The CEO Who Managed One of the Biggest FMCG Crises in Decades
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Maggi was "clinically dead" in June 2015, after traces of monosodium glutamate (MSG) was found in it. However, the company rose like the phoenix from the ashes to become the market leader, yet again, in a short span of six months, thanks to Suresh Narayanan, CEO, Nestle India.
Managing a crisis as big as Maggi's, Nestle India's highest selling product, was possibly the biggest career challenge that Suresh Narayanan had faced so far. While every step in ensuring a return to stability had its risks, "team work, transparency, humility and credibility helped him and his team helped overcome the setback," said Narayanan.
Moreover, Narayanan's team unleashed over 30 new products under the brand, following which the company witnessed a double-digit growth. Nestle in India has always had a solid, credible, strong reputation that creates iconic brands.
"India's love for Nestle's celebrated product Maggi can be seen by its robust comeback," said Narayanan. Narayanan counts his team and all those associated with Nestle's products his true heroes and heroines of the recovery and said he owed a debt of gratitude to them.
Narayanan believes that team is above any single person and respect for each person irrespective of their status is an integral part of his value system. "I seek to enable and empower my colleagues to do their best for Nestle and for the society," said the turnaround CMD. He considers his high point to be seeing the smiles back on the faces of his team members.
"My factory colleagues, sales colleagues, head office colleagues, seeing happiness and relief on the faces of my trade partners, suppliers, millions of retailers and many thousands of people who derive a living from Nestle and Maggi and who had been affected by the crisis was my biggest high point," he said.
Being a part of the FMCG industry since more than three decades, Narayanan is not new to how important the consumer link is in the buisness. Narayanan's dream for Nestle India is to have a "Nestle family" that shows its excellence in growth, contribution to society, being a proud and contributing corporate citizen and enabling its people to be the best in what they do.
"If this can be achieved with a strong sense of purpose, with values of honesty, ethics, respect, dedication and humility, I believe I would be a fairly successful leader at the Nestle India team," said Narayanan. A strong believer of change, Narayanan asserted that if he can see logic, passion, benefit and a better place for himself and his organisation with change, than he passionately, patiently and logically espouses the cause to his colleagues. "I am aware that patience, dedication, hard work, transparency and humility are essential in convincing people and I try and do my best," added Narayanan.
(This article was first published in the July issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)