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Lessons for Next Gen: Learning to shift gears in life

By Ved Krishna

My father loved his work. He was very hands on and exceptionally motivated to learn and excel. He built a wonderful organisation from scratch and experimented all the time towards improvements.

I inherited the company from him in 1999 as he went off to travel the world on a motorcycle. He would always encourage us to face challenges and find our own solutions as the firm belief that he came with was that there were no right answers.

I made umpteen errors of judgement (and continue to do so…) as I learnt the ropes of business. The business grew many fold purely based on enthusiasm and desire for growth. I also continually strived to be more and more like my father until I realised that I just wasn’t having fun.

I toyed with ideas of what my true purpose was and felt that the business I had inherited was not my calling. Each time I pondered about what I would have done if I had chosen a different path it became amply clear that it would be something to do with nature.

Then I realised that there was so much that we could do with what we already had. We were producing paper for packaging and the deepest damage that was coming to our planet was through indiscriminate use of single use plastics.

We dug deep to define our purpose as an organisation and began work to find substitutes for bags and styrofoam (thermocol). The universe also started to conspire and sent many wonderful ideas and technologies.

I also realised that I was not operations led like my father and my strengths lay in conceptualisation and strategy. Once again as my realisations became stronger the right direction and people started to appear.

We just completed setting up the largest bagasse (sugarcane waste) based compostable tableware unit and are so excited about pushing the same out. It is a very different ball game and we are learning the ropes.

Pulp and Paper is a commodity business where we work through certain merchant channels whereas we decided to establish a brand with the new set of products. The scenario has changed so much with direct consumer access through digital media.

It is a huge paradigm shift for us. We need to access and partner with like minded individuals and create deeper influences that would drive people to find our products. We plan to find ways to educate and align more with youngsters to be able to make a change in times to come.

It will be an interesting journey for CHUK (our brand). We want it to be able to provide consumers with an alternate that enables them to eat food out of a product that is natural and carries no carcinogens. It is also a product that when disposed well benefits the planet instead of harming.

We look to understand and learn as we plan to provide more and more safe alternates to the world at large and look forward to leaving behind a cleaner planet than the one we found.

We are deeply connected to a family business and I have often been asked how we transition and grow from the same. In my case I was the only family that was in the business and it was a blessing to be able to find wonderful people to join the journey. As we professionalise we are not hampered by the legacy of having to utilise capabilities of different family members and can find the right talent for the business.

As we grow I realise how important finding purpose and meaning truly is. It changes everything. We need to enable our teams to be able to find and align their purposes with that of the organisation. We then will create a charged set of volunteers rather than people trying to work for a living.

The writer is Head of Strategy at Yash Papers

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