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The Great Indian CEO Hunt continues -- How the game changes

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The Great Indian CEO Hunt continues -- How the game changes

The hunt for an Indian media company CEO continues, and head hunters are of the opinion that while the disproportionate demand and supply of the talent has made the hunt difficult, and even tougher to get the right fit for a longer period, they believe that in the course of time, the right talent pool would be created. This would happen in much the same way that it was created, when the media and entertainment sector was just finding its footing in India.

Abha Kapoor, Co-founder, K&J Search Consultants, a player that has been in the business of executive search for over 12 years, placing professionals at senior management and CEO/MD levels, explained, "Finding the right fit from the existing space for a senior level is a problem on account of the limited talent pool, and the special requirements of each engagement in terms of the softer issues like cultural fit, etc."

“If we were to look at candidates from other categories, then with little or no domain knowledge they are, prima facie, not the perfect fit in the short term. However, we believe, high calibre talent can ramp up their domain expertise and transition their competencies fairly quickly into the media and entertainment space. Experience and emotional maturity are the key gaps in skills at the CXO level. These positions impact all aspects of the organisation and have to successfully interface with all stakeholders and manage multiple variables -- EQ is the key for successfully executing these roles,” Kapoor further elaborated.

Rajendra Mehta, VP and HR Head, Times Internet Ltd, said, "It is very difficult to find a 100 per cent fit for senior management role, since the pace of work and expectation is so high that subsequent to hirings, the weak links start becoming a hindrance to operational success. Finding the right person and ability to attract people from the same domain is extremely difficult, and it's more on account of unavailability of exact resources. The challenge is to pin point the dominant competency requirements in CEO role."

The head hunters identify that the challenge is also from the candidate’s perspective, which is not just to manage candidate expectations especially in terms of pricing, but also ensuring long-term commitment from the candidate, as invariably there are numerous options in the media space today, and also across other emerging categories.

Media companies must change mindsets

Looking at the situation more critically, Kapoor observed, “In some ways this talent paucity is self-inflicted. Many organisations in the space are demanding talent with domain expertise and becoming risk averse to talent from other categories. When we started our search firm 12 years ago, specialising in the media and entertainment sector, we had no existing talent pool. We helped create that first talent pool as organisational heads gave us the flexibility, out of compulsion and not choice, to access other categories -- sectors where there were professionals who could transition their skills into the media and entertainment sector – so we found for them CEOs, General Managers, Functional Heads across HR, Finance, Distribution, Sales, Creative, Marketing, from FMCG and other traditional categories.”

“Subsequently, over the years, however, as the talent pool grew their expertise in the media and entertainment sector, most clients imposed stringent restrictions on us. We were asked increasingly to source professionals only from the media and entertainment sector. So, in a way, our work became increasingly constrained as it was a very limited talent pool, and as huge demand was chasing a limited supply,” Kapoor said.

Mehta added here, “With domains becoming very specific and very niche, it’s highly difficult to find and exact resources. Therefore, the only answer is to hire an individual for dominating competencies of the role and developing on the shadow competencies.”

The HR head of a leading international broadcast company in India explained, “You would expect a CEO’s function to be the most supported, given the pressure that it comes with. However, that is not the support that the companies in India are necessarily getting from international counterparts. The targets are unreasonable and the patience is limited. What would make any professional hold on to such a situation riddled with high-levelled pressures?”

Talent pool has to grow

At one level, experts believe that the talent pool will in any case grow -- both organically and inorganically. Kapoor explained, “Going forward, the middle management will need to be trained for broader roles in general management, which would lead to growth from the industry. Also, there would be talent acquisition from other sectors.”

The CEOs themselves should have the responsibility to ensure that the pool grows.

Mehta observed, “The CEO is a thought leader role and hence, getting strategic domain specific input to the organisation is a must for a long-term organisational growth. Finding a person from the global community is an answer to enlarging the pool of resources. The operational effectiveness should be left to the operational COO, CFO or the second line leadership team, and the CEO should build them for tomorrow’s leadership roles.”

Kapoor stated, “One of the most critical KRAs of every CEO in the media sector should be the development of an extremely capable and second line of command. More importantly, investing and developing talent needs to be built into the DNA of the industry, and for that, the ownership would rest with the CEO and top management. The CEOs of media companies should put together a collective vision for creating and nurturing a substantial talent pool, as also invest time and money on employer branding. They also will need to be flexible and farsighted in terms of acquisition of talent from other sectors.”

In today’s environment, the CEO’s role is no longer limited to a specific domain or geography. In a rapidly growing economy, one of the fastest growing sectors is media, and the CEO’s role will now require the ability to create a differentiated offering, the ability to identify and seize new business opportunities, all the while ensuring talent acquisition, training and retention.

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The Great Indian CEO Hunt


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