By SANDY CLARKE
It’s no secret that diversity in the workplace increases productivity and enhances innovation, particularly as technology and data drive the need for new talents and fresh perspectives.
A primary call of diversity in the workplace in Asia is to increase the number of women leaders in management roles to push profitability and performance in industries such as supply chain management.
In Mumbai, India, Neha Parekh has been General Manager (GM) of Planning at Godrej Consumer Products for the past two years. In an interview with host Riddhi Parikh Mehta, she spoke about the opportunities of supply chain management in India, and the challenges she faced in taking up a demanding role.
Godrej’s selection of some of their biggest brands across three categories – home care, hair care and personal care. Photo source: https://www.godrejcp.com/brands.aspx
That said, Neha is no stranger to diverse, demanding roles. Stints at international logistics firm Aramex, manufacturing company Pidilite Industries, and six years at Johnson & Johnson have helped her hone her robust leadership style that led to the GM appointment at Godrej.
Opportunities of supply chain management in India
For the uninitiated, supply chain refers to links between a company and its suppliers to help facilitate the production and supply of products to the consumer. The job of supply chain management is to optimise the whole process, which helps to lower costs and produce a faster production turnaround.
Godrej Consumer Products is part of Godrej Group, established over 120 years ago and built on a foundation of innovation and disruption since its founding. According to Neha, Godrej is growing from strength to strength at a rapid speed in exciting times of disruption throughout India. She believes supply chain is the perfect industry for young professionals today. She said:
“In the next decade or so, the industry which will see the fastest growth is going to be supply chain. With e-commerce evolving in India, more and more players are wanting to establish themselves, because now with the government regulations changing, it will allow the Walmarts of the world to come and setup their stores.”
“It will allow all the companies to come in and put lot of investment. Supply chain has a promising career, which is crucial; hence, I want to invite lot of young leaders to come and join.”
One of the key benefits of entering the supply chain industry is the professional growth and development offered by Godrej Consumer Products, as the company focuses on delivering high-quality customer service, disruptive innovation, and maintaining low costs.
You may be interested in: How Supply Chain Management Is Helping Malaysia Compete Internationally
Balancing between work and family
As part of her own professional journey, Neha took on the GM role at a time when she was just coming out of maternity leave. At the time, she had a child who was ‘barely a year old’, which left the new mother with a dilemma: would taking up the post at Godrej diminish her role as a parent?
After Neha discussed her concerns with her husband and family, she was relieved to find that they encouraged her to take the job – “if you don’t take a risk in your career now, when will you?”
Neha and family. Photo source: http://www.monday-8am.com/making-it-work-as-a-working-parent/
It’s a challenge that many women face in their careers, as they strive to balance work and family commitments. Having a supportive family certainly makes the balancing act easier to achieve, and Godrej was able to bring on board a woman with a wealth of leadership and an obvious passion for what she does.
Speaking about how she adapted to her new role and family life, Neha said, “I moved to a house closer to my office, and I looked into day care to ensure my child would be settled. My parents and my in-laws also offered their support. They came with us for a couple of months so that I could settle, have that easy first 3-4 months.
“Even at the office, the culture was very welcoming. So, at the end of the day, I don’t think I compromised on my value of giving enough time and attention to my child, nor on committing to my career.”
Read: Career Or Motherhood?
Challenges as a leader
When asked about the challenges that come with managing a team and being a leader, Neha is able to draw on her leadership through the years to tap into what her employees value and need in terms of support.
Working with a group comprising primarily of Millennials, Neha believes that regular feedback is the key to helping employees know where they’re at, how they can build on their strengths and where they might need to improve. She also recognises that meaningful work and job satisfaction is important and works to ensure that employees have what they need to find purpose in what they do.
Support is key
The Godrej GM is also proud of India’s shift in providing more support for women looking to get into leadership roles – a move that benefits organisations as well as the women themselves. From the provision of six months’ maternity pay to flexible working hours, companies are recognising the importance of diversity in the workplace.
Neha said, “Earlier, I think India took a while to adapt to having women in leadership. It was a little bit of a tough journey because this was at a purely cultural level. Even at our roots, as part of our socio-economic culture, females are supposed to be calmer, to not have a voice of their own, to abide by decisions and play nice.”
“But now, all of this is changing and it is starting from the home to offices. Therefore, I feel the leaders are also much more welcoming. Women are given a lot of chances. Companies are investing a lot in honing them.”
Sandy is a freelance writer based in Malaysia, and previously enjoyed 10 years as a journalist and broadcaster in the UK. He has been fortunate to gain valuable insights into what makes us tick, which has deepened his interests in leadership, emotions, mindfulness, and human behaviour.