An HR today is becoming more of a business enabler: Director on Board - Cargill India

It’s all about the culture, it’s all about the way you treat people, the work environment you give and Cargill is one organization which is very ethical, very fair, very open, very transparent. If you ask me what is the USP of Cargill I will say it’s our culture.


Photo Credit : Cargill India,

In an exclusive interview with BW People, Ashu Malhotra, Market Lead - Indian sub-continent and Malaysia; Global Human Resource Solutions and Director on Board - Cargill India, talks about the hiring plans at Cargill for next 5 years, the challenges faced in the world of digitalisation. He also underlines that how to retain and attract the young population of India.

Edited Excerpts from his interview.

1. What has been your journey like as an HR professional?

It’s been around 25 years in HR. I have worked in different organizations starting from FMCG; to automobiles to telecom and now again back to FMCG. So, it’s been fantastic journey, I have worked in different continents and different countries. It has been a very exciting and a very different experience.

2. What is the impact of technology on human resource management?

On a positive note I would like to mention that technology has made us more efficient. We are being able to reach out to people much faster; we are being able to provide consistent and uniform services to employees. So in HR it’s important to use technology for our benefit, how one can leverage technology is an art which all HR professionals should understand because technology is going to stay, so for Cargill technology is a competitive advantage.

3. As it’s been said that technologies like Artificial Intelligence will replace HR professionals? Do you agree with that?

I don’t agree with this. The work which is of repetitive nature can be taken by artificial intelligence but HR will be free to do value-added work. That's what real HR is all about where you can help people to grow, to develop, and help people get more engaged. That can never be replaced by robotics, it can never be replaced by Artificial Intelligence. With this coming of AI and machine intelligence, I believe HR becomes more mature, and much more value- added.

4. So you feel personalized HR services can't be replaced by technology?

It can never be replaced by technology, because we are dealing with human beings. For example: if I have to interact with you, for that I will have to come to you and talk to you because every human being has their own emotions and feelings. Every human being is different that cannot be taken away. But yes if we have to give services in terms of cards, in terms of attendance that can be done by Artificial Intelligence which is good to have.

5. What are some of the leading global trends in HR?

One that we just spoke about-the advent of technology in a big way. Second is in terms of HR becoming more of a business enabler, a lot of analytics is coming into HR. It is now becoming more of a science. So you can very well evaluate the performance of HR, one is technology, second is HR analytics and third area where HR is involving in terms of being more efficient is that all companies are going towards shared services model. Where all the work that can be done at the remote locations or work that can be done without being location specific are getting bundled and HR is getting into more strategic and value added work. These are three major trends happening across the globe.

6. There is an increasing concern over gender diversity in India? What efforts is your organisation making to keep representation of women and men balanced? What efforts Cargill is making in terms of gender diversity?

First of all, as Cargill we believe in being an inclusive organization. Inclusive is a much wider word, it does not talk about gender per se. We believe that we all are equal, irrespective of sex, gender, religion, ethnic growth. What we want to do is to provide an opportunity, a platform based on merit. We want talent and so we are providing an opportunity to all equally, being an inclusive organization. We have lot of programs around that, we ensure that for certain jobs, we have focused search for women based on merit. We look at that number very carefully. We ensure that when a woman comes to the organisation we provide them work-life balance. Because in India if we look at the society, women still have to go through different challenges to work and have high expectations to meet personal responsibilities in terms of their family, children etc. So we need to understand that and provide an ecosystem where they can work ensuring that they have a right work-life balance and we call it work-life integration. We don't believe in a 9-6 job, you can work from home and can do your job. We are very flexible in that perspective, we have tied up with crèche/s for mothers to leave their young ones in professional care and we have a lactation room. So we see that we provide an ecosystem. We just want performance not in terms of that we have to be in office from 9-6.

7. What are the disruptive HR policies that you have coined in the recent past?

I would rather say it’s an evolving process, improvement is always continuous. For example HR in Cargill is going through transformation. That’s absolute disruption of the highest order. Like I spoke about technology, I spoke about shared services, I spoke about analytics. HR in Cargill has undergone a complete transformation recently in the way we are providing services to the employees. We are giving more personalized services to the employees and they can use technology to reach out to HR. For example, we have just launched a program called employee assistance program, we believe that in India people have multiple levels of stress, emotional, family anxiety and we are very young organization. So what we have done, we have tied up with the third party where people can reach out and talk about their emotions, personal issues and professional issues in a confidential way. That is a very progressive program.

8. How do you plan to retain and attract the young population of India?

I believe that no amount of money is going to retain people as it’s all about the culture. It’s all about the way you treat people, the work environment you give. Cargill is one organization which is very ethical, very fair, very open, very transparent. If you ask me what is the USP of Cargill I will say it’s our culture. People who work here they feel very comfortable. The average number of years that people have spent goes into decades. People are here for 10-20 years, they want to work with Cargill because we believe in people. We believe that we need to treat people with a lot of dignity and respect and there is no compromise on that. We may not be the best pay masters but we want to be good employer in real sense. That’s the way it is, you give respect to the people give them a good working environment. Secondly, Cargill is one of the most stable organizations. You know that you're safe, you're stable, you can retire from here.

9. With changing business models, how you keep up or balance the hiring plans?

Hiring plans depend upon business plans and few businesses are very stable in nature where you can predict numbers. For example, our shared services model can predict numbers that is another business of ours which is growing exponentially. In our FMCG business we have to keep up with the pace in order to really help business. The business plan is very dynamic; it changes on a quarterly basis you have to understand the requirements, the talent mix, talent type, number of people. And Cargill has got 8 businesses in India where each business is different. That’s how we do it, we understand business properly and we engage with business, understand the business plan and accordingly we plan our hiring needs which are very dynamic.

10. How do you ensure that you meet the expectations and stand apart in making HR policies at Cargill?

As an HR head, we don't want to make any statement that we are the best, we are not competing with anybody honestly what we are competing with is ourselves to ensure that we provide what people are looking for, what people expect us to do on being fair ethical and transparent. For us the culture piece is very important and because the standards of Cargill in itself is very high that we don't have to benchmark ourselves with others. As an HR head the voice of the employees is very important, any employee that comes here they believe that when they go back home they will have no stress, they know that they are working for a very fair and ethical organization.


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