The Mogul Behind The Most Successful Companies in India

Piyush Sharma has been the CEO and leader of multi billion dollar companies in India.

Our goal at Going Green is to share the stories of sustainable and cleantech leaders from around the world . We had the chance to sit down with Piyush Sharma, a global tech, media, and entrepreneurial leader who has been the Board-Member and CEO of multi-billion-dollar organizations over the last 20 years. Piyush shares his perspective on helping grow, scale, and invest in some of the most successful companies in India.

Piyush, thank you for being here. Tell us about your career up until this point.

I am a cross-sectoral leader operating at the intersection of industry, academia, government, multilaterals and the start-up and technology ecosystem. I am an independent consultant. I am also an X-i-R @UCLA Anderson School of Management.

Tell us a little bit about you and your background: 

I am the Executive-in-Residence at UCLA and am a Stanford SEED Consultant. I work as a global CEO Coach and a C-Suite + Start-up advisor. I have led multiple public-listed multi-billion-dollar organizations as CEO for India and APAC region, and have been awarded as a top-rated global business leader, celebrated speaker, and a top influencer.

I spent two years as Executive-in-Residence at ISB. I was a member of the board at IIT Delhi for Technology Business Incubation Unit besides being a Star Mentor of Change at Niti Aayog and a Member of the Mentor Board at Ashoka University. I am the India partner for the prestigious ‘World Internet Project’ of the University of Southern California. I am an Advisory Board Member at Amity Data Science and AI Lab, along with being a member of the Executive Committee of the India Chapter of US-based Women in Big Data.

I am the India Senator of World Business Angel Investment Forum – an affiliated partner of G20 Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion (GPFI). I represent the interests of United Nations affiliates as an Advisory Board Member and as India Advisor for UNSDGs. I engaged with the govt on Start-up India mission, Digital India mission, Skill India mission, and Smart Cities mission.

My first two books are scheduled to be out in 2021. Myself and Marshall Goldsmith deliver ‘Leadership Thinking Nuggets’ series for Fortune. Besides corporate engagements, my most recent masterclass interventions have been with ET Masterclass, ISB workshops, TiE events, Industry Chambers and Ivy League engagements.

What is a fun fact about you?

I can stand on my head. Salamba Shirshasana, often shortened to Shirshasana, or Yoga Headstand is an inverted asana in modern yoga as exercise; it was described as both an asana and a mudra in classical hatha yoga, under different names. It has been called the king of all asanas.

What was your motivation to get into this industry?

At ‘The Business Roundtable’, a group of top 200 major U.S. corporation CEOs issued a statement in Aug 2019 on the ‘purpose of a corporation’. The longstanding view of serving the shareholders and maximizing profits had to give in to a new paradigm.

Employee engagement, customer delight, supplier ethical practices and supporting outside communities were conceded to be at the vanguard of the new American business goals. The signatories of the statement, amongst others, included Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Apple’s Tim Cook.

An epoch-worthy moment reflecting the times that we live in. Doing more with less is here. And real!

The Business Roundtable promotes a thriving U.S. economy and expanded opportunities for all Americans through sound public policies.

Why do you think climate change/sustainability is such an important topic today? 

Businesses impact the environment and society both. Sustainability addresses this impact. If businesses fail to do so, what results is environmental degradation, inequality or perhaps social injustice.

Life is however beyond these two now as the need for responsible behavior traverses all aspects of a business – from strategy to execution.

And the issue of sustainability – from the periphery to the center. From the fringe to the core.

What do you envision your industry looking like 10 years from now?

The definition of good is up for a change. Good is not what makes a profit.

Good is what makes employees, suppliers, customers and the environment happy first and alongside makes a profit. The good old sustainable competitive advantage of companies needs a marriage with sustainability – the new imperative on the block.

Businesses have to create social value alongside business value.

Extreme times of hyper-change have led to systems being stressed like never before. And in the process, the social contract – existing formally or otherwise in the firms of yesteryears – got thrown to the wind. Systems thinking and systemic change on the issue of sustainability is the need of the hour. “

I never worry about action, only inaction,” said Winston Churchill.

Choosing action over otherwise is the need of the hour for governments, businesses and individuals alike… worldwide.

What can the average person do to make a difference? 

According to Manusmirti – the ancient legal text among the many Dharmaśāstras of Hinduism which expounds on the oldest codes and rules of conduct and behaviour: “Happiness is rooted in contentment; its opposite is rooted in misery.”

In an anti-thesis to modern-day capitalism, the Isa Upanishad reminds us of how we should consume only according to our needs. The first verse of the Upanishad: Ishavasyam Idam Sarvam Yat Kim Cha Jagatyam Jagat Tena Tyaktena bhunjitha, ma gradha kasyasvid dhanam. Translated: Know that all this whatever moves in this moving world is enveloped by God. Therefore find your enjoyment in renunciation, do not covet what belongs to others.

Mahatma Gandhi said about this verse: “If all the Upanishads and all the other scriptures happened all of a sudden to be reduced to ashes, and if only the first verse in the Ishopanishad were left in the memory of the Hindus, Hinduism would live forever.”

What positive changes are you seeing by working with the most successful companies in India?

As per CDP, $2.1 trillion is the aggregate financial impact of climate-related business opportunities recently identified by 225 of the world’s largest companies.

The story of business in the 21st century is the story of sustainability. The reason is the risks posed by climate change and other environmental threats – ironically owing to global capitalism that ruled the roost in the 20th century as the big story.

The ‘tragedy of the commons’ as an economic theory describes how people often use natural resources to their advantage without considering the good of a group or society as a whole. Mindset change, with collective action – at the individual and institutional level both – therefore is what may lead us to conserve not deplete. From finite to renewables.

Such a simple change from light bulbs to LEDs lends reduced energy use and lasts 10-20 times longer.

Companies like Apple and Ikea are going even beyond governmental regulations with Apple committing to using green energy to power its manufacturing plants and Ikea using ocean-bound plastics to make its products. Boeing is using waste heat from a new Seattle sewer trunk line facility. Facebook offers employees $10k or more if they move within 10 miles of Silicon Valley campus. Nestlé aims to eliminate all greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Making Amazon’s net-zero carbon emissions a 2040 goal is Jeff Bezos’s latest announcement.

Going Green wants to thank Piyush for taking the time to share his experience working the most successful companies in India.

Our goal on Going Green is to bring you the latest in green technology advancements, while also giving you action items to takeaway and apply to your life. We focus a lot on energy, transportation, finance, and media. Focusing on sharing the stories from tech entrepreneurs around the world is a priority to us, and we are grateful to be able to share stories about the most successful companies in India.

Going Green interviews leading experts in cleantech, sustainability, media, finance, and real estate on the Going Green podcast. Tune in and subscribe to the podcast on Apple or Spotify to listen to interviews with leading cleantech and sustainable experts.

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