Saurav Mukherjee

The biggest strength of RPG is the collective power of its people

In Conversation with Rajat Bhargava, CEO – Speciality Sector & Head-Group Transformation

Waking up on a Monday morning looking forward to booting my laptop is a small dose of happiness

1. Tell us about your background, early years & education.

A significant part of my formative years, including my schooling till the higher secondary, was spent in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh. After completing higher secondary, I moved to IIT – Delhi to pursue an engineering degree in Computer Science. Subsequently, after graduating, I polished my software engineering skills with a Noida-based organisation. The stint as a fresh engineer helped me prepare better to pursue a management qualification, which I secured from IIM-Ahmedabad in 1997. Subsequently, I bagged a job at McKinsey & Company, with whom I was associated for 16 years. Hero Moto Corp, one of our clients, beckoned me in 2013, and after working there for 7+ years, I joined RPG Group earlier this year.

Having spent most of my life in and around the capital city, I have always considered myself Delhi-bred. Apart from my hometown and Delhi-NCR, I have lived for a couple of years in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Life has now brought me to Mumbai, and I look forward to living in the 'Maximum city'.

2. What attracted you to the RPG Group?

There are several reasons, the primary being my stimulating role. My role, which I refer to as an 'inverted L' , allows me to work on both the vertical (the various businesses) and the horizontal (innovation, digital, and strategy) aspects of the business. The platform allows me to make a substantial difference to the Group’s diverse companies, a lucrative incentive.

Also, as I delved deeper into the culture during the selection process, I got an inclusive feeling. I experienced a sense of warmth in my different interactions with everyone, from the RPGian on the floor to the Chairman himself. I remember watching the Hello Happiness film and absorbing the depictions of the top leadership, people, and the organisation.


RPG boasts of a rich legacy, and I feel proud to be a part of it. The organisation's history and stories of the legendary 'Takeover Tycoon' Dr RP Goenka speak volumes about the Group's evolution into a diversified corporate group with a robust presence in various sectors.

3. Can you share a pivotal moment from your career

I have realised that as one moves ahead, pivotal moments shape your life at every juncture. During the final year at IIT, I had to decide between pursuing my further studies —masters or PhD. in engineering or related fields in the US, or staying back in India. Since I was pretty good in academics, I was tempted to emulate the path taken by most top academic performers —migrate to a foreign land to chase dreams and pursue higher studies. However, I stayed put and decided to continue my academic pursuits in India. It was a difficult choice and considered unconventional by many since studying overseas was considered a premium option and a must-have tag.

That decision allowed me the freedom to think beyond the engineering field and set me on a whole new path, namely management. This was a pivotal moment in my life that set the pace for all the subsequent smaller moments, culminating in a more significant outcome.

4. How was your remote onboarding experience?

I will describe it in one word – smooth! During the entire process, I could reach out to anyone for any clarifications. From sectoral to ex-com members, everyone was forthcoming and prompt. Having said that, I still missed out on in-person interactions and casual tête-à-têtes with my colleagues, especially the unplanned ones. I missed the pure thrills of suddenly bumping into your workmates in the corridors, elevator, parking lot, etc. I read a lot about innovation, and I recall a research paper that claimed that much networking takes place at such unplanned meets. These interactions drive the creative mind, leading to an innovative mindset. I have lost out on those, but then such are the times that we live in.

RPG, however, has bridged that gap to a great extent by hosting casual gatherings on virtual platforms, which I try to make the best use of.

5. What gives RPG a competitive edge in the industry?

RPG's biggest strength, undoubtedly, is the collective power of its people. When I interacted with colleagues across levels, be it the Future Leaders Board or the GMB, I could see a distinct spark in them. The zeal to challenge the status quo and contribute to the organisation is all-pervasive. The feeling of unanimity, observing standard practices across the Group, maintaining and fuelling enthusiasm through regular R&Rs and informal meetings is an outcome of the Group's Happiness agenda. It has set up a robust stage to pursue novel ideas and deliver breakthrough performances.

How we harness our collective power within the Group – right from the CoEs (Centre of Excellence) to driving the digital agenda and establishing a universe of innovation, is noteworthy. There is a golden opportunity to absorb varied perspectives that stem from cultural or industrial standpoints in a diversified conglomerate such as RPG.

On a general note, the top management has attempted to discourage corporate one-upmanship, created a friendly culture, and inspired contemporary thinking. These attributes are worth emulating for any organisation.

6. Your portfolio at RPG is highly diverse - from pharma to manufacturing, plantation and even innovation - which facet excites you the most?

One of the most exciting aspects of my roles is to pick a notion from one of the lessons or contexts and intuitively apply it to another. For instance, in RPG Life Sciences, we have medical representatives who visit doctors regularly. They get a relatively small window of opportunity to make a highly technical pitch. It could work wonders if we could customise this skill to generate communication for Raychem RPG’s specialised products. Imagine the benefits of a quick and concise chat that could furnish the stakeholders with the necessary details. It could provide great takeaways with long-term results. We can familiarise important decision-makers with highly specialised products if we can replicate the representation method adopted by our medical representatives and internalise the approach in Raychem RPG .

7. How do you perceive the concept of the innovation fest?

Inspiring Innovation – season 3 gave me a vast and vivid picture of RPG. I am still mesmerised by its brilliance! I feel proud to be part of an organisation that has drawn out the culture of innovation from various sources, learned from it, and institutionalised it successfully through a flagship event. Rarely have I seen any organisation commit itself to an innovation ethos on such a grand scale.

8. RPG bagged the headline-grabbing ET Innovation Award last year. How do you think the Group can capitalise on the same? What’s next for RPG?

The award speaks volumes about barriers broken, mindsets changed, and obstacles overcome. We have achieved it by constantly chipping away at the obstacles to unfold this exciting chapter . When it comes to innovation as a way of life, the more we think and act, the more possibilities it opens up when we are (more often than not) struck with the “what’s next” itch . While we should pause for a moment to feel proud of our achievements, we also need to brace ourselves for the road ahead and aim to further demolish the barriers to our progress.

9. RPG Life Sciences & Raychem RPG have turned around remarkably in FY21. What are your plans to sustain the turnaround?

Whether it’s RPG Life Sciences, Raychem RPG, or even Harrisons Malayalam, our broader aspirations remain uniform across the organisation. We aim to harness our full potential by leveraging our strengths. We have made notable strides in RPG Life Sciences and Raychem RPG, and just like I mentioned, how our steps need to be aligned for the journey ahead of us for innovation, I can say the same for these two companies. We have prepared the base to jump to the next level. But we have to work towards making the jump happen. Here is where our folks at RPG Life Sciences, Raychem RPG, and even Harrisons Malayalam (which has, historically, faced headwinds owing to the external environment) have to carry forward the mindset .

As the teams make plans, I constantly nudge them towards avenues in adjacent spaces and unconventional ways to execute innovative projects, the digital agenda, strategies, the whole nine yards. As we tap into the external ecosphere, we need to garner more knowledge, optimise it and put it to a goal-oriented use.

Finally, while it’s essential to keep up this spirit, it is imperative for the numbers, market shares, position in the industry, etc., to reflect the buoyancy. Our methodologies should adapt to the changing times while also ensuring that they translate into happy numbers.

10. How are you dealing with the pandemic – both at work and the personal front?

The obvious silver lining of WFH has been spending more quality family time. Earlier, travelling consumed almost 50 per cent of my waking time. However, in the last year, I have travelled only to Mumbai for joining RPG.

My family, including me, loves engaging in activities together, ranging from indoor board games to movie binges. From a social perspective, when the number of cases had reduced, we had begun engaging with our immediate community, neighbours, etc. Since the cases have again increased, our movements have got restricted. Nevertheless, we try to engage in enjoyable pursuits. I was fortunate enough to be able to sustain my fitness activities throughout the pandemic. Despite finding space to jog, walk, and even do indoor workouts, I had to make peace with being unable to play a sport.

11. Who inspires you?

Inspiration, both from expected and unexpected sources, keeps driving me, sometimes even without realising it.

However, if I have to take names, Elon Musk comes to my mind immediately. His sheer creativity captivates me. He breaks down the most challenging problems and solves them in unusual ways, marrying theory with some quirky practices. He's audacious and bold enough to think out of the box. He flawlessly executes his plans, be it electric cars or exploring Mars.

Bill Gates inspires me on a humanitarian level. I admire his perception of humanity's problems, passion for identifying solutions, and action of committing his wealth to them.

12. What’s the mantra that drives you?

I have more than one, which I recite to myself, basis the situation:

  • I believe that all is well in the end; if it isn't well, it's not the end.
  • Hard work and talent will always shine.
  • Nothing succeeds like success.

13. Happiness is RPG’s brand promise. What does it mean to you?

Happiness is one of the most complex subjects. Does money drive it, or a sense of higher purpose, or perhaps a combination of multiple things? Different people have different answers. The years gone by have taught me that the more I chase happiness, the more elusive it gets.

Waking up on a Monday morning looking forward to booting my laptop is a small dose of happiness. I feel contented and thankful for it. If I have the flexibility to pursue my interests, I am happy. I have noticed that people are happy to put in the hard yards if they enjoy a degree of flexibility in their lives.

From a humanitarian standpoint, there is great joy in helping others, being a part of their journey, and appreciating the good in them with an ingenious heart. I remember accompanying my daughter to her badminton tournaments. A national champion, she put in hard hours of practice to earn her champion's stripes. I used to be there beside her when she sweated away at the badminton court. I still look back at those memories fondly as I found genuine happiness in being an integral part of a journey so valuable to her.

I have always found happiness by keeping it simple, enjoying the little moments, and having a positive mindset.