Sushil Agarwal: A Seasoned Financial Executive With Over Three Decades Of Experience | CEOInsights Vendor
Sushil Agarwal: A Seasoned Financial Executive With Over Three Decades Of Experience

Sushil Agarwal: A Seasoned Financial Executive With Over Three Decades Of Experience

  Sushil Agarwal,     Group CFO & Director

Sushil Agarwal

Group CFO & Director

In today's rapidly changing business landscape, the role of the CFO has transcended the traditional realm of finance and numbers. As companies navigate through complex market dynamics and emerging challenges, the CFO has emerged as a strategic partner, playing a pivotal role in shaping the future direction of organizations.

As we delve into the world of finance and leadership, we had the privilege to sit down with Sushil Agarwal, the Group CFO of Aditya Birla Group. With an illustrious career spanning several decades, Sushil exemplifies the evolving nature of the CFO role. We explore his journey, gain insights into his thought process, and discover the corporate philosophy of the Aditya Birla Group.

Could you give a brief account of your professional background and experiences?
I completed my CA in 1988 post which I joined the Projects Division at Grasim. After spending 15 months there I moved to the Chairman’s Office where I remained until about 2004. I have had the unique privilege of working closely with our legendary Late Chairman Aditya Birla as well as our current Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla.

In the last two decades, the Group has invested deeply in promising growth opportunities across the world, growing from presence in six countries to 36 countries today. Our revenues have grown almost 30 times to $60 Billion. Kumar Mangalam Birla has also led a mindset transformation for the Group, from being predominantly manufacturing to a conglomerate with a presence across sectors like financial services, fashion retail and telecom.

Within these new businesses, it was Financial Services, where I was a lot more engaged. We entered into a partnership with Sun Life of Canada for two of our businesses. I was a part of the executive committee created at shareholder’s level. We saw the entire growth phase of the AMC business and then the growth of the Insurance business once we were granted a license. Early 2000, I moved from the Chairman’s Office into more specific responsibilities within financial services. I ran the NBFC company and Insurance broking before I moved full time as the CFO of Aditya Birla Nuvo in 2009. In 2016, we undertook one of the most complex restructurings in
India’s corporate history, with the merger of Aditya Birla Nuvo with Grasim, and the subsequent listing of the Financial services business. In the same year, I took on the responsibility of Group CFO of Aditya Birla Group.

What is the motivation that fuels your daily routines?
I am driven by the opportunity to make a positive impact on the success of the organization, and I find satisfaction in tackling complex challenges and finding innovative solutions. Most important is to never feel burdened by your role. As long as you love and enjoy what you do, there is no burden on your mind or body.

I believe every issue or challenge in life has a positive side to it and is an opportunity to learn. I also try to draw inspiration from travel and different cultures across the world. Every successful culture, organization, or country has had its own distinct way of looking at things. I like to observe and take inspiration from these how can me and my organization learn and do things differently!

Having significant 35+ years of experience, you had a revering journey until now. What is your success mantra?
I think one must always prioritize the task based on the value it brings. Most important is to also have a strong belief and conviction that something is important from a larger value creation perspective.

Managing personal ego is very important in corporate life. If we are stuck at our personal likes and dislikes, we will not be doing justice to the role.

We should also focus on developing people skills and always remember that a successful leader stands on the foundation of a highly effective team. Be sensitive to emotions and think from other’s perspective before making conclusions. Lastly, learning must always be a continuous process and one must always be open to suggestions and have the courage to accept failures.

How would you define Aditya Birla Group as an organization?
Aditya Birla Group is a truly Indian multinational corporation, with 50 percent of our revenues coming from overseas operations. The Group’s strategy has always been to establish global leadership businesses, which has reflected very strongly across sectors. Today, we are the Global No.1 in Aluminium rolling/ recycling, No.2 in Carbon Black and Viscose staple fiber, No.3 Cement producer (excluding China). In India, we are the No.1 Cement company, Fashion retailer, and Chlor Alkali producer. We are also amongst the top 5 financial services companies in India.

The Group doesn’t do business just with a view to accumulate wealth but with an objective of making a difference in the life of all the stakeholders and society at
large.GD Birla subscribed to the trusteeship concept of management and upheld Gandhi ji’s belief that the rich are the trustees of the nation's wealth. Over the years the Group has continued to adhere to the idea of trusteeship and has supported welfare activities not just in India but across the world.

Our philosophy has always been to develop a longterm view towards everything with a strong focus on cashflows and balance sheet strength. The Group has also grown from stride to stride by empowering its employees and decentralizing decision making.

I am also proud to say that we have been known for Corporate Governance much before this became a buzzword. In fact, our current Chairman K.M. Birla played a pivotal role in the formulation of Corporate Governance principles for Indian Corporates and authored the First Report on Corporate Governance.

Driven by its strong ideologies and values, the Group has formed longstanding relationships with various reputed names in the business world including Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway, Sunlife of Canada, the Walmart Group, and many more. Another defining characteristic of the Group is our strong focus on cashflows and balance sheet strength. The Group has also grown from stride to stride by empowering its employees and decentralizing the decision-making system. We wish to scale with the same speed and commitment ahead.

Any advice for the upcoming industry leaders?
Never feel burdened by your role. As long as you enjoy what you do, there is no burden on your mind or body. I believe that when we love and enjoy what we do, we never feel the burden.

Agarwal, Group Chief Financial Officer & Director, Aditya Birla Group
Sushil is the Group CFO & Director of Aditya Birla Management Corporation Pvt. Ltd., the apex management body of the Aditya Birla Group. He serves as a Director on the Board of several listed and unlisted Group companies across industries such as Financial Services, Telecom, Mining, Carbon black, Entertainment, and Jewellery retail.

•Hobbies: Watching Cricket, Travelling & Exploring Nature
•Favorite Book: Nobody is Perfect
•Favorite Travel Destination:
The Himalayas

•Awards & Recognition:'India's Greatest CFO’ at the Asia One India’s Greatest Brands and Leaders Awards 2018 ‘Business Leader Corporate CFO’ at the 11th ICAI Awards Chairman's Award for ‘Exceptional Contribution’ in 2000& ‘Outstanding Leadership Award’ in 2014.

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