Experts Column

Dynamism and expertise are two key requisites for a successful business leader. Anju Nayyar, an award-winning, dynamic and globally acclaimed professional with a multi-discipline and multi-location experience of over two and a half decades, is a great testament of the same. Having worked in different capacities across key management functions, Anju now juggles multiple roles from being a senior management leader, a CXO advisor to being a startup mentor steering enterprises in a cross-cultural environments across sixteen-odd destinations in Asia, Europe and America.

The Women Entrepreneur team caught up with the dynamic business maven and indulged in a candid conversation about her professional journey, her guiding leadership philosophies and her passions beyond work.

Here are excerpts from the conversation.

You have held various positions across companies over the years. Can you throw some light on the transition from working for other organizations to starting a firm of your own?

Working for different companies and being an entrepreneur are vastly different. When working with other organizations, there is no regimentation. On the other hand, being an entrepreneur entails a certain amount of regimentation as a result of one's own planning, determination, and having the responsibility of leading the team. An entrepreneur also has to make decisions.

Another significant difference is when an employee is assigned a task, it is solely their responsibility to complete it. However, as an entrepreneur, they may have extensive plans to implement and must also provide proper direction while working as an employer. There is always an organisation assigning a task to do, but in entrepreneurship, they are building their own organisation while also working as an employee and a specialist. An employee is compensated for the results they produce. However, as an entrepreneur, one does not receive performance-based compensation. It's all about the profit that the company makes as a result of their guidance and the performance of others.

Can you recount some of the most critical business challenges that you have faced as an entrepreneur over the years?

One of the biggest challenges that an entrepreneur faces is obtaining funding. It is critical to start a business without a large investment. There is always a quest to start a business without any outside funding and to expand a business without incurring a large amount of debt.

Share with us some of the most significant leadership mantras and etiquettes that you follow in order to successfully lead your organization.  

My leadership mantra is to use empathy in a tactical manner. An entrepreneur or a leader can accomplish a lot if he or she works in a harmonious environment and is able to understand and guide others well.

The most important etiquette rule I follow is to maintain transparency. It is critical to have good communication skills because, as a leader, your ideas must be conveyed correctly and in the right spirit for a successful outcome. The leader should set a good example for successful outcomes rather than ordering employees around.

Also, I think one of my biggest successes as a leader is that everyone thinks that they are my favourite child. The lesson I learnt throughout my professional life and a major success in terms of leadership is to provide an equal amount of bias so that employees are satisfied while working with their leaders.

The corporate world is gradually moving towards becoming increasingly inclusive and diverse. In such a scenario what steps can we take as individuals or as an organization to can get more women on the table?

I've always considered myself to be gender agnostic. I don't believe there is any distinction between men and women. Women who have worked hard deserve to be in a certain position. I never believed in reservation and they should not be dragged up just because they are female as well. If a woman is being discriminated against because of a gender bias, we must intervene, take action, and speak out to ensure that she is a part of us. Nobody can pull a human being up if they have the right skill and attitude.

We live in a world where women are in positions of power. India's first prime minister was a woman. Women are currently leading top companies, such as Indra Nooyi (CEO of Pepsi Bottling Group). If men can be successful in their lives, women can as well.

Give us a glimpse of your life beyond work. What are some other activities or hobbies that you like to indulge in when time permits?

I grew up in Africa and I have nearly travelled all across the world. I have worked in Singapore, Europe, and Germany, among other places. I have been in America for almost six years, living and working. I enjoy seeing different cultures and have a passion for learning different languages and studying different amalgamation of culture.

Talking about my books, I'm currently reading Erin Meyer and Reed Hastings' No Rules Rules. I enjoy reading Maya Angelou's poetry. She was the recipient of dozens of awards and more than 50 honorary degrees. She both fascinates and inspires me. She was an activist who advocated for women's rights. An Autobiography of a Yogi is another book that I've read several times. Each time I read it, I discovered a new meaning for it.