How Mohit Malhotra changed the way he was appointed CEO

How Mohit Malhotra changed the way he was appointed CEO

The transitions to the CEO's post are riddled with challenges. Professional CEOs in family-owned businesses are more likely to be the case. You can ask Mohit Malhotra who became CEO of FMCG major Dabur in 2019. Despite having been with the company for 25 years, his ascension to the top job wasn't easy.

When I became India CEO a year ago, I questioned all old systems and processes. It was very rough for me, but I stuck to my guns and the company decided to give me a free hand, Malhotra told Business Today. He was eventually promoted CEO from a bunch of contenders, but not before he was put through a series of rigorous tests. Dabur called for an external agency to conduct a thorough assessment, even though he had known Malhotra in and out of various roles. A rigorous written aptitude test, a psychometric test, a 360 degree survey and a 360 degree survey of Malhotra conducted by global leadership advisory firm Egon Zehnder.

A full dossier was compiled on my strengths and weaknesses. I was sent to Portugal for an executive breakthrough programme to smoothen the rough edges exposed during the process, says Malhotra. The 10 day curriculum had 7 CEOs from different countries coached by 11 experts. It was a 10 day programme where I had to stay in a hotel and under 24 7 on-camera observation. They even observed how I slept and how I woke up. In the mornings, we had to report at 7.30 for case studies. When I came out of it, I was naked, so to speak. There were one-to- one exercises with the coaches, impromptu speeches, etc. They knew me inside out. But it taught me to be transparent for six months after that, they observed me and only gave me this mantle, he says.

After all, Dabur couldn't afford to go wrong again, having burnt their fingers with their first professional CEO.

One of the first Indian family-owned businesses to professionalise, its journey had a rocky start when its first CEO, Ninu Khanna left in three years in 2002. The Burmans were keen to hand over the reins. After a bit of introspection and corrections in corporate governance with Accenture s help, they chose company insider Sunil Duggal as CEO. The strategy has since worked for the 1 lakh-crore market cap company whose reins passed from Duggal to Mohit Malhotra in 2019.