I have been told before coming to India: to know India you need to have spent there less than 15 days or more than 30 years
In conversation with Stephane Lauret, CEO, Safran India
Each time when I receive the opportunity to visit Connaught Place (CP) in New Delhi, my heart beats twice as fast. The vibe in CP is appealing. To me, it is a kind of melting pot consisting of different kinds of businesses with people from different backgrounds and nationalities, peacefully working together to achieve common goals and dreams. On a spring day, I was on my way to meet Stephane Lauret, CEO of Safran India who sits in his office in Hindustan Times Building on KG Marg in CP.
Safran, by origin a French company, holds its presence in India for more than 60 years and operates in three core markets: aerospace, defence and security. Secondly, it's the leading supplier of helicopter turbine engines to HAL having 8 companies and joint ventures based in New Delhi, Mumbai, Goa, Bangalore, and Hyderabad. Being in India for the last four years, Stephane says "India has a great spirit which is hard to find in any other country". Stephane's drive to increase Safran's presence in India didn't come from anywhere. He was responsible as CEO of Safran Mexico and prior to this he set up and managed the Sagem subsidiary in Brazil. A true connoisseur of Latin America, Stephane is now based on the other side of the world, India.
Single brand challenge
Of course, I was curious to pose the 'change' question, however before I could even ask Stephane started telling Safran's change story. Safran global has merged various business units, sold its telecom business and decided to step forward with one name: Safran. This happened one year ago. The name Safran is now the reflection of 70,000 employees across the globe belonging to one global enterprise and sharing the same values. As per the CEO of Safran, Phillipe Petitcolin, this change in name will allow the company to unite efforts and focus all the investments on a single brand, to the greater benefit of all the businesses of Safran worldwide.
This sounds easier said than done, I assumed. The same was confirmed by Stephane as selling the concept of 'We are one' is quite a challenge. India is receptive to the new name, Safran, however, compared to countries like Mexico it is slower. Interestingly, Mexico employing 7000 employees representing Safran's third biggest industrial implantation, welcomed the new name with open arms. On the other hand, it's not only the outside world that needs to adapt to a single brand, it is also the people within the organisation that need to feel connected with the new single brand.
It is always challenging to describe your own leadership style, especially when you have worked across the globe where there is no single approach. Stephane studied and worked in the USA for quite some time and simply loved it. For him, the strong sense of ownership and taking up own responsibility in the USA was extremely interesting which he conveys to his team members till date, irrespective of the country. His focus is to give space to his team so that each individual can decide the best way to work independently and achieve the company's desired outcome.
One of his team members entered the conference room and I boldly asked if she could describe Stephane's leadership style. She responded immediately without hesitation and shared her appreciation of Stephane being open for new ideas and chasing innovations. Stephane is the opposite of rigid and always gives room for discussion which is not only appreciated by me but also by my colleagues. I could see in Stephane's eyes that this feedback was much valued as it remains a never-ending story to balance the quality time with your employees, space for feedback and realising the company's goals at the same time.
Vision for India
Safran's vision for India: to increase local manufacturing and consequently the export.
"What is your strategy to achieve this vision"? I asked. "India is a complex country; as far as communication is concerned I focus on giving interviews to the press, organising events and setting up meetings with key stakeholders. This strategy is not only for the sake of the new name, but also to achieve our vision. India is developing and we continue to focus on India largely. Our three core businesses (Aerospace, Defense, and Security) are growing fast in India. For example, the number of domestic passengers with airlines increased by 22% in 2016 compared to 2015. This is very impressive." commented Stephane.
With so many goals ahead of him, Stephane feels at home in India. "It's such a fascinating country leaving you with zero time to get bored. In fact, I have been told before coming to India: to know India you need to have spent there less than 15 days or more than 30 years".