SuperChat with SuperCFO – Rajesh Surana

Rajesh Surana This week on SuperChat with SuperCFO, we are proud to present Rajesh Surana, CFO at Holcim (Lanka) Ltd, which is a part of the global Holcim group. Being the market leader in the cement industry, the company focuses on Economic, Social, and Environmental performance along the triple bottom line of sustainable development. Rajesh heads the Finance and Accounts function for them out of their Sri Lanka office. Rajesh has over 14 years of work experience with Multinational Companies (all are world leaders in their respective fields).
In this freewheeling chat, Rajesh talks about the lighter facets of life, his passion for writing in the digital and electronic age, why he admires Ratan Tata, Dhirubhai Ambani and Narayana Murthy amongst a host of other interesting perspectives and philosophies on management and life.

Education: IMD (International Institute for Management Development) – Business Programs, Mangement Program, Strategy, leadership, marketing, manufacturing, finance & accounting – University of St. Gallen, FCA: Accounting, Audit, Company Law, Financial Management – The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, FCS: Company Law,Secretarial,Legal – Institute of Company Secretaries of India

Companies Worked with: Holcim (Lanka) Limited; Delphi Automotive Systems; SABMiller India Ltd; A.F.Ferguson & Co.

SuperCFO: What particular skills or talents are most essential to be effective in your job apart from formal training?
Rajesh Surana:
1. Gaining deep understanding of business is most important. A CFO has to co-pilot the CEO and steer the business in the right direction, while ensuring robust controls and financial discipline.
2. Acting as a role model for the team; showing genuine efforts in their development; coaching and mentoring them.
3. Effective communication and expectation management.
4. Delivering results.

SuperCFO: Who is your role model and why?
Rajesh Surana: I do not have any role model as such. However, I admire those people who find their inner fire and are go getter; no matter what the world says, no matter what adverse circumstances they face, they do not stop until they achieve their mission

SuperCFO: What has been your biggest achievement professionally?
Rajesh Surana: I had a satisfactory professional life. I graduated from one of the best colleges of Commerce in Asia, was in the merit list of CA and CS exams. I became Head of Finance of Holcim (India) at the age of 28, and promoted a year later as South Asia CFO for Holcim Services. At 33, I was appointed as Country CFO for Cement operations of Holcim Sri Lanka

SuperCFO: Who are the 3 Corporate Honchos you admire a lot and why?
Rajesh Surana:
1. Dhirubhai Ambani; for his clear vision, proactive implementation of the same, and successfully executing that vision into personal and professional success.
2. Narayan Murthy for being the frontrunner of the IT revolution in India and for sharing of wealth with the stakeholders.
3. Ratan Tata; for taking the Tata group to the next quantum leap while maintaining a strong sense of business ethics, and managing to carve out a global vision for his group.

SuperCFO: Which are the 3 companies you admire a lot and why?
Rajesh Surana:
1. Apple for clear understanding of the customer needs and delivering it through simple innovations and their great marketing and unique selling propositions.
2. Google for creating wealth of information which enables us to take faster decisions.
3. Microsoft, for heralding a revolution in the software world and innovating products, which make our professional lives much more efficient.

SuperCFO: Assume that you are indulging in role play. If you were given the position of the Finance Minister of your country, what would your top priority agenda items be?
Rajesh Surana:
1. Simplifying the highly complex and cascading tax structure.
2. Stopping all employment guarantee schemes and creating more jobs through capital spending in infrastructure
3. Reducing people in government departments through process simplification, standardization & automation.
4. Creating level playing field for SMEs to compete with the best in the world

SuperCFO: What would you advise aspiring CFOs on dos and don’ts to become a successful CFO?
Rajesh Surana:
1. Never compromise with your integrity.
2. Be flexible to support the business, but if you have a point of view, express it openly & clearly.
3. Communicate effectively.
4. Always look at the big picture and avoid the accounting mentality.
5. Do not wait; take decisions.

SuperCFO: What are your 3 “Must Ask” questions in an interview?
Rajesh Surana:
1. What do you want to become and how are you going to achieve it?
2. If selected, what are the three things that would be your priority?
3. What would you like to achieve in the first 90 days of your employment in the company?
Usually I focus more on the attitude of the person and clarity of mind over technical skills.

SuperCFO: Which is one accounting software that has impressed you and why?
Rajesh Surana: I am greatly impressed by Tally, having used it for so many years for my personal accounting work as well as during the initial part of my career. I have never come across a better and simpler accounting package than Tally.

SuperCFO: How do you manage talent with in your team?
Rajesh Surana:
1. Continuous Engagement beyond work. Sometimes having a coffee is more fruitful than a business like discussion.
2. Giving clear feedback – most managers are afraid of giving clear feedback.

3. Celebrating every success – recognition of words is no less than monetary rewards
4. Discussing their developmental needs and playing the role of a mentor in their achieving them.

SuperCFO: Are you a gizmo freak? What is your favorite gadget?
Rajesh Surana: I am not really a Gizmo freak. I am still fond of writing and most of the time; I need a piece of paper to draw my mind onto it. In gadgets, I primarily use my
Blackberry and iPad/iPod, which have made my life so easy and efficient that I cannot think of living without them.

SuperCFO: What is your favorite piece of literature?
Rajesh Surana: I read a lot about spirituality and religion. In addition to that I like the two great Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, both of which contain the best case studies on leadership than found anywhere else. The stories of Panchatantra remain etched our memories and will continue to do so as a beacon, guiding us through the inclement phases of our lives and helping us prepare for all eventualities.

SuperCFO: Any sport that you are passionate about?
Rajesh Surana: Among indoor games, I enjoy chess & carom. Among outdoor games I like to play badminton and I mostly watch all cricket matches.

SuperCFO: Describe some of the activities that you undertake to de stress yourself?
Rajesh Surana: I go to the gym regularly and am also fond of walking/jogging & swimming when the time permits me. In the evenings I very often go for a coffee with a friend or spend time with the kid’s which is the best de stressing activity.

SuperCFO: What has been your favorite vacation destination and why?
Rajesh Surana: Switzerland is my most favourite vacation destination. I also like to spend time in Bali (Indonesia) which contains some of the nicest beaches. In India I like to go to the picturesque locations of Rajasthan viz. Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur. I also like to go to the hill stations of Manali, Sikkim, Ladakh & Kashmir

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