Thursday, January 04, 2007
An Empowering Leader who loves India
I remember distinctly the date when I first met Mr. K.R.Kim. It was the 9th of Jan 1997. His arrival in the LG India hierarchy was sudden. The MD was supposed to be Mr S.H.Hahm and I was supposed to be the Sales and Marketing head. I had to meet him because after the arrival of Mr Kim as MD, S.H.Hahm was now to take over as the Marketing Head and I was now supposed to take over only as the Sales Head. Though, I had resigned from my previous organization, I was clear that I wanted to join only if I had both the responsibilities..one because I knew I could handle it and second because I never wanted that the 'strategy-execution' gap between sales and marketing should spoil the speed or potential results . Every Expat discouraged me to speak to him as they said that KR does not change his mind. I said I will give it a try. KR as we started to lovingly call him later was a man of few words, as we realized later. I said to him .."SH Hahm can be the deputy MD and that way all can still be normal. ...I further told him ..." if after one year he finds that I gave less than required results...just ask me to go...I will not look back". He looked into my eyes and just said...Ok...don't worry..and shook hands. He had the instinct of the experienced leader who could sense the hunger for accomplishment in me. It was a 3 year partnership and a very successful one that turned LG into the most successful brand launch of the 90s (of course with the help of the rest of the organization)
I also remember the 'final product test' before the launch. The TVs were on an 'algorithmic volume progression', which gave lower volume at mid setting than equivalent wattage TVs of other brands. I was arguing with an expat that it will not work in India because Indian consumer likes high sound and if at mid level it performs less than other brands it will not sell. At that moment an expat said something in Korean to Mr Kim. Mr Kim replied in English...let the child wake up, mother can put him back to sleep...we need to sell. He trusted the local knowledge of the Indian marketer than his own countryman.
On the day of the launch, a Korean delegation came and surveyed the pricing. In the Indian market the exchange schemes were very popular and since the excise was not based on MRP every brand kept the MRPs quite high to project higher value for the Old TV. This was clearly unethical and I had convinced KR of the need to be honest in pricing. This meant that our MRPs were lower than the competition though our actual selling prices were not....but it was difficult to prove. The Korean delegation was upset . KR stood by our side, again.
KR is a demanding and a well informed leader. He visits the market quite often, has good information systems and also reads a lot. He sets the bar really high. If you could think ahead of him and deliver consistently with 'quality' he never interfered. People who provided lip service never lasted long with him. He empowered and stretched the team to its maximum. He allowed us to experiment with policies and marketing fully...but kept a close monitoring. He fought for us even with Korea. He was fair. The team learnt to fly really high with him and once you fly high its difficult to enjoy the 'crawling' on the surface.
From him I also learnt the balance score card concept and this has really played an important part in me and my team performances, in my subsequent assignments.
KR also kept a balance between Profession, Family and Health. Rarely did one see him sitting late in the office though he was the first one to come..he was also the amongst the most punctual to go.
Mr K.R.Kim built a 2 billion dollar enterprise for LG in India. He played an important role in shaping my career. I have not been in frequent touch with him but he knows my respect for him. As he embarks on his next assignment ..I wish him all the best and want him to know that we loved and respected him as much as he loved and respected our country. The legacy he has left behind would be difficult to emulate.