A day with the Chief Executive Officer of Indus Towers, the world’s largest tower company serving telecom operators. BS Shantharaju
Like all true Bangalore-born, I can’t do without my strong coffee.
An early bird not only catches the worm, but manages to grab the fancy morning tee spot as well. Living next to a golf course is something I dreamt of, and the millennium city of Gurgaon has made this possible. I am not much of an exercise person; but twice a week a round of golf, in the morning before the madness of the world takes over, gets me vital fresh air and the energy to last the entire day.
I read the business papers, checking the latest update on the cricket. I get started with work, get a sense of my calendar for the day and answer emails, which my office has prioritised. Over the years I have learned the art of resisting the temptation of looking at all the emails.
Technology is an enabler, only if used with discipline. I trust the discretion of my office staff who flag urgent emails, and I only answer them.
My office is only a few kilometres away, but the commute is bad. While India is getting most of the things right, it still has a long way to go before we perfect our urban infrastructure. Nevertheless I use this time to make important calls. My personal motto in life is ‘to make a substantial difference to the lives of people in society’, and that’s the reason I choose to work in the infrastructure sector. I work with a telecom infrastructure company, which carries three out of five calls in India; and that’s a huge number — remember we Indians like to talk. In the past, I sowed the seeds of India’s best airport, the Delhi airport. How I wish I could do something about our urban infrastructure as well!
After a quick morning cheer to everyone, I have a look at all the cockpit dashboards, followed by answering the important mail. An empowered CEO’s office helps.
My first meeting of the day is usually a business-critical meeting or one that deals with a strategic issue. The subject could range from new business opportunities to people initiatives and is, perhaps, the most satisfying hour at the workplace. Ours is a three-year-old company and is the world’s largest tower company as well. A lot still needs to be done. My top-of-mind agenda is building a new business pipeline and a training programme to upgrade the skills of 50,000 people we employ through our service vendors to institutionalise the Indus way of running a world-class infrastructure business. 3G is being launched in India, and telecom in India is going to change for good as well. To maintain our lead, we have to stay ahead.
Lunch is a new habit that I have cultivated. I used to do with a minimal lunch, till my doctors found faults with my metabolic rate. I choose my table at our café, preferably with junior employees. The information flow is helpful, and I get to know what doesn’t get reported as well. Often I end up playing a mentor to these bright kids, who are the future of this company and this country.
A critical element of the CEO job is doing rigorous reviews and setting the right organisational priorities. I religiously devote the afternoon hours to review. I spend 70 per cent of my time on reviewing transformational initiatives and the remaining 30 per cent on enhancement and ‘pain remover’ projects.
It’s the time to meet customers or resolve issues that concern them. I usually prefer meeting my customers personally and often travel to meet them.
My last meeting of the day; it’s usually a relationship call. Infrastructure business has a lot of stakeholders, and engaging with the environment is key.
I spend some light moments with the team, often a quick drink. Indians are an emotional lot, and we have a strong bonding need. An emotional bond keeps the team together, and we back each other up like a cricket team. Often I catch up with old friends and business acquaintances for a drink but prefer to be home for dinner.
I relax and unwind with family, perhaps have a phone call with my kids. At times, I manage a quick read as well. Everyone knows how difficult it is to get more out of your day. Over a month I spend 20 per cent on strategic issues, 20 per cent on operational issues and 10 per cent on relationship building.
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