Wednesday, Sep 28, 2022
Outlook Business Initiative

The Turnaround Man

Puneet Gupta, Managing Director of Franke Faber India, is the man credited with the turnaround of the company over the last three years, He is the man who worked on the blueprint to see the company regain & cement its leadership stance in the kitchen appliances. Charting new successes for the company, which has completed 23 years in India, through innovation and new product launches, Gupta spells out what drives him.

The Turnaround Man
The Turnaround Man

Would you call yourself a workaholic or do you tilt towards ensuring work-life balance?

Workaholic is someone who loves work and enjoys it fully. It’s like pursuing your dearest hobby, wholeheartedly and all the time. And when you love your work and thereby life, the question of work-life balance doesn’t play out. One ensures the balance on an auto mode, subconsciously, like how one changes the gear of a car without making a concerted effort. I am no different.  You may call me a “work lover” with a seamless work- life balance. And yes, it’s the quality and not the quantity of time that makes your work-life balance perfect.

How do you spend your leisure time?

My leisure time is primarily spent with my family mostly at home unless we go outstation for vacation. We like to do small things together like watching TV, dining out, discussing various topics, etc. Family time works as a stress buster. It is not a conscious effort but it works out well.

Your official profile describes you as a person who is passionate about “turning around ” businesses and making them sustainable and profitable. What is your mantra?

I have been very fortunate to have been a part of business turnaround efforts a couple of times over the last two and a half decades of my career with different companies. An artist loves “creating” and leaving behind a “legacy”. For me, the business world is all about being a “corporate artist”, one who turnarounds a brand, nurtures a winning team, creates value for all stakeholders and  surely sustains and grows profitably. The passion to create a legacy can’t be stated enough.

My simple mantra is ‘ABC’, which is not merely an acronym. It is exactly the philosophy that I follow to empower my team.

A stands for Action without any fear of failure . For both creativity and organisation speed, decision making is critical and for that fear of risk has to be out. So the work has to be done in an entrepreneurial manner with a complete sense of ownership. To really unleash the power of passion, the culture of fearlessness is a powerful catalyst. This is true empowerment.

B is Belief: I strongly believe that “What mind can perceive, body can achieve”. Collective as a team if we have a belief and we can clearly articulate the strategy for both short and long term actions and milestones, it will happen. Conviction creates magic for sure and I believe that the universe conspires to make things happen in your favour.

C is Consumer / internal customer centricity:  Consumers being the core of all actions , always. When it is not about consumers, because its sales , service and marketers who get to interact with them, the rest of the departments rarely meet them, so for them it is the internal customers. Once the concept of serving and delighting your customer is embedded in the system , it is eventually the consumer who gets rewarded. Be it the R&D, Manufacturing , HR or Finance, the internal customer centricity is what we drive. To explain sales is the customer for manufacturing while purchase and quality see manufacturing as their internal customers & so on. If you start delighting, the chain eventually goes to the consumer.

The overarching theme always has been to invest in talent , innovation & processes to achieve operational excellence.

Since it is People first, I firmly believe in “Together we shall prevail”.

Is this the philosophy that you bring to Franke Faber?

Yes. It is the stated or unstated customer centricity mantra along with others that we bring to our operations. To serve and delight is the single minded objective of all our team members. This also ensures no SILO’s in the system as its the empathy among departments takes over the thoughts.

Puneet Gupta

Managing Director of Franke Faber India

In your professional journey over two decades, what has been your biggest success and of course failure?

The biggest success I would possibly say is the transformation of Franke Faber in India over the last 3 years. We were a loss making company for 5 years prior to 2015, with lots of accumulated losses & a severe cash crunch . Today we are a debt free company , with cash reserves. We are taking a decent profit, have increased our turnover big time , brand affinity scores are at the highest, Creativity is high, launched new innovative consumer relevant products , experience centres & have just received the “Great Place To Work” certification. The fact that the entire Franke Faber team has a sense of pride in our turnaround is what is success for me. We are at a platform where we are ready to take off to the next level. Three years back , I couldn’t have dreamt of anything better than where we are today.

On failures, may be it sounds philosophical, but we learn from it. It is a fact of life whether personal or corporate. In my earlier roles,  there have been times in my earlier roles when I have failed to collaborate or failed to reach a consensus at the corporate level in terms of going aggressive, launching new products, launching new business models, and new categories.I firmly believe that at that point in time, had we done that, we would have scored very well. I think I failed to convince people of the fact that the team was ready, the brand was ready, the consumer was ready, and just needed a top down strategy and the momentum could have helped us sail through. Having failed there, now at the helm, I can do the needful. What I couldn’t achieve then is what I am attempting to do now.

We have launched new brands in India, have new business models, launched three more categories, and are planning launch of few more categories.

Under the “Faber” brand we have launched new categories like Cooktops , RO water purifiers , dishwashers & shall be entering small appliances domain in a couple of months. We now also have an exclusive world class “Faber Platinum “ products & a “Truly Italian” range in our offerings.

We have also launched our global brand “ Eurodomo “ exclusive with Amazon for kitchen appliances. Lots of action is happening around “Franke sinks” as well.

It is stated that your favourite acronym is CWM (come what may), what does it signify?

It is a dream with conviction. My experience tells me if a strong belief in the mission is there, then 99 per cent of the times you will succeed, irrespective of constraints or whatever unprecedented issues that might crop up. Once the decision is made & the team’s buyin & volition is there , the chances of failure are very low. When you talk of toughness of action, the tougher it is the better it is. CWM is a way of life for us at FFIL.

Are you able to easily tide over failures or do you take it to heart? In effect are you obsessive about winning?

Taking failure to ones heart is natural and important. It should happen to all. The important things is to get over with it and allow the mind to prevail over the heart as soon as possible. Failures make you stronger as doesn’t allow for complacency, draws your best in your next task and yes makes you enjoy the next win, even more! On being obsessive about winning, it is a strong word. Yes I am desirous of winning but would never take short or bad cuts to win. So while being passionate about winning, I am not obsessive about it.

What would you describe as your best management quality / practice?

Two things. First is  Walk the talk – it is the highest possible integrity level, be it one’s talk or acts, fairness in judgment and living up to unwritten commitments. This will surely help you earn the “trust” of people which probably is the most critical essentiality for a leader.

Second, I would say is being a coach. Someone who is prepared to  take a back seat but jump and play, if the need arises. It is like a father to a young boy, someone the kid looks up to and knows that he would be there to fight it out with him, if and when something goes awry. A good coach should be an epitome of love and empathy and the team should have unwavering faith in him.

Faber Hob Top; Faber RO Water Purifier

Who has been your greatest inspiration or your guru in your career journey?

Many of them and I still look for learning and inspiration from them across the hierarchies as it is not only seniors that one learns from. But one constant inspiration for me is Lord Krishna. It is HE who won the battle of Mahabharata without raising his weapon, even once. He was the biggest coach ever, helped Pandavas to win over a much stronger opposition, simply by guiding them both on strategy and operational tactics, taking a back seat. HIS deep involvement , awareness & strong logics to get team’s Buyin, is what resulted in getting the best out of the five brothers and their team. But for HIM, Kauravas would have possibly won the war in the first 7 days itself. HIS other teachings are also priceless but this is something that I am able to relate to.

What is you most prized possession and why?

A bit spiritual when it comes to materialism & thus no article etc is actually dear to me. The last time I was possessive about something was a “knuckle duster” decades back. Prized possession @ anytime now is the “last win of my team” till the next battle is won.

How would you describe the Indian market? Is brand loyalty the driving force or do changing trends influence the market?

Indian market is surely the most interesting market of the world. Its growing rapidly both horizontally and vertically. Consumer is intelligent and isn’t anymore ready to get carried away with brand legacies or the marketing gimmicks. Best in class product quality with consumer compelling features at a reasonable price is what he looks for. If these are available then brand affinity provides the additional confidence. In effect, innovation and quality works out for future brand loyalty.

In the case of Faber, which has been a leader in India with 70-90% market share from 1995 to 2010, was a generic name for chimneys. Post 2008, all global players entered the market. As Faber possibly didn’t adapt , it lost out to rivals for a few years. But now that we are back in the reckoning, strong on innovation and product launches , the brand Faber in kitchen appliances and Franke in sinks has reached unprecedented heights in terms of brand loyalty and of course numbers. Launching of Worlds Only 3D hoods with 3 way suction was one such example where a better product has created a change in trend among the consumer fraternity.

What are your targets for Franke Faber in the short and long terms?

Franke Faber is confident of being a Rs. 1000 crore company soon. It has two strong manufacturing set ups in Pune & Aurangabad ,a world class R&D facility, a global Centre of excellence , enviously strong brand strength, best possible team, loyal channel partners, 200 plus Faber galleries and upcoming 25 world class experience centers “Faber Platinum studios” and a structured plan of moving to smaller towns, launching newer categories / global brands in India & to export out sinks and appliances globally. The future is filled with lots of action and fun.

What is the part of your career or life would you like to have changed and why?

I can’t think of any such part. What I could have done better and more is social work a bit early in my life. It could have possibly influenced many more people on these lines than what I have succeeded in doing so far. I am working on more in that direction.

Any secret ambition or desire that could change the course of your life?

My one ambition is to be able to donate 50% of my networth to charity. I am working on it & planning to do so CWM. God willing it should happen soon. One of the cliched reason is some xyz events have got to happen before one can take this call. Facilitating a turnaround for less privileged and needy humans is the true “kick” I seek to participate in. May the force be with me in making life really meaningful.

(Puneet Gupta heads Franke Faber India Pvt. Ltd, a  leading kitchen appliances manufacturer, operations. With “Franke” and “Faber” brands, the company is part of 2.5 billion CHF (Swiss Francs) Franke Artemis Group, which has business interests in Kitchen Systems, Food Service, Coffee Systems, Beverage Systems & Washroom Systems and has presence in over 70 countries.)


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