Mar 16, 2006

Indian HR Thought Leader Shabbir Merchant




Shabbir Merchant is the Executive Vice President, Consulting Services & CEO – International Business at Grow Talent. He leads the South India office, headquartered at Bangalore.

Before Grow Talent, Shabbir was the General Manager and Head Human Resources of Wipro Infotech, responsible for the entire HR function for its India, Middle East and Asia Pacific Operations. Before Wipro, Shabbir was part of the HR function of Eicher.

Shabbir has done his Masters in Personnel Management from Symbiosis Institute of Business Management, Pune. He is married to Shamim and has an 8 year old daughter, Sabah. He is an avid reader and enjoys music.

"Where do you see the future of the work and what skills should young professionals build to be ready for further challenges?"

Yesterday was Holi, and in Bangalore which is not a very hot spot for Holi Celebrations, I celeberated Holi by watching " Rang de Basanti". The movie got me thinking on the Youth in India and how this MTV generation is going to shape themselves and India, and this morning when i came to office, Gautam's email asking me to write for his blog, seemed to connect.

The question which Gautam has put forth to me on how do I see the future of work and what skills should young professionals build, is an interesting and deeply provoking question. In my view, there is a strong co relation between "Work" and "Ambition". Our Ambition seeks us to get in touch with Work which is meaningful to us. Let me get out of the esoteric frame and bring the logic to a dimension of reality. What Work we do, is the creation of the Ambition we have for ourselves.

Let me start with the story of my friend "AG" who was a colleague with me in Wipro. He was an engineer and had a very long and succesfull stint in Wipro. When i was the HR head, he put in his papers and was to join Reliance Infocomm at a very high salary ( these were the days when reliance infocomm was commencing operations) . I was completely puzzled. Here was a professional who i knew was a very sincere, straight forward, hardworking& values driven - how could he want to join reliance infocomm. In my counseling session with him, he told me "Shabbir, I cannot share with you why i am doing what I am doing, but there is a plan and I cannot share this plan with you now". Anyway, I did not understand his plan and he left Wipro. After a year or so, even I left Wipro and joined Grow Talent an HR Consulting Firm to set up their South India and Sri lanka operations. 2 years after AG had left Wipro to join Reliance, he called me and told me that he was quitting Reliance and starting up on his own. I thought that AG must be starting the dealership of some IT company or something in manufacturing ( after all he was an engineer and was a Sales and marketing professional ). But to my surprise, AG told me that he was starting a private investment management company. i.e. he would be managing investments for professionals. When I met AG in Chennai, he told me that doing financial research was his passion, and he had been doing a lot of reading from guru's like Warren Buffet and the like. He therefore wanted to start off on his own. I told him that passion and all was fine, but wasn;t he risking by giving up a corporate career to start up something on his own, that too in a completely different field. AG said that he was confident that he would be successful in Investment and Portfolio management, and more importantly he said he "enjoyed" doing this work. AG now has around 15 odd clients ( including yours truly ) and he manages overall a portfolio of close to Rs 2 - 3 crores.

To me AG is a metaphor for "Work - Ambition". He discovered what his passion was and made that his Ambition and he veered towards making that his Work. I think the same is true for the rest of us as well. Whatever is our Ambition and our passion, we tend to have work around that. I have known several professionals who do their MBA from premier institutes and because their ambition is to earn better income, most of them end up doing work which is uninspiring and monotonous ( I know I am generalising - but I am doing so to make a point).

Therefore, the future of Work is dependent on what Ambition we harbour for ourselves and our ability to identify our passion and the courage and will to go after our passion. I do believe that there is a larger force that connects us to Work which we truly desire. And therefore to young professionals I would say that go beyond the Chimera of good looking salaries, well sounding titles and beautiful offices. Push yourselves to discover your passion, and build your Ambition around your passion, and the work which you will do will be extremely gratifying and meaningful. Discovering your passion is not an easy task and it could take many years, however so long as you are on the right road, in the right vehcle, with the right companions, the journey is as enjoyable as the destination.

Earlier Thought Leaders featured: Abhijit Bhaduri