A highlight of my first term at Imperial was Niren Chaudhary’s ‘My Leadership Life Lessons’ talk as part of the CEO Speaker Series. Niren is President of the KFC division, a subsidiary of Yum! Brands, Inc. and has extensive experience in India.
I have a budding interest in emerging markets and have spent the past couple of years exploring international expansion for my employer in Brazil and South America. However, after hearing Niren’s talk and chatting with some inspiring classmates from India, I may refocus my attentions.
What made the talk so effective was Niren’s clear passion for Yum!’s operations in India, and the way he structured his comments around four key emerging market takeaways for the audience.
- Think ‘youthful and aspirational’ from social media to the in-store experience. Be informed by the demographics. The median age in India is 28 and 35% of Yum!’s Facebook fans come from India.
- Innovate. Take a global brand and build a gateway by making it relevant and accessible for the local market. 60% of India is vegetarian, obviously not ideal for Kentucky Fried Chicken! Yum! innovations included KFC ‘So Veg So Good’ and the Birizza for Pizza Hut, a cross between biryani and pizza!
- Affordability is key. For Yum! this involved price-led innovation to tap into the vast number of consumers who needed affordably priced products. Reengineer and innovate for the price point required to unlock that volume. Of course, you must maintain quality!
- Business with purpose. Do it because it is difficult. Make your company a tremendous example of what the country ought to be – fix what you have control over. Yum! championed female employees, running one restaurant with only female staff and requiring 30% of all employees in each store to be female. They also embraced speech and hearing impaired employees, helping other staff to learn sign language and redesigning kitchens. Now, close to 400 employees are hearing and speech impaired.
Niren also said that if you want to work in emerging markets, you ‘need to be comfortable living with a rollercoaster ride’. This particular remark resonated with me on many levels; the MBA so far has felt like a wonderful rollercoaster! His talk brought together several themes for me: my wish to work abroad; my position as a committee member for the business school Sustainability in Business Club; and an upcoming analysis and presentation that I was writing for my Strategy class on Zara’s entry to the Indian market.
I look forward to attending more CEO Speaker Series events this year. They are an excellent opportunity to learn from, be inspired by, and of course network with current business leaders in whose footsteps I hope to follow.