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Excerpts of Vikram Singh Mehta's chat with Dr Anish Shah

During the latest GCO LEADERSPEAK session with Dr Anish Shah, MD & CEO, M&M Ltd., Vikram Singh Mehta, Lead Independent Director, M&M, shared his journey in the Group and what the coming days would look like.

Vikram Singh Mehta joined the board of M&M in 2012 and is currently its Lead Independent Director. His distinguished career began with the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), and since then, he has held top leadership positions in several companies. In conversation with Dr Shah, Mehta reveals why he thinks the Mahindra Group stands out, what the Group needs to do to prepare for the future and his biggest takeaways as a leader.

The most significant differentiator

Mehta has seen the Mahindra board transition thrice. He says, “It's extraordinary how Anand Mahindra has balanced the old with the new, how he has kept our focus on the board and the management on the future, and at the same time hold on very firmly to the ethics and the values of the past.” He believes that the Mahindra Group has a reputation in the industry for consistent focus on its principles and governance, which sets it apart.

Managing uncertainty trifecta

International problems like Covid-19 and global warming, the right instruments to engender total recovery from such challenges, and geopolitical issues are the trifecta of uncertainties outlined by Mehta for the near future. In the face of these uncertainties, he thinks it will be very important to understand the need to stay true to our principles and vision. “One of the challenges that we're going to face, and all young leaders are going to face is, ‘What is your vision?’ ‘How committed are you to your vision?’ ‘How clearly have you imparted that message?’, and ‘Are you going to actually be able to balance the drive towards profitability and your principles?’”

Purpose and growth

As Mehta sees it, there is no escaping the importance of profits. “You cannot afford principles if they don't make money but, if you compromise on your principles, a time will come when you do not deserve those profits. That's the message I've learnt in the past, and that's the message I would pass on.” This was in response to the point that Dr Shah underlined in the context of the recently held Blue Chip conference, where the primary focus was on the juxtaposition between purpose and growth.

Thucydides Trap

Mehta is concerned that the way the United States and China are now going head to head, there is a risk of an accidental clash where India can get caught right in the middle. However, he sees this as an opportunity for growth where Mahindra’s goal would be to bring government, industry and civic society on the same page so that we all align our effort to leverage the opportunity.

Coming together for sustainability

Mahindra can lead the way to get companies to redefine what they mean by social CSR projects and to find sustainability by pooling its resources with other companies and other entities. “We bring everyone together and address the issue of sustainability, not just a one-off project. We fund, we come together, we create a world that is sustainable, which challenges the issue of the pandemic, global warming, something that is more long term,” he recommends.

Insights of leaders

Mehta has learned that one of the significant challenges for leadership is to remain uncompromising in your commitment to your goal. “The biggest lesson for me is that while in today's world, data and empirical evidence are essentials, based on the law, the importance of conviction and judgment of your own beliefs are also important.”

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