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"Dissent is the Voice of Progress"

Mahesh Balasubramanian, MD & CEO, Kotak Mahindra General Insurance

Mahesh Balasubramanian, MD & CEO, Kotak Mahindra General Insurance

Q: What was the problem you were grappling with?

A: This goes back to 2000, when I was part of a financial services start-up with five co-founders. We raised capital, built scale. Later, the business was acquired. This experience of being an entrepreneur is perhaps my biggest learning. All co-founders were passionate individuals, who gave up well established careers to pursue their dream of building a company. The senior-most was the CEO. We used to have divergent views on strategy and execution. So, we set two rules: One, all of us will state views, opinions and differences openly as we all were co-founders and equally concerned about outcomes. Two, after all the views are heard, the final call will be taken by the CEO.

Q: Who did you approach for advice and why?

A: This advice was given to me by a former colleague who was an HR professional.

Q: What was the advice?

A: Dissent is the voice of progress; carry your team along with you.

Q: How effective was it?

A: Since then, I have used "dissent is the voice of progress" in all interactions with teams, both as a leader and a follower. I joined Kotak Bank in 2005 and was part of the team which set up the retail branch banking business. I encouraged colleagues to treat the business as if they owned it. In 2014, when I started setting up Kotak General Insurance, we hired a team of CXOs and gave them founding-member status to create a sense of ownership. This has helped my career and helped me retain talent and get best ideas.

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