When times are great, everyone is a hero. But only a true leader steps forward during tough times. I had the opportunity to demonstrate my leadership abilities when our family-run business, an OEM for Indian Railways, was going through a difficult phase. Although our business was expanding, we were losing revenue owing to late deliveries. My father was already swamped, and had no time to deal with the issue. I was working a pleasant job and expecting my third promotion, but I knew I had to step in to help my family. So, I quit my job to rescue our business.
I undertook a basic risk assessment to dig out the root cause of the problem, and found that both supplier and process delays were hurting our numbers. Since our procurement and inventory were manual, it made our inventory-management system non-transparent and inefficient. I decided to streamline the process by digitizing the order book, and created an automated intimation system for supply-chain and-inventory management.
The path was riddled with problems, and the pressure to deliver made everything challenging. I arranged trainings for our IT team to develop ERP tools, and led a team of officials to integrate and streamline processes. Next, I looked at improving delayed vendor supply, rating major vendors on various parameters to assess who did and didn’t deliver on time. All these efforts resulted in a 92% increase in revenue, the best in the history of the firm!
But, the hurdles didn’t stop there. Having to take directives from the firm’s first and only female employee & fear of potential job redundancy added to staff pushback. However, when I consulted my supervisor, I understood that I needed to bond with the team to alleviate their concerns, integrate their suggestions, and get them on-board. I conducted training sessions for our IT staff to familiarize them with new processes, and demonstrated how technology can actually aid their growth. Eventually, they came around, and my initiatives doubled our productivity in just two years, reducing delays by 10%, without layoffs.
In India, we have few women willing to take up positions in manufacturing or industrial sector, but I overcame multiple hurdles to succeed. My experience will be helpful for peers in the ‘Women in Business’ club, as I motivate them to take up leadership positions in male-dominated industries. This process taught me to understand people better, deal with large teams, and be a more inclusive leader. I learned that cross-cultural communication issues can happen within local ecosystems, and that great ideas can come from anyone. I also realised my potential to solve real-life business problems, which when coupled with my learning from Kellogg, will help me thrive and prosper as a leader.