasting changes you do is the imprint you leave in the organization. I always have this mindset while dealing with any challenging situation.

What’s your Success Mantra?

Yogesh Mishra - I think unwavering commitment to business needs is what works for me. There is a difference between interest and commitment. When you are interested in doing something, you only do it when circumstances permit. When you are committed, you accept no excuses but only results.

Swapn Malpani - I believe success is a progressive realization of a worthy goal and to be successful, one needs to be goal oriented and have razor sharp focus on execution.

Nitin Kathuria - Hard work, Perseverance, and hunger to make difference

Sreenivas Rao - Work hard and Party harder.

Jehangir Katrak - If you put your heart and soul into something and go beyond the brief, surely, you will succeed. But after having done that if still things do not work out, IT IS OKAY. One should not be pulled down by ‘one’ failure. In life, you win some and you lose some.

Yogesh Sarin - Success is not a destination but a continuous voyage of growth, perseverance & adaptability.

Sandeep Baxla - Hire and surround myself with people who are more knowledgeable, successful, grounded, and intelligent than me.

Deepak Sharma - There is no one success mantra to be the best in my career. ‘Failure is not a crime, but dreaming low is’, this is what I follow and also preach to my team. One should take up tough challenges and aspirational ideas, as the rewards would be far greater in case of success. If we take up mundane tasks or set low and easy goals, we’ll be able to achieve those without much effort, but create little value. Failure is fine, even if we don’t succeed as it can still provide valuable learnings and experience.

“Unconstrained” thinking is also a mantra, which helps me to find innovative solutions to problems. The limits we put on our thinking or to the problem, creates a narrow attitude. It is important to think without limits and then find ways to enable getting over the limits.

Balaji Reddipalli – Focus on:

  • Structural changes that are long lasting
  • Have KPIs that continuously measure
  • Have a strong team that is as focussed as you are.

What’s your Leadership Style?

Yogesh Mishra - I strongly believe in the power of teamwork and fostering an environment where everyone's contributions are valued. I believe collaborative leadership style works for me.

Swapn Malpani - My leadership style is centered around fostering a collaborative and empowering environment, valuing open communication and trust, and enabling the growth and development of individuals. By cultivating a culture of teamwork and shared goals, I believe we can achieve remarkable results together.

Nitin Kathuria - I strongly believe Magic happens through teamwork. I look to surround myself with great people and provide them with an environment that gets the best out of them.

Saurabh Palsania - It’s a mix of autocratic and transformational leadership.

Sreenivas Rao - Trust people unless proven otherwise. I don’t wait for people to prove to be trustworthy and lose time and commitment of the team.

Jehangir Katrak - If I must categorize myself, then my style of leadership is like a coach. I believe in empowering my team members, but at the same time, I would like them to take accountability for their decisions and results. I am result-oriented, and I do not encourage mediocrity.

Yogesh Sarin - One Minute Manager.

Sandeep Baxla - Delegation, collaboration, agility, trust, and empathy have really helped me to lead, direct and guide my team successfully.

Deepak Sharma - During my team connects, I always emphasize on one ‘One Team, One Dream’. Collaboration between the stakeholders is what I persuade my team to achieve. Any initiative or project under my guidance always has the 5P framework integrated in it. 5P denotes People – which are customers & employees, Partner i.e., suppliers or vendors, Process, Planet and Performance. This outcome of this approach will be business excellence in whatever we do.

I would like to share the most important thing which I follow and encourage others to do so – it is Integrity in professional and personal life. It is often considered as doing the correct thing even when no one is watching, being consistent, reliable, responsible, and owning actions. I consider it to be the most important asset of any team or organization.

Balaji Reddipalli - Continuous engagement with all stakeholders and delegation to my team. In Supply Chain, it is easy to lose touch with the ground situation. Keeping your eyes & ears open is key to driving change.

One tip to Survive & Sustain in the unforeseen situations / your advice to Next Gen Supply Chain professionals.

Yogesh Mishra - In this age where change is the new norm, it is imperative for supply chains to build the capabilities of agility, resilience, and sustainability while continuing to drive excellence in cash, service, and cost. I would also urge next-generation supply chain professionals to stay curious. By encouraging a culture of continuous learning and exploration, we can stay ahead of industry trends, adapt to new challenges, and unlock innovative solutions. Curiosity fuels creativity and keeps us motivated to seek new knowledge and perspectives, leading to growth and success.

Swapn Malpani - Focus on the basics of supply chain, simplify complex processes, and embrace digital transformation.

Nitin Kathuria - Supply chain is evolving very fast. New gen these days need to unshackle themselves with old learnings and keep building in new competencies & thoughts. I strongly believe current challenges cannot be overcome with old school of thoughts. One needs to innovate and bring in fresh perspective to stay ahead.

Saurabh Palsania - My success mantra is my tip: ‘Continuous Innovation & Long-Term Vision’.

Sreenivas Rao - As clichéd as it may sound, the only constant is Change and the pace of change is becoming faster. Do not expect situations to be smooth always, be prepared for the worst and hope for the best. Look for an Opportunity in the adversity and you will not just survive but thrive.

Jehangir Katrak - My tip would be – do the job that you like. One can give his or her best to the job only when one enjoys doing the job and gets satisfaction out of it. Also always keep asking yourself – Is this going to add value to the company? How will it improve the situation from where it is today? One should use technology be it digital or otherwise to get the job done. And keep upgrading your skill set to be relevant in the industry. The only thing constant is CHANGE.

Yogesh Sarin - Embrace uncertainty and enjoy what you do.

Sandeep Baxla - Be resilient and tenacious. Never flout your intelligence and position. Be grounded. Respect and treat everyone equally including the support staff in your organisations.

Deepak Sharma - The world is constantly changing, and disruption is more frequent. Prior to pandemic, processes like JIT and lean, strategies like lowest-cost supplier were in trend. But during the pandemic and supply shortages, there was a fall in JIT as supply fell and logistics came to halt or faced massive delays. Many organizations and governments are now looking at localization, moving from off-shoring to on-shoring. The focus now is to develop better supplier relations, enhance collaboration and innovation. My advice for the Next Gen supply chain professionals is to follow the basics. One should keep learning, enhancing skills for achieving flexibility and keep aiming for high goals or big dreams.

When you are developing a supply chain for a business or crafting the supply chain strategy, always try to keep the supply chain modular & agile so that it can survive the unpredictable surprises of the VUCA world.

Balaji Reddipalli - There is no substitute for visiting the field – visit the market, meet transporters and visit warehouses as often as you can. This can be challenging, but keeping the ground level connect is the key.

A book that has helped you at work.

Yogesh Mishra - I recently read a book called ‘Factfulness’. It is a thought-provoking book by Hans Rosling that challenges common misconceptions about the state of the world and presents rather an optimistic view of the world. I like how the book emphasizes the importance of analyzing a situation both qualitatively and quantitatively.

Nitin Kathuria - Powerful behavioural and leadership lessons from Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People really impacted me.

Saurabh Palsania - The Power of Sub Conscious Mind by Joseph Murphy

Jehangir Katrak - There are quite a few books from Supply Chain point of view. But I would still like to call out – The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt. It gives a lot of insight into Management, Supply Chain in an understandable manner.

Sandeep Baxla - Two books that have inspired me are: The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt and Gemba Walks by James P. Womack. l recommend every Supply Chain professional to read these two books.

Deepak Sharma - The book I consider most helpful is ‘First, Break all the Rules’ by Marcus Buckingham. The book has shaped my style of working and has been immensely helpful. The book teaches about challenging the status quo and conventional management thinking so that the organization and individual can use full potential. By breaking the traditional rules, success can be achieved by effective managers who concentrate on talent, outcome, fostering strength, and discovering the ‘right fit’. At the same time, it doesn’t mean that one should start disrespecting each and every process or people, but to think differently to take all together towards success.

Another great book, which helped me is ‘Good to Great’ by Jim Collins. I liked the idea of ‘Good is the enemy of Great’ as it goes against the mediocre thinking and easy work. Instead, it asks for striving for excellence. It also taught me for transforming into a ‘Great’ organization, one needs disciplined people, thought, and action.

Balaji Reddipalli - Two books actually – The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt, and Key Performance Indicators by David Parmenter

A book that you can read any number of times or a movie you can watch any time.

Yogesh Mishra - I am really a cricket enthusiast and I actually watch highlights/matches on repeat at times.

Nitin Kathuria - I have always had a liking for motivational movies – Tom Hanks’ Forrest Gump has been my favourite. Closer home, it is Bhag Milkha Bhag.

Saurabh Palsania - The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

Jehangir Katrak – I watch a lot of movies, but one which I do not hesitate repeating is the movie 3 Idiots.

Sandeep Baxla - ‘Sholay’ and ‘Jab We Met’ are the two movies that I have watched multiple times and still enjoy watching them.

Deepak Sharma - I would select 3 idiots, although a decade old now, I can watch this movie many times. The movie has good humour and at the same time teaches us many things about life and work. The main protagonist ‘Rancho’ from movie inspires everyone through a famous dialogue – ‘Don’t’ run after Success, instead pursue Excellence and then Success will automatically seek out’. Learning should not be for grades or getting a job or doing a business, but for knowledge and curiosity. Throughout the movie, there are also scenes which enlighten the audience to challenge the usual and conventional thinking and at the same instance show creative thinking to solve the problems. It also makes a point that one should follow their heart and do what they love, regardless of what others think.

Balaji Reddipalli - Book – Yes Minister. This is a timeless satire that I enjoy every time I read. Movie – Twelve Angry Men – shows how our prejudices and biases cloud our thinking, and the challenges in consensus building.

What is the best and worst advice you have received?

Yogesh Mishra - I have worked with really inspirational leaders in my career, I would say I have been the lucky one to not get any bad advice. But the good one, which I hold very dear to my heart has been being Humble yet assertive.

Nitin Kathuria - No advice is bad – it is the context that makes it look good or bad. One recent advice which I feel is very powerful is ‘Practicing Detachment for transformational results’, this enables keeping your biases & emotions aside and truly help you focus on delivering objectives.

Saurabh Palsania - Best advice: Passion and Patience, Worst advice: Leading by aggressive follow-ups with the team.

Sreenivas Rao - The best advice I received is “Don’t chase Money, let money be a consequence of what you do” and on the worst advice I don’t remember as it is not worth remembering perhaps.

Jehangir Katrak - Best advice: Irrespective of the problem or crisis on hand, one should respect all people involved and one should not lose control of oneself. And that each person is unique and what may work for one person may not be true for another. Worst advice: Not really

Sandeep Baxla - Best advice: Never Procrastinate. Worst advice: Hire only the top quartile people.

Deepak Sharma - The best advice I have ever received was given in GE and it transformed my life. It was the time when I was a young profession, below 30, and managing quality function. Due to my fondness for implementing new initiatives and proactive work, the top management called for me and said that I have the qualities to work in Supply Chain Management. There were two concepts in focus during that time: 6-sigma and cost deflation. I took up the challenge and switched to my new role. My superiors believed that I could drive supply chain to its goals which I did.

The worst advice I received was to maintain status quo as some people have an attitude of ‘That’s how things always happen here’ and don’t take bigger targets. In Hindi, we call it, ‘Yaha aisa hi chalta hai’ attitude. This was something which didn’t fit in my values, and I had to take great efforts to overturn the attitude to improve my team. I always believe in going beyond in our goals and thinking. If we believe that things will continue to happen in same way, then there is no value addition from employees in the organization. I’m glad I didn’t follow the advice, otherwise things would have been different.

Balaji Reddipalli - Best Advice – Be Yourself. Worst Advice – You can do a sales job!

Where was your last vacation?

Yogesh Mishra - My son stays in the US, so I visited him in Texas, USA. Me and my wife spent some quality time with our son and that was our last vacation.

Swapn Malpani - Dubai

Nitin Kathuria - Ladakh – a true heaven on earth; I was really mesmerized with the vagaries of nature this place has on offer.

Saurabh Palsania - Bali, Indonesia

Sreenivas Rao - US in May, and Turkey in November

Jehangir Katrak - I have not had a vacation after the pandemic but would be going on one soon. Just before the pandemic, we went on a holiday to Rajasthan. We had toured across Rajasthan and visited cities of Jaipur, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur and Ajmer. We had a wonderful time. I was holidaying in Rajasthan for the first time.

Sandeep Baxla - My last long vacation was in Goa with my family couple of months before the pandemic.

Deepak Sharma - With a busy professional life and work responsibilities, it is often difficult to plan and experience a nice vacation. I recently went on a vacation to everyone’s favourite tropical paradise – Maldives. It helped me connect with the nature and the beauty of our oceans.

Balaji Reddipalli - Kolkata and Puri

More on Industry Leaders