CEO Panel: Culture eats everything for Breakfast

• Moderator Dr. Saundarya Rajesh, Founder and President, Avtar
• Mr. Porush Singh,
 Division President, Mastercard South Asia
• Ms. Vibha Padalkar,
 Managing Director & CEO, HDFC Life
• Mr. Sridhar Venkatesh,
 Vice President and Managing Director, GSK Pharma
• Mr. Rajiv Memani,
 Chair, EY Global Emerging Markets Committee, EY India Chairman and Regional Partner

About BoB

Working Mother & Avtar Best of the Best Conference is one of the most respected Awards Conference on Diversity and Inclusion and Advancement of Women. This 2-day virtual conference, showcased inspiring Ted-Style Talks, insightful panel discussions, and created a chance to network with like-minded people from the industry. Along with the exposure to the best inclusion practices of Top 10 and Top 100 Best Companies for Women in India, this conference offered an opportunity to listen to speakers and SMEs from around the globe.

About the Theme

The theme for #BOB2020 was Ignite Potential. Through a series of curated sessions, we aimed to bring forth conversations on how organizations can ignite their tremendous innate potential by harnessing the power of diversity and inclusion. This conference provided insights on how organizations can access and leverage this potential to design culture intentionally, increase employee engagement, and enhance organizational performance.

The topic for the CEO Panel discussion “Culture eats everything for Breakfast” was a spin-off from the famous quote “Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast” by the Legendary Management Guru, Peter Drucker. The significance of this quote was clearly elucidated during a panel discussion by the panellists Mr. Porush Singh, Ms. Vibha Padalkar, Mr. Sridhar Venkatesh, and Mr. Rajiv Memani during the BoB Conference organized by Avtar. This session was moderated by Dr Saundarya Rajesh, CEO & Founder of Avtar. The conversation began with the speakers expressing what culture means to them. The panellists illustrated the way culture goes beyond an organization and influences the communities around them.

During the discussion, leaders highlighted thatculture is the ‘how’ of the Organization because ‘how’ things get done acts like an unwritten set of guidelines that define what gets recognised, celebrated, and looked over. The speakers felt that, in every organization, the leaders play a strong role in communicating this “how” to their employees. Dr Saundarya Rajesh moderated the discussion by posing questions to the speakers related to retaining an existing organizational culture even during an unusual business scenario. Pertaining to the unusual business scenario, the speakers stated that bringing solutions to a global problem is not possible without every single employee of that company living and contributing to the company’s culture. In fact, Mr. Venkatesh mentioned that GSK was able to tackle this uncertainty by working 24*7 because they had a strong sense of purpose. Being from the pharma industry, they had to ensure that “medicine was accessible to everyone”.

Dr Saundarya Rajesh stated that an enabling Organizational culture brings out more from people, encouraging discretionary efforts from the employees. The panellists built upon the discussion by comparing the dynamics of culture in archaic vs new systems, and change in culture pre and post any crisis. One of the turning points in this discussion happened when the speakers discussed about what comes first: strategy or culture.  The scintillating conversation between the leaders clearly underlined the importance of culture and the role it plays in shaping a business strategy even during the times of crises. The speakers also emphasized the role of inclusion in shaping the organizational culture.

During closing remarks of the panel discussion, the leaders highlighted the significance of a strong, inclusive and appreciative culture as the driving force behind sustainable growth. The more we engage in conversations about culture, the more successful we will be in building a breed of new age employees. The speakers felt that the commercial performance of every organization is clearly defined, whereas, there is still room for companies to build on the performance or organizational culture. This thought-provoking discussion concluded with three critical points as food for thought: the importance of aligning organizational strategy with culture, the need to preserve Organizational culture when businesses are rapidly changing, and the critical aspect of building a culture that supports global markets.

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