COO, Hypermarkets, Aditya Birla Retail
GOAL IN LIFE: Retire from Aditya Birla group as a business director. And, become a good husband and father.
BEST LEADERSHIP LESSON: Listen to everyone.
Suraj Bahirwani joined the Aditya Birla group in 2002, after completing his management studies and PhD, and has stayed there ever since. This stickiness has precedence. His family, originally from the Sindh province in Pakistan, had migrated to Hyderabad at the time of Partition. The family members prospered in the real estate business in the south Indian city, but have never spread out.
Bahirwani started his career as executive assistant to Aditya Birla Group Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla, who mentored him for four years. He worked with varied businesses including mining, chemicals and fertilisers before moving to retail. "Since I was part of varied operations, I never felt work fatigue," he says. He worked in the food and grocery business since its inception and was also part of the team that handled the acquisition of supermarket chain Trinethra in 2006. One of his personal achievements is the turning around of the retail business in coastal Andhra, he says.
Bahirwani climbed up the corporate ladder quickly and was appointed as the COO of the group's hypermarkets in January 2014. He spearheaded the launch of 14 out of 16 of the company's hypermarkets in the country. He travels three to four days in a week, meeting employees and consumers to understand how the business is changing. Bahirwani, who is married with a six-year-old daughter, is busy even on weekends when the stores get higher footfalls. "Working in organised retail is a different experience," he says. "The business is still at a nascent stage in the country. We do test various models to stay put."