Chris Outram, Partner and Chairman Emeritus at OC&C Strategy Consultants, London talks to Priyanka Mehra about the key requirement of having a good strategy and implementing it well to make companies successful
ON INDIAN COMPANIES WITH SUCCESSFUL STRATEGY
The Godrej group is very impressive. It has gone from industrial to consumer products and is successful in both against world class competitors. The Tata Group, the way it builds and thinks about business, is remarkable. I have recently been introduced to the Marico Group. The way they have developed their strategy in a market full of powerful international sharks is excellent. They have developed a business model that is striking and insightful. What has worked well for these companies is that they are not trying to emulate their competitors; but making their own markets and serving these markets very well. It is a very intelligent response. This is a message for companies across the world, the worst is to emulate someone else’s strategy, you are likely to do it imperfectly, moreover they are likely to have more resources than you do.
ADVICE TO THE INDIAN CEO, ON STRATEGY
It is worth spending a lot of time thinking about strategy and making sure you have strategy that is differentiated, doable and thinking through the execution. Engaging people in the strategy is equally important while executing it. In the Indian context, I would add, having flexibility is important. Your strategy should not be a fossil, but dynamic keeping in mind circumstances and competitors. You need to keep your antenna up, listen to feedback.
ON STRATEGY IMPLEMENTATION FACTORS SPECIFIC TO INDIA
The process of developing strategy is different in India because there is a lot more thought spent on the execution of strategy as compared to other markets. In a high growth market like India, talent could actually be in short supply. But it does not mean that there are not many suitable people, simply that those who are experienced are in short supply as everything is growing so fast. The ability of Indian companies to deal with uncertainty is high. The Indian environment is also very conducive to the growth of entrepreneurship, and exploration of different models. There is also a lot more risk management, and great emphasis on talent management.
WHAT MAKES A STRATEGY SUCCESSFUL
The most important factor is to understand customers’ needs and the most successful companies are the ones that are very good at predicting their customers’ needs ahead of the customers themselves. The best example is Apple, that has products no one could ever think of and hence massively successful. You also need to understand your competitors and their business model in order to make money to deliver profit and sustain the business.
KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM TALKS WITH CEOS ACROSS THE WORLD
I have been in conversation with several CEOs for my book Quo Vadis Strategy. Here are some learnings:
• A new CEO to a business should spend time talking to people at least two levels below him. These are people who are really confronting the real challenges on a daily basis; their responses may not be very structured but will be insightful.
• Being hands on; for instance, the CEO of a retail store should spend a day at the store.
• Don’t assume just because you know your strategy, everyone else knows what it is.