Ajay Bijli, chairman and managing director, PVR Ltd, commenced his entrepreneur career by pioneering the multiplex revolution in India. A Harvard Business School alumnus and a Hindu College graduate, Bijli harboured his ambitions to provide the best of movie entertainment to Indian audience, who had long been starved of quality cinema viewing experience. He spoke to HT about various leadership issues. Excerpts:
How do you define a leader?
A true leader possesses diverse qualities. He needs to be able to articulate a clear vision and set realistic organisational goals. A motivator, great orator and listener, he practices what he preaches. He should be humble but not self-effacing, disciplined in his approach and display high integrity.
What are the most important traits of a leader?
He must be able to define a clear vision that’s challenging, must command respect by having the integrity and skills to manage all stakeholders effectively.
As a leader of your group, how do you cultivate leaders?
By giving them responsibility, empowerment and space to operate.
Can leadership be learnt? In other words, how can a manager become a leader?
Even if people say that they are born leaders, they still need to constantly hone their skills to lead. You constantly need to learn and enhance your leadership skills. Managers can be leaders with proper training but they need to display some important traits of leadership qualities early on.
What is the role of a leader in times of economic crisis?
It is important for him to ensure that his team is aware of and fully geared up to face any adversity. He should be armed with a clear-cut action plan to take care of external and internal issues to ensure the ship stays afloat. And this is where equanimity is important - leaders need to show composure.
What has been the biggest leadership challenge you’ve faced?
It has been a 23-year-old journey so far. The most epochal one for me has been my father’s unexpected demise. It was a very unfortunate way to get to learn how to handle things at the helm of affairs.
Do you think the role of business leaders has come under cloud — globally and domestically — of late?
I don’t think so. There are several inspirational leaders who have created iconic companies. As long as leaders run their businesses with integrity and sincerity with a view to creating business that touch people’s lives and don’t compromise on business ethics while doing so- there are no dark shadows to be cast.
What is your one-line leadership mantra?
Enter the office every day to earn respect and reputation — that’s how wealth will be created.
Who is a leader in your industry that your respect?
What is the biggest leadership lesson that you have learnt?
Be humble, a lot was accomplished before you were born .
What has been your best leadership decision till now?
If I were to choose one in recent times, the Cinemax acquisition was an important one for PVR. I am glad we were able to succeed that created a clear distinction in the exhibition industry in terms of quality and quantity.
And, the worst decision?
Again, I never evaluate decisions in those terms. Perhaps trying to diversify into multiple verticals at a very early stage of our journey at the cost of our core business may not have been a good idea.