Vinita Bali is a distinguished leader who has held leadership roles in 6 countries (UK, Nigeria, South Africa, Chile, USA and India) across 5 continents across organisations including Cadbury’s, Coca Cola Company and Britannia. She is currently the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN). In addition to this, she also sits on multiple Indian Boards (CRISIL Ltd, Titan Industries Ltd, Kasturi and Sons Ltd) and MNC Boards (Smith and Nephew Plc, Syngenta International AG). She is also a Member of the Board of Governors of Indian Institute of Management - Bangalore.
Vinita has had several significant transitions across cultures, functions and organisations in her career. We spoke about a range of topics including spending time on some of the transitions she has made, her early years and how they influenced her ability to see things as a continuum, her perspectives on adopting the mindset of a “tourist” and more.
This conversation was published around August 2017.
Vinita talks about how the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) works with various stakeholders across the world to deliver outcomes to improve nutrition. She also talks about how Corporate Social Responsibility cannot be treated as a separate function but should be embedded in whatever a company does.
A lot of who we are often gets formed in the context of our childhood. Vinita reflects on her upbringing, her parents’ influence and her passion for extracurricular activities and links it to how that has played a key role in her growth as a leader over time.
"What should I do with my life" is often a question that we grapple with at different inflection points in our life. Vinita talks about the various dimensions along which she evaluates opportunities that have come her way at different points in her journey.
Vinita talks about how she got into a career in Consumer Goods and reflects on what elements of it have been rewarding for her. She also talks about the key questions people should ask themselves before embarking on a career in a Products company.
Navigating your career in a large, complex MNC can often be challenging and confusing. Vinita talks about how she navigated her career across different roles in Cadbury's and the Coca Cola company.
The first few months in a new organization can be a nervous passage of play for the incoming leader and for the hiring manager. If not handled carefully, the organizational antibodies could eject the new entrant. Vinita shares her insights on how the incoming leader and the hiring leader could navigate this phase effectively.
Moving from a functional leadership role to a general management role is a big shift and Vinita argues that it is possibly the biggest transition that a leader often makes. She talks about how people should think about success in a General Management role and the need for an adaptive leadership style.
Vinita transitioned from an American MNC in their Latin American division to Britannia in India. It was a transition across multiple dimensions. She talks about her reflections around settling into the new context. She also talks about the role of the hiring leader in setting the incoming individual for success.
Vinita talks about how she evaluates Board opportunities that come her way and how they are a part of her Learning and Development plan. She also talks about her thoughts on the opportunities for Indian boards to get more effective in the way they are staffed and run.
Where to go and How to grow are two questions leaders ask all the time as they navigate their career. Vinita talks about the need for conviction in direction, coupled with abundant curiosity to grow as the key elements of playing to your potential.