"This basically means two functions, two businesses and two geographies - diversity of experience will be critical for people who want to reach senior level as we look for people who have done it," says Santrupt Misra, director, group human resources. "We are propagating it formally to build careers."
The impending top changes at group companies include K K Maheshwari taking charge as managing director (MD) of cement business UltraTech as incumbent O P Puranmalka retires. Maheshwari will be moving from his current role of MD at Grasim Industries, the fibre and textile business of the group. In his 29 years with the group, Maheshwari has also held leadership roles at its chemical and trading businesses, and worked in at least two regions. Dilip Gaur and K C Jhanwar would be respectively taking charge as MD of Grasim Industries and deputy MD at UltraTech.
Gaur joined the group in 2004 as country head and president for its businesses in Malaysia. In 2007, he moved to Alexandria Carbon Black Company as MD. In 2008, he was appointed group executive president and unit head for Birla Copper. In 2014, he became deputy MD at UltraTech.
Jhanwar, currently MD at Aditya Birla Chemicals, had earlier worked at the filament yarn business of the group.
Birla has formalised this policy at a time when the group is getting into new-age businesses such as e-retailing. The group launched abof.com last year and had earlier entered and built new-age businesses in telecom and financial services. "The fact that a lot of people in newer businesses have gone from within the group proves the culture and mindset we have created is equally fungible, adaptable and can be leveraged in the new-age businesses," says Misra, no exception to the rule. He doubles as chief executive officer for the group's carbon black business and had earlier headed the information technology business.
Aditya Birla Group's annual turnover is $41 billion (Rs 2.5 lakh crore), with 120,000 employees (from 42 nationalities. A little over half its revenue now comes from its operations abroad, across 36 countries. The move also comes at a time when the group has frozen lateral placement at existing positions for the next three years, to unlock leadership roles for current employees.
Historically, the group had about a fifth of its leadership roles filled through lateral placements.
"If you keep hiring within the group, your ability to have talent with fresh insights and experiences get limited," cautions the head of a global executive search firm, who did not wish to be identified.
"If the leadership has experience entirely that the group has organised for them, their ability to think differently will be limited."